This is Laila who I met thru the Garden School Foundation. She has become a close friend and advisor for all things gardening, and I’m excited to announce that she will be contributing here on this blog!
Last year when Matt and I purchased our first house, it seemed like fate that it came with two bee hives. We get free, raw, amazing honey? I mean I’d rather have that than a second bathroom. Then reality sank in and I realized that the process of harvesting honey is very labor intensive and substantially perilous. This is where Laila enters the picture. She volunteered to do the job, was actually really excited about it. “But Laila, have you ever actually worked with beehives?” I asked, distressed and worried for her.
“No,” she replied much too casually. “I’ll watch a You Tube video.”
A You Tube video????? Yup. That’s Laila, fearless nature woman. In case you are wondering, she watched This video.
Here’s more from our conversation after she did the harvest:
Me: Laila, where did you get this suit?
Laila: My suit! I bought it online here, but then found a place in LA called LA Honey Company that has everything a beekeeper could ever want except, perhaps, a website. If you’re in LA and you’re up for an adventure, I’d totally recommend going there to pick up your beekeeping supplies. There are lots of commercial beekeepers shopping around who are very generous with their tips, and even though it’s more like a warehouse, it’s a very exciting place to be as a new beekeeper.
Me: Did any of those bees sting you?
Laila: Yes! I tried real hard not to get stung because it’s so sad to know that they just die after but alas, I did. What boggled my mind was how little it hurt. Of course it startled me but the pain subsided rather quickly. I recently got stung by a bee from another colony and holy cow, my hand swelled up for 4 days and it hurt like crazy! So thankfully, you’ve got a sweet colony at your house.
Me: You cut the comb and added it to the jars with the honey. What made you decide to do that?
Laila: There are a couple of methods for honey extracting and one of those is cutting the combs in chunks and putting it in the jars. This works really well for those who don’t have honey extractors (centrifuges) and is actually a very simple process. I started harvesting the honey with the centrifuge but noticed that we were still a bit close to the hive and the bees were starting to get mad that we took their honey. That part was wild! So to speed up the process I thought it best to uncap the honey comb and then cut it into chunks to fill the jars up that way. The comb is also super tasty!
Me: What was your biggest surprise in this whole sweet honey collecting experience?
Laila: There were many surprises but two that really stick out. One being, how incredibly calm and clear-headed I became while working in the hive. The moment I put the hive’s lid back on and walked away to remove my suit was when I noticed my hands trembling. At that point, my body felt like a wet noodle. The other surprise was when the bees cleaned all the equipment. I had read that if you leave out your supplies after a honey harvest, the bees will come and slurp up any and all honey that is on them. I remember being skeptical about it as I laid everything out on the little floral table cloth but sure enough, the next day there was not one drop of honey left. I was pretty impressed with those little ladies.
Me: Well how did it taste to you?
Laila: I still have some of the prized honey so let me see if I can pinpoint anything unusual. Oh my, it’s probably the darkest honey I’ve ever seen. I read how some commercial honey is filtered, and sometimes diluted with corn syrup (which boggled my mind) making it look more like a clear syrup. This honey is the deepest amber, and quite cloudy. The flavor is super rich but honestly, my palate only picks up on the yum factor rather than any particular floral hints.
Me: Thanks, Laila. I value this honey very much.
Laila: You’re welcome. I’m glad you like it.