Honeycombs to Honeyhangovers:
A Day with The Sixth Street Beekeeper
by Frances Wilson
September 20, 2013
A few minutes later, there came Ray, on his bike, with trays of honeycomb strapped to the back of it. The Bee Keeper had arrived.
Ray’s bees live on top of the Sixth Street Community Center, where we all pick up our weekly goodies.
Ray Sage cares more about his bees than their honey. He only collects honey twice a year from his bees (if that). If he collects, he does so once in mid summer and once around Labor Day. Taking too much honey from the bees would prevent them from surviving the winter. Last year, Ray’s bees all died because it was too dry of a summer and there wasn’t enough pollen for them to gather. No honey collecting for 2012, and a very sad loss.
This trend is one that unfortunately is of global concern. Bees are dying all around the world; since 2006, it has gotten far worse. Many of us don’t realize the vital importance of bees. As Dennis vanEngelsdorp says in his TED talk, we have bees to thank for one out of every three bites we take.
Okay, back to the details of my field trip. I lucked out by being invited to the last collection of the 2013 season. Ray brought two boxes with around ten trays of honeycomb in each. They were heavy and dripping with fragrance.
We gently scraped off the outer layer of beeswax on each side of the honeycomb tray (basically, ‘de-capping’ them) to let the golden sweetness begin to ooze out. Before letting too much seep out, we placed them four at a time inside the large extractor. Then we spun it. Around and around, sweet, thick and golden, it splattered around the edges, eventually collecting at the bottom. After spinning for a little while, we took out the trays and switched them so the opposite side faced outward, and then spun them again. Lastly, we opened the valve and let the honey drain into a large bucket before transferring it to individual jars.
This all sounds pretty straight forward, but it took a while. I was there from 10:30 AM until about 3PM with Ray, Wendy, Nina, and Paul. We were a team. Nina was especially efficient with all her newfound honey-extracting skills.
We each ended with a jar of honey and sweet satisfaction. We were drunk. Went from one taste to the next: sugar high to sugar low, honey by itself to honey in tea. Golden bliss.
Now that I’m over my honey hangover, it feels good to write about the whole experience—what fun it was! It’s been pretty amazing for me, a country girl who used to collect maple sap with her Vermont neighbor, to now, collecting honey in a busy metropolitan city, where she never expected to find the countryside right at her doorstep.
Apparently urban beekeeping has a ton of potential. It has a higher overwintering survival percentage (62.5% to 40%) as well as a higher honey yield (26.25% to 16.75%) compared to rural beekeeping according to Noah Wilson’s TED talk about bees (yes, I watched every TED talk on bees after getting home from my fieldtrip). Maybe bees can beecome the new NYC apartment pet!?
Thank you Ray and Wendy for inviting me along on such a fun field trip!