July was abuzz with sweet bee activity at Discovery Place Nature
Discovery Place Nature
July was an exciting month for Discovery Place Nature as our staff beekeepers collected our second annual harvest of honey from the three beehives we maintain at the Museum.
Our resident bees are cared for year-round on site. Honeybees are very industrious workers. They produce honey as a backup food source to keep their hive strong over the winter. The primary foods they use to fuel their bodies are nectar, which is converted into honey, and pollen from flowers. It is a quick and easy food source for bees, but when they are managed properly and have a busy season, they create far more honey than the hive needs to survive the winter. This is where the honey harvest comes in.
During the spring, we added boxes of shallow frames, called supers, on top of the main hive with wax cells already prepared for the worker bees to use as honey storage. We also placed a special piece of metal called a queen excluder between the honey supers and the main body of the hive. This ensures that the queen cannot get up into the supers and lay eggs. It ensures that those frames contain only honey, no eggs or larvae.
On July 1, we harvested approximately nine gallons of honey from about 25 frames that yielded nearly 9 gallons of honey – and, as an added bonus, no one got stung!
After harvesting the honey, we uncapped the honey cells with a hot, electric knife and extracted the honey with a large, cylindrical drum that spins the frames very fast and essentially slings the honey out. The honey then flows to the bottom of the extractor and through a spigot into several filtered buckets. As you can probably imagine, this can be a very messy process and not all the honey ends up in the buckets. Quite a bit of it ends up in the various crevices of the machines and there’s some left in the frames as well. But the really nice thing is that we don’t worry too much about cleaning up that honey. We let our bees do it for us!
Any honey that the bees make after harvest is theirs to keep for the winter. And they are not wasteful creatures. After we are finished with the frames and other extracting equipment, we place it outside in our bee yard, and the bees come over and start gathering nearly every last bit of stray honey. They take it all back into their hives as part of their winter stores. They also clean out and rebuild any wax combs that may have been damaged by the harvesting process. After a couple of days, the equipment is cleaned up and ready to be washed and carefully put away for next year’s harvest.
On July 13, during our Buzz About Bees event, we unveiled the 70-plus bottles of Discovery Place Nature honey harvested this year. Most of the honey was sold that day, with the remaining bottles placed for sale at the Museum gift shop. If you aren’t lucky enough to grab one of this year’s bottles, be sure to get here next year for your supply of local honey.
In the meantime, come check out our observation beehive inside the Museum and don’t miss our weekly Beekeeper Q&A events so you can see what all the buzz is about!
Special thanks to the Rotary Club of Charlotte for their ongoing support of the beekeeping program at Discovery Place Nature.