As Sweet as Honey

by Myra Saturen
July 07, 2014

Sharon Zondag extracts honeyIt took about 180,000 bees to produce the 60 pounds of honey extracted by Northampton Community College (NCC)  beekeeper Sharon Zondag, on June 29.  Sixty thousand bees are typical of a hive in good condition, and the NCC honey came from three of these colonies in the East Forty Community Garden on campus.  

"The flavor largely comes from clover and dandelion and a beautiful elixir of both," Zondag says.   

NCC's hives originated with swarms gathered by Zondag and her father, Thomas Jones, in the Southern Tier region of New York State.  The College's first colony was installed in May 2012.   

The bitterly cold winter of 2013-20014 presented the hives with great survival challenges.  To provide the ventilation the bees needed, Zondag dug the hives out of snow after each of twelve snowstorms.  On February 22, the only day since the previous November when the temperature reached 50 degrees, she began feeding the hives protein.  As a result of this care, three out of four hives survived, at a better rate than the national average, which was 50% or fewer.   

But winter rigors weren't all.  To further complicate matters, bees in one particularly strong hive, with twelve queen cells, had started to swarm away.  To hinder this flight, Zondag split the hive, bringing the total number of hives to four.  On June 23, Zondag's 85-year-old father and 83-year-old uncle brought her another swarm from New York State, bringing the present number of hives at NCC to a flourishing five.   

Do you want to share the sweet success?  While supplies last, honey will be on sale at the Quad on NCC's Main Campus at 3835 Green Pond Road in Bethlehem on Thursdays from 10:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. during market day for the Community Garden.  One pound of honey will sell for $15, with half of these proceeds going to NCC's Foundation.   

Zondag hopes to extract another 60-100 pounds of honey in July, and will teach a beekeeping class this fall.  Meanwhile, she keeps NCC's bees well-fed, well-housed and buzzing.  

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