This weekend, I visited California’s Central Valley to take a tour around a beekeeper’s farm. I’m currently doing an independent research project about Colony Collapse Disorder, so this was a really interesting and educational trip!
The almond trees around his property were beautiful. According to him, there are two distinct species and he separates them by alternating each species tree by tree.
The top photo shows barrels of honey in his warehouse. While many beekeeper’s lease their bees to pollinate farmers’ crops, it is also not uncommon to see beekeeper’s sell their honey. Our beekeeper specifically makes it a part of his trade to sell honey, and he often buys it unprocessed from other beekeepers. In fact, he told us that he exports more honey than he produces himself.
He processes his honey by heating the solidified substance in the barrel for long periods of time. To read more about honey extraction, read further on the post.
Above is another angle of his warehouse. There are so many honeycombs, hive boxes, and jars! He has to use a forklift to get boxes down from the second story.
These are his buckets of honey. He fills them from the barrel (shown in the far right picture).
He had a little tasting place in the back. In this middle are our bottles. The far right shows him filling on of our jars.
The above picture is not from our trip, its just from an internet source. But it shows a honey extraction machine.
How it works is that first, the frames are placed in a vertical blade. Bees cap their pollen deposits, which form honey later on. The vertical blade precisely chops off the top of the caps, but does not ruin the frames or the combs for further use. Then the honey deposits and the caps are placed through a versicle. They are centrifuged around so that the wax (the caps) separate from the honey. The liquid is left over and the wax gathers for extraction.
Honey wax is very valuable because most beekeepers like to keep the combs, so the only wax they make is from the caps that are sliced off of the frames.
My bee collection ( I feel like a 7 year old). On the bottom of the left picture is a cage. That is where queen bees are kept when they are first introduced to a hive. As you see in a lot of biology, when a foreign invader enters a system, they are often the first to be attacked by the host colony. Thus, they are put in those tiny cages with a thick sugar cap. By the time the worker bees take to eat through the honey, they are acquainted with the queen’s scent and accept her as one of their own.
After the warehouse, we took a trip to the field. There the beekeeper’s employees were splitting hives. The purpose of splitting hives, obviously, is to create more hives. In the photos above, we are looking for the queen bee so that she may remain with her old hive.
Altogether, this was a very exciting trip. Actually it was amazingly fun, and I even got a few jars of honey out of it as well!