The Bee’s Knees

October 2nd, 2015

You know that slightly rushed, panicky feeling that grips us all sometimes?  No excuse.  Imagine what Bees must feel like all the time – they live for only six or seven weeks. But what they achieve in that little time is remarkable. Through their crafty pollination  and their sexy little dances they’re responsible for over one third of the food we eat. A toast to the productivity of the honeybee!

Fresh honeycake
Bee wings stroke astoundingly fast, about 200 beats per second, which produces that jazzy buzz. They spend their time dancing, talking, sharing, scouting and sucking it all in. After a day’s work they wiggle home, heavy with treasure — pollen and nectar from flowers all around the ‘hood. They return to that fascinating structure we call a hive; a hyper-engineered hexagonal structure that captures the imagination.

Beekeeping at Babylonstoren
Bees are rather particular about their digs. The hive is composed internally of beeswax cells, honeycomb that contains larvae, honey and pollen. The geometry is perhaps too technical to capture here, but let’s say that any decor aficionado better study the interior design of a bee colony. These saccharine temples are majestic. The art of beekeeping, which dates back at least 4 500 years, brings joy and food to many.

Harvesting Honey
Beehive placement is specific, not just to avoid upsetting the neighbours, but because of the need to avoid unsettling the bees. And the hive’s situation influences the unique flavour of the honey produced. Of course it needs to be near food and water, sheltered but with lots of light — bees love the sun — and with a clean flight path in and out of the hive.

Whether served as a liquid, creamed or in the comb, honey is wonderful stuff. It contains beneficial minerals and vitamins and has antibacterial and anti-oxidant properties. It speeds the healing process of wounds and combats infections. And it never spoils. Now how’s that for a magical potion?

Gin & Rooibos Granita Recipe


  1. Simmer the tea, honey, juniper berries, star anise and white peppercorns for 10 minutes.
  2. Remove and strain through a cloth.
  3. Add 60 ml lemon juice and the grated rind of 1 lemon and place in the freezer. When the icicles start to form, loosen the mixture with a fork. Place back in the freezer and loosen again after 2 hours. Freeze once more, loosening again before use.
  4. Add a tot of gin to each glass.
  5. Spoon the granita to fill the whole glass and fill with tonic water. Garnish with a slice of orange or lemon.

Another idea:
For Rooibos Granita, follow the recipe as above and add 400 ml crushed strawberries, raspberries or blackberries, or 400 ml grated pineapple, or 400 ml grapefruit juice after 2 hours. Freeze and loosen again before use.

serves 4-6 glasses

Extract from  “The Bees’ Knees” about the beekeeping at Babylonstoren by Bielle Bellingham. First published in Elle Decoration South Africa. April 2015. For more recipes find the full article here.
Photos: Adele Ferreira


  1. Gwen Engelbrecht says:

    Baie interessant – sal definitief die resepte probeer.
    Baie dankie hiervoor!!!

  2. Mariette Varney says:

    Baie dankie vir die artikel oor ons kosbare vriende, die bye. Die resep klink heerlik, maar ek het n vraag: indien die heuning saam met die rooibostee verhit word, ek neem aan tot kookpunt aangesien dit moet prut, gaan die waardevolle eienskappe van die heuning verlore?

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