October 8, 2021

The Sweet Taste of Success: Honey Harvesting

Since introducing a beehive to the community in 2016, we’ve enjoyed the sweet taste of success as the colony happily reside and work away in Fryer Orchard.

Recently, a group of keen Fryer and Year 11 volunteers had the opportunity to harvest honey from the hive with the help of Old Leightonian, Bibi Bibra, who currently studies Zoology at the University of Reading.

“It’s lovely to be back on the Park, I graduated from Leighton Park in 2020 and it’s nice to see the Park with everyone back. Being able to help with the activity that I was once a part of is lovely. I joined when I was in Fryer. I hope that I can help other students who want to follow a path in nature and conservation.” enthused Bibi.

Gathering her honey harvesters around the table, ever-modest Head of Biology, Gemma Sims, admitted “I’m not sure I’ve been the best bee mother. However, bees do well without too much human input and judging by our supers it looks as though they have been busy over the summer!”

A super is a frame that contains pre-formed honeycomb. Once bees have packed the comb with honey and sealed it with wax, the goods are ready to be harvested. Using a hot serrated knife, the students took it in turns to cut the cappings from the cells.

Following this, the super was placed inside a manual centrifuge where students were able to rotate the handle and watch the container fill with honey as it separated from the undamaged comb; its delicious aroma filled the classroom as they worked.

This week, the group returned to the Orchard whilst decked out in their protective gear, to see the bees up close and personal. To calm the 40,000 large colony, Oliver Staines, Head of Geography, was on hand with a smoker device.

Advising students, Gemma asked “Do you know where the saying ‘make a bee-line’ comes from? A bee-line is a bee’s very direct flight path. When a forager finds a source of nectar it returns to the hive and communicates its location. The other bees can then fly to the source of nectar, that is, ‘make a beeline’ for it. You should try not to intercept a bees flight path!”

In the autumn evening sun, students were intrigued to learn more about the way in which bees work, as well as discover even more capped honeycomb in their supers. Reflecting on what sparked her interest to study animals, Bibi remarked “Since I started Leighton Park, I wanted to study Zoology. Now I’m in my second year and I’m loving it! It’s been wonderful and I’m thoroughly enjoying it. My teachers were so supportive in me achieving this, I am grateful to them all.

“The experience of being on the allotment whilst at Leighton Park helped me become an educational volunteer at Monkey World – Ape Rescue Centre over the summer. Since graduating, I have continued volunteering in the Cole Museum of Zoology at the University of Reading which I started doing in 2020, whilst still at Leighton Park. I have also completed my Advanced Open Water Diver certification and hope to complete my masters in the future.”

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