It’s been two years since we at Mariandale welcomed bees onto campus

This July, Dominican Sister of Hope Bette Ann Jaster, OP, master gardener and beekeeper Regina Blakeslee, her husband, Ed Levine, and Mariandale staff member Karen Noreika harvested the bees’ honey for the first time.

Regina Blakeslee carries the super and frames of honey

The group gathered to extract a super of honey, carefully remove the wax cappings, and gently spin the honey off of the honeycomb using an extractor.

Unlike some conventional beekeeping methods, the group was careful not to disturb the bees when removing the super and frames of honey from the hive. They also meticulously kept the honeycomb intact on the frames because no commercial wax or plastic foundation was used. (This pure, natural beeswax comb was made by the bees’ own bodies.) The frames were later returned to the colony for future honey-making.

The day was a sweet lesson in the interconnectedness of our sacred relationship with nature.

“It was educational to see how everything is connected,” Ms. Noreika says. “The garden flowers and the labyrinth flowers and the plantings that we’ve done around the property are nurturing the bees, and they create the honey that nurtures us.”              

Bearing in mind this interconnectedness, and harboring a deep sense of gratitude, the group was generous with the honey. Last week, every staff member at Mariandale was gifted a small jar of honey.

Because it hasn’t been pasteurized or heated, the honey contains a multitude of health benefits.

“The beneficial properties of honey make it much more than just a substitute sweetener,” Ms. Blakeslee says. “Honey contains a variety of vitamins, enzymes, amino acids, minerals, and it is considered a life force.”

In the future, the hope is to share this fruit of the bees’ life and work with an even wider circle.

“We look forward to having enough honey to make it available for sale to all who come to the Mariandale Center,” Sister Bette Ann says. “Profits will support our ongoing work on-campus to support both the pollinators as well as the seekers who come here for restoration of spiritual resiliency.”

They will also help us to continue to be good stewards of the bees. In order to support them, we need to plant more flowers for bees to pollinate and leave wild areas in our gardens and lawns to let grasses and weeds flower.

For this year, it is expected that our honey-harvesting is done.

The bees will begin collecting nectar and pollen soon from late-blooming clover, goldenrod, and asters that are the last flowers to bloom before winter. The honey that the bees make from these major food sources will remain in the hive and nourish them throughout the winter.

Amazingly, bees in the Westchester area need eighty to ninety pounds of honey to survive the winter.

Until then, we’re cherishing our sweet reminder of their sacred work.

See more of the day’s photos on Mariandale’s Facebook page.