Hi, I’m Chris Pedemonte from Round Pond Estate and Colinas Farming Company, and have been with Round Pond 30+ years. I currently manage the vineyards and olive orchards, and co-manage the honeybee hives with Daphne Blackmer here at the estate. The grapes and olive trees do not depend on honeybees for their pollination, but much of the estate fruit trees and gardens here do.
All of the hives that we have here on the estate are actually “swarm captures”. Swarms are the bees' way of establishing new colonies and perpetuating their species. These are often found throughout the vineyard, and called out by our vineyard workers. Many of the large, venerable heritage oak trees at Round Pond Estate are home to wild honeybee colonies. It is from these old established hives that the swarms we find in the vineyards originate.
During the spring and summer I will visit the apiary (where the beehives are kept) 3 to 4 times a week to make sure all is fine. It is important to inspect the new hives to make sure there is not an ant issue or stronger bees steeling from the weaker bees. If all looks good, I will only conduct a hive inspection every 4 to 6 weeks to make sure the bees are filling and capping the comb with honey.
When the frames are full of honey, I will harvest the honey by removing the wax caps and placing in an extractor. The extractor will spin the frames around, removing the honey by centrifugal force. The wax comb is preserved during the spinning and the frames with the intact comb are returned to the hive from which they came to be refilled. The honey always reflects the plant species that the nectar came from and honey flavors will vary depending on that plant.
People are sometimes curious about what the smoke does to the bees, during the frame extraction stage. Everybody is aware that bees will aggressively protect their hive when disturbed. Smoking causes the bees to gorge themselves on stored honey in a response to their instinctive fear of fire. A bee with a crop full of honey is much less aggressive and is less inclined to sting. It is also suspected that the smoke helps mask the alarm pheromone generated by the colony that alerts individual bees of a potential threat to their hive.
All in all, the honeybee is a fascinating creature to observe, learn about and work with. The camaraderie and willingness to share thoughts, ideas, and experiences with other beekeepers is also part of the appeal. Anybody interested in beekeeping should do a quick search for his or her local beekeeping club. There should be one in every community. If not, there are tons of books and many fascinating videos to watch on about bees and beekeeping.
Want to taste the honey from the Estate?
Come by and see us! If you want behind-the-scenes access, book the Signature Tour & Lunch to see our hives & taste our harvested Round Pond honey. Learn more about the tour from a previous Feed post, A Peek at Our New Signature Tour, here.
The Signature Tour & Lunch: