Are they your Bees?
Yes! We currently have just about 50 hives that we manage ourselves as a family throughout Tewksbury and Andover. Some are in public places (like the Tewksbury Public Library, the Community Gardens, the Tewksbury State Hospital) and some are in privately owned locations. The bees are a lot of work, so we keep them as close to home as possible!
When do you pull honey from the hives?
We harvest honey twice a year, generally we say July 4th and Labor Day. In reality, it takes more than one day to harvest honey from that many hives, so generally over a 2 week period at the beginning of July, and the beginning of September.
Why is the Honey different colors?
The color of honey is totally dependent on the flowers and fauna that the bees are foraging on. Our spring honey is a very pale honey. It is very floral with a mild honey flavor. In the Spring, the bees are foraging on the early blooms, Clover, Dandelion, early fruit trees, and flowering shrubs. The Fall honey is much darker, mostly because of Goldenrod and Purple Loosestrife. Some beekeepers only pull the honey once a season, so that honey tends to be a medium color.
Is your honey Raw?
Yes! We pull the frames from the hives, put them into an extractor (which uses centrifugal force to spin the honey out of the frames), and then it goes through a strainer (like a spaghetti strainer) that will remove larger chunks of wax etc. We don’t heat our honey prior to bottling. We still do it all by hand, from the extraction, to the bottling to the placing of labels (sorry if that one is a little crooked 🙂 ). The raw honey contains pollen and all the amino acids and minerals that they bees worked so hard to add! **It is important to note that raw honey should never be fed to infants under 1 year old.**
Why the Public Library?
We are very excited to have teamed up with the Tewksbury Public Library! All the honey from the Library hives will be donated to the Tewksbury Food Pantry this fall! It pairs very nicely with the Library’s new community garden as well. It’s also a place where we can hold educational events to help the public know more about the amazing creatures that “work” for us!
All raw honey will become crystallized or solid over time. The rate of crystallization depends on many factors… the type of pollen the bees were foraging, the exact moisture/sugar content, and the temperature all effect the speed of the crystallization. Crystallized honey is not “bad,” in fact, some people prefer it, as it’s easier to spread on toast as it doesn’t run off your knife! If you prefer your honey to be in its liquid form, you can return it by very gently heating it. Heat a pan of water that will come up to the level of the honey in the jar. Remove the water from the heat and put the glass jar of honey into the warm water. Gently stir. You can very gently heat the water while the honey jar is in the pan but you will want to watch it very carefully because you don’t want to over heat it and lose the benefits of raw.
Do you get stung?
Sometimes… We do wear “gear” most of the time, although sometimes we don’t wear gloves because it’s easier to work in the hive without gloves on. The bees will let you know when they’re unhappy, and we do use smoke when we work in the hive to keep the bees from sending any “warning” pheromones… Honey bees can only sting one time, and then they die, so they don’t sting unless they feel like the hive is threatened. So, although we occasionally get stung, it’s not too often (and not as bad as a wasp or hornet sting).