Secret Bees Bees-iness
A fine, warm summer’s morning finds our Chief Beekeeper, Governor Hurley, with his assistant, Estate Manager Dayn in the vegetable and flower garden at Government House, kitted up in full protective suits to greet Queen Isabella and her royal family.
Approximately 50,000 Italian bees – and several thousand native ones – are housed in the Government House garden in five hives surrounded by native plants and a healthy vegetable garden. All bees were reasonably obliging as our beekeepers set about the New Year harvest.
Smoking the Hives
There is a mysterious alchemy to beekeeping, which resembles something from an ancient or orthodox religious ritual - from the silent, priestly reverence for the bees to the lighting and waving of the heady, woodash smoker.
Smoking is an integral part of the harvesting process as the bees are calmer when they are smoked.
And while they swarmed, they also bee-haved with great restraint … assisted by the warm, still and sunny conditions.
Removal of the frame containing the honeycomb
Unfortunately, two of the bees’ new ‘flow hives’ were dry and reluctant to hand over any of their jewels. Queen Isabella and her cohort can sometimes abdicate from their royal duties - which could explain this mystery.
So it was down to the manual process of lifting the lid on the other two traditional hives to reveal the treasure within.
The frames are carefully lifted out and gently brushed and examined for honeycomb.
These hives have both older and newer frames. The older frames produce richer, darker honey through build up over several harvests. The newer frames reveal clearer, blonde honey and our beekeepers decide to keep the two harvests separate in order to guarantee the purity, clarity and the density of each batch of honey.
Scraping the Honey
Scraping the honey off each frame is an important part of the process and is done carefully in order to release the honey’s richness trapped within the cells of the frame.
Spinning and Separating the Honey
The honeycomb and waxy solids are separated from the honey liquid in the bee centrifuge, which resembles a butter churn. Fast manual spinning of the churn for a few minutes releases the liquid to the bottom of the barrel.
The moment of truth has arrived! Angling the churn and opening the tap releases a fine river of oozing liquid gold!
Distilling and Filtering
The honey is distilled and filtered several times to ensure the complete liquidity of the honey and a consistent smoothness.
12 - 13 litres of honey has been harvested in just over an hour and our beekeepers are happy.
Bottling and Jarring
It won’t be long and the honey will be jarred and ready for the ultimate taste test – on the menu at Government House dinners and receptions as part of the Governor’s commitment to local and natural produce.
Did you know?
- The first two hives were set up by the Governor and Dayn in 2015.
- Spring/Summer is harvest season with about one harvest a month in November, December and January.
- The Governor’s honey is entered into the Royal Easter Show and local agricultural shows in New South Wales. While the top prize is elusive, positive results have been achieved.
- Over 100 bottles of ‘Isabella Honey’ – named after the Queen Bee of one of the hives – have been presented to guests as gifts. His Royal Highness The Prince of Wales was a recipient on a Royal visit in November 2016.
- Bees have a hand in one-third of the foods we eat and it is thought that human life would not exist on this planet without bees.
- The Governor’s hives will soon be featured in a magazine and book publication … Watch this space!
Bees’ note: To our knowledge, no bees – or humans – were harmed in the making of this honey!