Thomas Yesdresyski moves nonchalantly among thousands of bees zipping around him as he opens up their hive.
Without hesitation his steady hands pull out the honeycomb tray dripping with the thick, golden nectar.
This year marks the first big honey harvest at the Westin Bear Mountain Golf Resort and Spa with about 500 pounds of the sticky sweetener.
“Last year was a build up year,” Yesdresyski said, noting only a small amount of honey was harvested. Not all the honey in the hives is removed. About 70 pounds of honey is needed by the hive to survive the winter.
“The bees cluster in the hive to stay warm and they eat honey,” Yesdresyski said, adding the bees only forage during the spring and summer. In warmer climates, such as South America, bees can forage all year round. The harvested honey is then used in the hotel kitchen to create honey ice cream, savoury sauces and salad dressings.
“Once you start stealing honey the bees start to get more aggressive,” Yesdresyski said, as the Italian bees begun to swarm about while their honey was removed. “But when you realize what they are all about they are actually kind of harmless.”
Yesdresyski is the restaurant’s sous chef, but he doubles as a beekeeper.
The resort uses honey from three hives located on Bear Mountain. One hive is near the Westin and the other two are kept at Yesdresyski’s home at the base of the mountain.
Each hive has nearly 70,000 bees.
After collecting the honey trays, each weighing up to 10 pounds, Yesdresyski brings them into the kitchen and gets ready to extract the honey.
“We don’t use any heat here, it’s 100 per cent raw. The hottest the honey ever gets is in the hive from the sun,” Yesdresyski said.
In the kitchen Yesdresyski begins scrapping the trays with an uncapping fork, removing the beeswax and sealing in the golden goodness.
The uncapped trays are then placed in a spinning cylinder called a honey extractor. Using centrifugal force the honey is spun out of the tray, which preserves the honey comb allowing it to be returned to the hive.
“The bees put so much work into the honey comb and you want to respect that,” Yesdresyski said.
The honey is also for sale at the Westin at Bear Mountain. The honey is created from the flowers and plants the bees have foraged from within eight kilometers from the hives.
Did you know?
• The average lifespan of a honey bee in the summer is about six weeks, though the queen can live several years.
• When a queen bee gets weak, the other bees hatch a new queen who then kills the old queen.
• Only female bees make honey. Male bees fertilize eggs and eat honey. In the winter the female bees cull the majority of the males to conserve honey.