Kelly Knapp of Miss Bee Haven Honey reaches her bare hand into a hive with no fear. With 120 hives at Frog Hollow (plus more elsewhere!) and almost two decades of beekeeping experience, you can see the confidence and skill in each careful move she makes.
18 years ago, before she was a beekeeper, Kelly was a stay at home mom when she began assisting an older beekeeper. Catching a swarm on her own was one of the most spiritual, amazing moments of her life, she says. Within two months she started 18 hives, catching swarms and slowing growing. She raised her kids while beekeeping, working in the school district and attending farmers markets, inviting families to share in the honey harvest and learn about what goes on inside a hive. Then about four years ago she quit her job to go full time beekeeping!
Around this time each year, a few Frog Hollow team members suit up and join Kelly as she harvests honey. It’s a fascinating, intimidating, and magical task—prying the lids off the hive boxes as gently as possible, peering into the busy activity inside, and carrying heavy boxes of honey over to Kelly’s flatbed to be carted off and jarred. Bees swarm around us as Kelly explains each step and then trusts us to go off and do it on our own.
“When you come around a hive at this time of the year, it has a smell to it,” says Kelly. “It’s the honey coming in. I wish they could bottle it up and make a perfume. It’s just amazing and intoxicating to me.”
Looking around at Kelly’s hives, you’ll see purple and white boxes stacked on top of each other. Each stack is one hive—some stacked three boxes tall, others two, some just the one. We’re only interested in harvesting from hives with three boxes (the hive needs to keep a certain amount of honey to sustain themselves). We don’t want to take honey from weak or smaller hives, and we don’t want to take any boxes that have “brood” (or baby bee larvae) growing in the honeycomb cells.
First, we make sure there are no bees in the box that we intend to take. There are both friendly (non-toxic) and not so friendly ways to get the bees to leave… Kelly chooses friendly. She sprays the top of the box with this almond-smelling scent. Bees hate it, so they fly down into the boxes below to escape. It takes about ten minutes for them to clear out.
Then, we pry the top box away from the one below it. Some are very stuck together with beeswax—almost like glue! We have to put our back into it, while also being careful not to make too many vibrations that would bother the bees. Try prying a real sticky wooden box from another without making a sound. It’s tricky! Sometimes we need two of us to lift it—especially the ones with a lot of honey. The harvest takes just a couple of hours.
Kelly has to judge every season when the perfect time to harvest will be. It’s all dependent on what flowers are in bloom when. Each batch of honey takes on the unique qualities of the region, the local flowers, and the season. Harvest is a little later than usual this year, since the honey flow was late. Kelly says around this time of year is her favorite honey, though. “It has just such a unique, floral taste. But it’s also kind of root-y!”
Kelly will take the boxes filled with honey to her friend Victor, who helps her uncap the frames (get the honey out of the comb) and put it all in buckets. We sell honey that is harvested from the hives Kelly keeps at Frog Hollow. The flavor is reminiscent of all the flowering trees who we thank for a fruitful season. The bees forage here all year round, benefitting from the cover crops in the orchard and our pollinator-friendly farming practices. Kelly also makes a soap out of beeswax (plus a little honey) that is utterly luxurious. She says she gets quite a few regulars at the farmers market who come back every week to buy some.
“I just really loved Frog Hollow’s connection to the fruit trees and how they have cover crops for the bees. I found this beautiful relationship with the farmer, and the flowers, and the bees. And the farm has a huge variety of food for the bees. I asked years ago if I could put my hives here, and then they also wanted to carry my honey, and now we do soap with them too. Now I’m pollinating most of my hives here.”
We love and value this mutually beneficial relationship with Kelly from Miss Bee Haven. If you haven’t yet, check out her honey and her soaps!
Order Miss Bee Haven honey and soap to be delivered to your door in 48 hours.