A Day In A Bee Yard
Many times while driving, I have seen bee boxes in people’s backyards. Always knowing what they held but never quite understanding the extent of bee keeping, I wondered what it would be like to have bees of my own. So, when late in the summer leading up to my junior year, I received an email from a professor at Grove City about implementing an apiary on campus, I was immediately interested. Dr. Farone had sent out an informational email to all biology majors stating that she was s looking for research students to accompany her in her goal of educating the community on the importance of pollinators. Instantly, I was drawn to this rare experience. When would I ever have an opportunity like this again?
One of the earliest experiences Dr. Farone provided our research team with was a trip out to Bedillion’s Honey Farm, a family run apiary in southwestern Pennsylvania. During one of our weekly meetings, Dr. Farone informed us that we would be making this trip out to Bedllion’s on a Saturday in late September and I was ecstatic to finally be able to gain some hands-on experience. Our trip would consist of a tour of the family’s store, where we would get our own beekeeping suits, followed by a tour of their honey bouse, and finally a trip out to the bee yard. In the bee yard, we would help Mr. Bedillion and his son, Sam, as they removed the honey supers from each bee box to later harvest the honey.
Once the day of our trip had finally arrived, my research team members and I carpooled down to Hickory, PA where we met Dr. Farone and Mr. Bedillion at the Bedillion Honey Farm and wasted no time in getting to work. We were first given a tour of the honey house where we got to see the hot room, witness the honey extraction process, and taste fresh honeycomb and pollen. I was very surprised at how sweet the honeycomb was and was even more intrigued by the pollen as it tasted both earthy and floral at the same time. After our tour we went back up to the store where we were outfitted with our own beekeeping suits and then made our way up to the bee yard that was on a hill behind the store. Once in the bee yard, Mr. Bedillion and Sam began to smoke the bee boxes to prep the hives for removal of the honey supers. The bee yard was filled with hundreds of thousands of bees all flying in and out of their hives. Even after smoking the hives, bees were flying about and I could hear their wings buzzing as they flew around the veil that protected my face. My team members and I aided in stacking and transporting the supers from the bee hive to the honey house where I was given the opportunity to help harvest the honey with Mrs. Bedillion and Sam. To carry out this process, I learned that the first step is to take a single frame out of a super and place it vertically on its side. As I held the frame upright with one hand, Mrs. Bedillion instructed me on how to take the extractor tool and lightly scrape off the topmost covering of the honeycomb to expose the honey. After the honeycomb had been uncapped and the honey on the frame was exposed, I placed the frame into the honey extractor. This machine is made up of a large cylinder with slots inside to hold a number of frames depending on the size of the machine. Once all of the frames had been inserted, Mrs. Bedillion closed the lid of the extractor and turned it on. Inside, the frames spun and the honey was extracted through the centrifugal force being exerted on the frames. As the honey was being removed from the frames, it funneled out of the machine through a spout to then later be bottled and sold. The room that this process took place in was referred to as the "hot room" because of the temperature the honey must be at to successfully be extracted. Since bee hives are fairly hot themselves, the honey must be kept in a room that is hot enough to keep the honey at the ideal viscosity for extraction. Not only was the room exceptionally warm, it smelled sweet from the honeycomb in the supers; some stray bees flew around as we harvested.
While in the bee yard, my team members and I sustained some stings, but what stuck with me the most after our trip to Bedillion’s Honey Farm was how valuable hands-on experience can be when it comes to learning new things.