AUG 02, 2015 8:55 AM PDT

The People's Garden Honey Bee Harvest

WRITTEN BY: Sarah Hertrich

The USDA Agricultural Research Service (ARS) Bee Research Lab installed two beehives in 2010 and 2011 in order to help pollinate plants in the Headquarters People's Garden as well as neighboring gardens and landscapes in Washington DC. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack began the garden in 2009 in order to challenge employees to create gardens at the USDA facilities. Since then, it has grown into a collaboration of over 700 local and national organizations to establish community and school gardens across the country. The People's Garden Apiary is located on the roof of the Jamie L. Whitten Building at the USDA Headquarters in Washington DC and is home to approximately 80,000 Italian honey bees. Since 2010, the apiary has harvested approximately 22 gallons worth of honey from the hives. Honey bees are responsible for pollinating more than 100 crops. In recent years the number of honey bee populations has been declining due to various reasons including disease, adverse weather and other conditions. Education surrounding the importance of pollination and the use of honey bees has become a high priority as our honey bee populations continue to decline.

In this video, USDA entomologists demonstrate the process by which honey is harvested from the bee hives located in the People's Garden Apiary in Washington DC. First, the beekeepers dress in protective layers to avoid stings. The beekeeper applies smoke to the hive, which calms the bees and prevents them from becoming aggressive. The frames of the hive are removed which contain the honey. A heated knife is used to unseal the honey cells, which the honey bees seal with wax in order to prevent the honey from leaking out and water from getting into the cells. A cylindrical piece of equipment is then used to extract the honey from the honey cells. The honey is then filtered in order to remove any wax and other impurities. Lastly, the honey is packaged into seal containers prior to consumption.
About the Author
  • I am a postdoctoral researcher with interests in pre-harvest microbial food safety, nonthermal food processing technologies, zoonotic pathogens, and plant-microbe interactions. My current research projects involve the optimization of novel food processing technologies to reduce the number of foodborne pathogens on fresh produce. I am a food geek!
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