Be a Beekeeper for a Day in Northern California

The word ‘buzz’ has a dual meaning for me today. The first being the warm, fuzzy feeling I was getting from drinking my Keller Estate bubbly in the afternoon. The second was the humming noise coming from the hundreds of honeybees surrounding the white wooden bee hives at my feet. 

I think the first buzz was helping me tolerate the second.

We were spending this Saturday afternoon in Northern California indulging in some tasty Petaluma Gap wines, along with learning the art of Beekeeping, an adventure on my bucket list that has been begging for a checkmark. Keller Estate, who is known for their award-winning Pinot Noir and Chardonnay, once a year invites people to assist in extracting honey from the bee hives located on their land.

It was a dream invitation — wine tasting and honey extraction.

We arrived to the winery and were immediately served a glass of their 2010 Brut-Bubbles, this should help ease the nerves and keep us semi-comfortable while wearing a head to foot beekeeping suit. The white jumpsuit was definitely not designed for comfort or fashion, it was made for security purposes, which was perfectly acceptable to me. I made certain that no skin was exposed, even putting on rubber gloves.

Preferably, I will walk away from this experience without getting stung.

Even though a bee sting is a fear of many, honeybees are like cows they only get angry when they are really agitated, their sting is purely a protective measure.

We were walked to the hives by a master beekeeper from the Planet Bee Foundation, a nonprofit organization with a mission to change the world one bee at a time. He started with using a smoker, a way to subdue the bees when opening the hive. This helps to calm the bees, so they are less likely to sting.

Please use extra smoke.

Smoker Beekeeping Petaluma

He then lifted the lid and pulled a frame out to see the fruits of a years labor. It was a dead hive. Dead hives can happen for numerous reasons; either from pesticides, starvation, freezing or it could be queenless. It’s hard to tell the real cause without doing a complete autopsy. These hives were still buzzing, just with robber bees that were invading them, stealing the little honey in them.

The next hive was a different story, it was completely live and full of honey. After pulling the frame out we used a soft bristle brush to separate the bees from the honeycomb. Then we put the tray in a transfer box, ready for the next process.

This procedure continued on for the rest of the hives.

All the while, bees were fluttering in all directions, several attached to my suit. The most unsettling thing was hearing them buzzing right next to my ear and frantically wondering if they had found their way into my protective gear. They hadn’t. 

Once the box of honey-filled trays was full we took it inside for the next step, which was scraping the honeycomb. It was necessary to lightly scrape, breaking the round shape of the honeycomb without removing all the delicious honey underneath.

This was a sticky situation.

These frames were then put into the spinner, a honey extractor. This round cylinder rotates, flinging the honey off the tray while the wax comb stays intact. The honey is then passed through a screen, removing the bits of wax.

Our honey is now ready for consumption. All in a days work.

After getting out of our steamy beekeeping suits, the husband and I cooled down in the Keller Estate wine cellar, on our way to get a celebratory glass of Pinot.

Keller Estate | 5875 Lakeville Hwy., Petaluma, California | Map | Website 

The beekeeping experience at Keller Estate is a once a year event, though wine tasting is year round.
Follow them on Facebook to be notified of their next honey extraction.


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5 thoughts on “Be a Beekeeper for a Day in Northern California”

  1. I am so glad to have my fellow honey bee keepers in California. I am from Uganda.I am interested in Bee keeping. I beg for your support.


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