bees in the news

Great expectations

My daughter sent me a news article about bees on a rooftop restaurant in Kirkland, Washington. For those of you from elsewhere, Kirkland is an urban/suburban city outside of Seattle. If the name sounds oddly familiar, it’s because the city is home to Costco and its Kirkland Signature brand of products.

Here’s an excerpt from the article:

Now, as part of the Woodmark Hotel, Yacht Club & Spa’s latest program, “Bee on the Lake,” Seattle-area residents will have the chance to taste a buzz-worthy batch of golden honey produced by 180,000 Italian honeybees and six queen bees housed just steps from the property.

Once settled in, it is expected that the six hives of bees, which are located on top of a Carillon Point rooftop near the Woodmark, will begin producing honey around mid-July. At the end of production in September, the Woodmark will have approximately 1,200 pounds of honey to work with, and with that impressive number in mind, has already begun planning how to best use the locally-produced product.

Did you catch that? These six colonies, during a span of ten weeks, are going to produce 1200 pounds of honey for the restaurant. That’s 200 pounds per hive or 20 lbs per hive per week. And that’s just the amount the restaurant will have “to work with.” One has to assume they will leave some for the bees.

Maybe all those folks in Kirkland have Costco-size expectations, but that is nuts. According to a report by the USDA, the average honey production in Washington was 37 pounds per colony in 2010 and 38 pounds per colony in 2011. And that’s for the whole season, not a ten week period spanning the July and August nectar dearth. It makes you wonder where they get their information.

Impressive numbers like that are certainly attainable in some places—but not in western Washington in the middle of the summer. No way. I hope they have some other sources of local honey lined up. Maybe some of you Seattle beekeepers have a new market . . . just keep those prices high as the rooftops.



  • I do not know anything about honey yields in the area but there is an alternative way of interpreting the statement “will begin producing honey around mid-July. At the end of production in September, the Woodmark will have approximately 1,200 pounds of honey to work with.” That is, that they plan to take a first, large harvest in mid-July and a second, smaller harvest in the end of September. It all depends upon the meaning of “produce”. Perhaps still an overestimate but not as bad as you first interpreted it.

    • Yes, I agree you could interpret it that way. But regardless of how you read it, estimating 200 lbs/colony in a state that averages 38 lbs/colony is quite a leap of faith. In fact, that’s more that five times the average even if you include the entire season.

  • A friend of mine asked me yesterday how much honey I would get out of the swarm I just caught. Her question made me realize that there are people who must think bees are like cows, that you somehow squeeze the honey out of them. And that you go out every morning and squeeze out some more. She was amazed to learn that I was giving them honey. I explained they would use the honey to make wax, and then in the wax combs they would put “honey” that they would use as food. She was truly clueless, and I found her enlightenment to be somehow gratifying, but at the same time I was saddened to realize there are so many clueless folks out there.

    • Kitty,

      That’s a good analogy. When I read the article I was struck by the lack of any concern for the bees. The only concern was how much honey they could make and how fast. I would love to hear the inside story of how it all turns out.

    • Last year when my hive was starting out people were asking me when I’d have honey to sell/give away. I’d answer maybe next year. JANUARY of this year people were asking me if I had any honey! I tried to explain that as there are no flowers there is no honey.This one woman had a hard time understanding what the one had to do with the other. Poor, poor misunderstood bees.

      • Sarah,

        That would be so funny if it weren’t so sad. I think it’s that disconnect between people and nature that makes them shrug over issues like pesticides in the environment. If you don’t understand it, why worry about it?

        As Kitty points out (above) try explaining to that woman that you give honey to bees. She’ll think you lost your marbles.

        • Yup. I tried explain feeding to my father, and his response was “bees were doing just fine without us a hundred years ago”. Of course, this sent me on a rampage, but my point is I am so happy there are beekeepers that understand where I’m coming from!

  • Maybe they’re really big hives?? 🙂

    Seriously, I’m all for hotels getting into urban beekeeping as long as they’re honest and responsible about it. I hope this was PR and not another way to exploit the bees.

  • To Kitty,

    You commented
    >> there are people who must think bees are like cows, that you somehow squeeze the honey out of them.

    There are also people who think cows (or goats) walk around with milk all the time and you just go out and milk them when you want some. My neighbors and I spend more time than you’d believe, explaining that a cow or doe has to be bred and give birth before she makes milk. And then she has to be milked twice a day, every day.

    I will admit before I started helping with my friends’s hives, I had no clue the amount of work, responsibility and investment involved. But I did at least know that bees made honey for their own survival and only then there might be extra for the beekeeper.

  • A local “famous” beekeeper with a really gregarious personality is often saying outrageous things like this…

    Recently, we heard him say (during a presentation) that beekeeping is a great way to make a bit of extra money UP TO $10,000 WITH TWO HIVES. Maybe he meant over the course of 25 years.

    Same beekeeper also likes to say that it’s possible to keep up to 300 hives and still work a full time job.

    Actually, combine the two statements and you could make $1.5 million a year in addition to your full time job!

    Rusty, I think we must be doing something wrong…

    • That is hilarious! I have two hives (one from last year, the second is a split from that hive) and my friend has five and counting. I’ve been thinking how much money between the two of us that we have SPENT on the bees and it will take a lot of honey to cover that. Fortunately, we aren’t in it for the money.

  • My favorite questions go something like this: “How do you tell them to go back in the hive?” “Do you tell them where to go and when to come back?” And yes, people DO think you milk a bee for it’s honey… It’s all about educating the public, one person at a time.

  • Rusty, I live in Sedro Woolley (east of Burlington on Hwy 20) so you are what I would consider local. Can you tell me if anyone in the area does anything educational for folks who want to learn more about what the honey bees do and how they do it?

    • Gwen,

      You could join a local beekeeping club. Most of them have monthly meetings, demonstrations, speakers, and classes.

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