9/25/2018 Peter Durantine

College Hives Produce Their First Golden Harvest

For more than eight years, the Center for the Sustainable Environment at Franklin & Marshall College maintained two beehives at Baker Campus without ever extracting its product, but this year, the center harvested the honey produced by the nearly 10,000 bees that inhabit the hives.

“We haven't harvested in the past because the hives have mostly been used for research and education,” said Sarah Dawson, the center’s director. “Now that we have a Pollinator Club, we thought it would be fun to try to get some honey this year and also to make some things from beeswax.” 

F&M’s Pollinator Club raises awareness and educates the community about the environmental importance of pollinators such as bees. Juniors Anna Schutt and Hannah Robertson, president and treasurer of the Pollinator Club, work at the Center and helped extensively with the harvesting, Dawson said. 

“Depending on how the bees do, we should be able to harvest honey annually,” she said. “This was actually a pretty bad year for bees because they don't fly when it's raining, and it rained all summer.  We will feed them throughout the winter to make sure they have plenty of food beyond their remaining honey stores.”

For this first harvest, the bees produced five gallons that filled nearly 100 small bottles of honey that sell at the College’s weekly farmers' market, from 11:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. Wednesdays in the Center’s Fair Trade Café on Williamson Way. 

How honey is harvested:

  • Beeswax-capped honeycombs are removed from the hives. Beeswax-capped honeycombs are removed from the hives. Image Credit: Deb Grove
  • Students use sharp knives to “uncap” the honeycombs by removing … Students use sharp knives to “uncap” the honeycombs by removing … Image Credit: Deb Grove
  • … the beeswax, which drips with honey. … the beeswax, which drips with honey. Image Credit: Deb Grove
  • The process of uncapping the honeycombs is careful, patient. The process of uncapping the honeycombs is careful, patient. Image Credit: Deb Grove
  • Sarah Dawson, the Center director, takes frames of uncapped honeycombs and places them into a manually cranked centrifuge. Sarah Dawson, the Center director, takes frames of uncapped honeycombs and places them into a manually cranked centrifuge. Image Credit: Deb Grove
  • As Dawson turns the crank, the force of the gravitational spin separates the honey from the comb. As Dawson turns the crank, the force of the gravitational spin separates the honey from the comb. Image Credit: Deb Grove
  • Honey pours from the bottom of the centrifuge … Honey pours from the bottom of the centrifuge … Image Credit: Deb Grove
  • … and through a screen to filter out any remaining wax to provide pure honey. … and through a screen to filter out any remaining wax to provide pure honey. Image Credit: Deb Grove
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