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From Bees To Bottle, How We Harvest Rogue Farms Honey

By the end of summer, when all the flowers are done blooming, the 7,140,289 Rogue Farms honeybees are ready for their annual retirement.

After months of gathering nectar and making honey, they’ll have stashed away enough honey for the colony to get through winter and left some surplus honey for us to harvest. How much surplus there is depends on colony strength, the weather and if the farm had a dearth or abundance of flowers that season.

The timing of the harvest changes from year to year, but generally occurs around mid-August.

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The first step of the honey harvest, removing the frames. We only remove frames from the upper boxes called supers. This is where the honeybees store their leftover honey.

A little smoke calms the bees. Honeybees communicate through phermones. The smoke interferes with that so, if one bees raises the alarm about us removing honey, the other bees don't get the message.

A little smoke calms the bees. Normally, honeybees communicate with pheromones, but the smoke inteferes. If one bees raises an alarm about us removing honey, the other bees don’t get the message.

Humans have gathered honey for thousands of years. Pre-historic cave paintings show our ancestors harvesting honey, as do ancient murals found in Egypt. But the first evidence that people worked side-by-side with honeybees emerges about 8,500 years ago. Researchers in Europe found beeswax in pottery shards at 150 farming settlements dating back to the end of the Stone Age.

We are following in the footsteps of generations of beekeepers.

Rogue Brewmaster John Maier removing the wax seal from a honeycomb.

Rogue Brewmaster John Maier removing the wax seal from a honeycomb.

Harvesting honey is fairly simple. We use a heated knife to remove the wax seal on the honeycombs, then drop the frames into an extractor that spins around and removes the honey with centrifugal force.

The best part of harvesting honey.

The best part of harvesting honey.

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Placing the frame in the extractor.

Watching it spin.

Watching it spin.

The honey falls to the bottom of the tub and then pours into small buckets. They may be buckets of honey, but please don’t call them honey buckets.

The end of the harvest.

The end of the honey harvest.

Our job at Rogue Farms is done. We’ll load the buckets of honey into the truck and drive it 77-miles over the Coast Range to the Rogue Brewery in Newport, Oregon. Then it’s in the hands of Brewmaster John Maier who’ll use craft one of our Rogue Farms honey beers.

So what exactly is the difference between mead, braggot and honey beer? We’ll tell all in next week’s From Bees To Bottle story.

Please join us at Rogue Farms this summer. The hops are climbing, the Dream Pumpkins, Prickless Marionberries, Wigrich Corn, cucumbers and jalapeños are growing, and the honeybees are buzzing. Come see how we grow beer, spirits, ciders and sodas!

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