Simply Science: The making of rooftop honey

5:51 PM, Aug 9, 2012   |    comments
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MINNEAPOLIS - Guests of the W Hotel probably don't notice the faint buzzing above their heads. But it's there; thousands of honey bees are hard at work.

Once a week local beekeeper Susan Brown visits her bees atop the lounge of the W Hotel in Minneapolis.

The honey harvesting process begins with pumping some pine needle smoke into the hive, which distracts them as she steals their honey.

"See how they go down inside as the smoke comes down on them," she said.

The honey is ready when the comb is covered in a light colored wax. If it isn't the bees are still working on preserving it by getting the moisture content just right, down to 17 percent.

"It's full of honey but it's not wax coated yet," Brown said. "So that means they have to dry it out a little more, which they do by fanning it with their wings; getting some air circulation."

From the rooftop of Foshay tower, the honey travels to Brown's studio where it is removed from the frames.

"It's a pretty simple process really."

Among the hustle and bustle and concrete of Minneapolis there are enough flowers to support the bees, which only travel about two miles from the hive.

Brown says the high concentration of basswood trees and wild loosestrife in the city dominates this honey's flavor. "It's got a nice flavor that's really buttery, a little spicy," Brown said.

Once capped, the honey is ready for extraction.

A 60 second crank of the centrifuge wheel removes the honey on one side. Flip, repeat and the honey is all separated from the waxy comb.

After stray bits of wax are filtered with a fine mesh, the process is complete!

"This bucket holds 57 pounds and in order for a bee to collect one pound of honey, they have to forage from two million flowers. That's why we call it liquid gold," Brown said, amazed as she watches the honey drain from the extractor.

She uses the liquid gold to make honey-filled bon bons.

In support of the W Hotels local sustainability efforts, the bon bons end up in the rooms of W Hotel guests, ready to enjoy.

"We're the first hotel to have, to host bees on our rooftop and to use those bees for our amenities for our guests," hotel manager Susan Mabry said. "It's fun. It's exciting and its sustainable."

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