KIRKLAND'S POPULATION increased by 180,000 buzzing creatures recently when six honeybee hives were installed at Carillon Point by . This is the second such installation initiated by Woodmark General Manager . Two years ago when Murphy managed The Salish Lodge, he invited beekeeper Daniel Sullivan of the newly formed Shipwreck Honey to install honeybee hives there.
“John is a visionary on this...his passion for local, sustainable and accessible products is, from a beekeeper’s stance, unparalleled,” says Sullivan.
Sullivan expects the hives to begin honey production in mid-July with sporadic flow until September, when the honey harvest begins in earnest. The honey will be used in The Woodmark’s banquet programs, its restaruants and , as well as some products that will be available to the public.
Though Shipwreck Honey will be officially maintaining the hives, of bin on the lake is taking on the role of unofficial babysitter. Giordan has all sorts of plans for the honey harvest, including honey beer, honey creme brulee and panna cotta, honey and ginger glazed chicken and a honey French 75 cocktail.
During peak production, honeybees literally work themselves to death in about two weeks, flying anywhere from 2-6 miles in search of flower pollen. Ending its short life with tattered wings, a single honeybee only has about one teaspoon of honey to show for its immense effort. Sullivan predicts that the total harvest for all six hives could be as much as 1,200 pounds!
The hives are located on a rooftop at Carillon Point, well away from guests and local workers. Many people, myself included, may have an innate fear of flying, stinging insects and question the logic of installing so many bees near a hotel. Murphy insists that no one was stung as a result of the honeybees installed at The Salish Lodge.
“Honeybees don’t chase picnickers,” he says.
Beekeeper Sullivan assures that he only uses the Italian honeybee, the species known as the happiest and most docile available. He clearly loves his bees. Listen to him gush about his ladies.
“She merrily consorts with local blossoms as she goes about her day, buzzing gracefully back and forth from her beautifully appointed Woodmark Hive with tasty Kirkland pollen.”
Tiffany Oishi, Sullivan’s other love, claims she wasn’t initially excited by her boyfriend’s interest in bees, citing a fear of getting stung.
“But, I’ve only been stung once and it was my fault. A bee landed on my leg and I flicked it off. It came back and stung me,” Oishi recalls.
HONEYBEES RARELY sting because for them, it means death. If one lands on you, gently shake it off and it will likely leave you alone. And, don’t worry about the little yellow dot it may leave behind on your skin -- that is just bee poo, says Oishi.
Sullivan's journey into the world of bees began only a few years ago.
“It started with a Google question, then a YouTube video, then a book (on bees) and before I knew it, a state certification,” recounts Sullivan.
Sullivan’s plans to pursue beekeeping full time are edging closer. He now manages 40 hives in the Seattle area. This is great news considering the dire statistics on hive collapse and declining honeybee populations. Honeybees are solely responsible for pollinating 30% of what we eat on a daily basis, claims Sullivan.
“The Woodmark, under John's care is giving back, exposing their community to the fundamental joys and necessary community components that make up beekeeping. He is showing everyone how accessible beekeeping is, how much of a difference it makes in our daily lives at every imaginable level.”
Murphy thinks outside the box, redefining what it is to be a good manager. For him, the beehives are part of a desire to support the story of where our food comes from, “to connect this lovely property to the earth and soil.” He and his wife grow vegetables and make their own salsa -- he even whips up his own mayonnaise. Murphy looks forward to this self-starter aspect of honey production, hinting at a possible booth for selling baked goods and Woodmark Honey.
While beekeeping might not be on my to-do list anytime soon, it was fascinating to watch the installation process. The bees were brought up from California in mesh covered wooden box frames. Each hive contains a queen, in this case marked with a pink dot to keep track of her. The queen is kept in a separate compartment of the frame until it is time for installation. Then, her cork “door” is replaced by a single mini marshmallow, which her hive will eat through in order to free her.
The queen is the first into the new hive box, followed by 25,000 bees that are literally poured in. Most don’t fly away because they are attracted by two things: the queen’s distinct pheromone scent and the smell of sugar -- the screens in the hive are prepped with simple syrup.
And that’s all it takes -- the bees do the really hard work, building the comb, laying eggs and magically transforming flower pollen into golden honey. Humans might be able to launch rockets and map the Homo sapiens genome, but we still haven’t cracked the honey code. There is nothing quite like it in flavor.
Next time you bite into an apple or savor a berry, thank all the furry little bees that helped make it all possible.