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My visit to the city beekeeper

Working student Lena reports on her visit to the city beekeeper on the roof of the K+S headquarters in Kassel.

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Victor Hernández is in the process of calming the first bee colony with smoke as Lena and I climb through a small window onto the green roof of the company headquarters in Kassel. This morning the Kassel city beekeeper will collect the first honeycombs that have been filling our four busy bee colonies with precious honey since May. When I took up my position as a working student at K+S KALI GmbH in the Sustainability & Environmental Management System department in June 2019, I had been looking forward to interesting and varied working days, but I had not imagined that I would also spend a Monday morning on the roof of the company headquarters or in the city beekeeping. As I am currently studying for a Master's degree in Sustainable Management at the University of Kassel, this morning is an interesting addition to my otherwise very theoretical studies and at the same time a good opportunity to be closely involved in a company biodiversity project. This kind of integration in the company is a real enrichment for me. I very much appreciate the work with the bees and the interesting insights that Mr. Hernández gave us, because the company roof is not necessarily the classic working environment of a student.

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Many people are aware that bees play an important role for us and our environment. K+S also sees itself as a company with a responsibility to support initiatives that have set themselves the goal of preserving and protecting our biodiversity. For this reason, the K+S bee partnership is an important concern for the company. Not only honey bees benefit from the surrounding green areas under the care of the beekeeper Victor Hernández, K+S employees will also be able to enjoy the delicious honey in the future.

 

This morning, the bee colonies are cooperating very exemplarily with our beekeeper. After Mr. Hernández has carefully separated the individual layers of the beehive from each other, he begins to gently remove the remaining bees from the combs with the aid of a brushing machine in order to then safely stow the honeycombs in wooden boxes provided for this purpose for transportation to the apiary. He does not wear protective clothing. If the bees are in such a good mood as they are today, then it is only a hindrance to their work, says Mr. Hernández.

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The bees seem rather unimpressed by the whole action, most fly in large swarms around the hives, only young bees must begin their way back into the hive still on foot. After all the honeycombs have been safely stowed away in the wooden boxes, we now have to lift them through the window, which proves to be not so easy, since the honeycombs filled with honey weigh about 30kg in a box. A few individual bees have now lost their way through the window into the building. The experienced city beekeeper shows us on this occasion how to catch the bees quite simply at their wings in order to release them into freedom again.

On the drive to the beekeeping in the Holländische Straße we make a short stop to get fresh rolls so that we can test our honey right after the spin. From my seat in the back I hear a quiet but clear humming from the trunk. A few isolated bees accompany us and their honey to beekeeping. This is not unusual, according to Hernández, a few bee passengers could always be found in his car.

 

Arrived in the beekeeping, there are some things to marvel at. The small shop in the Holländische Straße has a wide selection of different honey products to offer. In addition to honey jars, Mr. Hernández also offers cosmetic products, oilcloths, children's and non-fiction books as well as many other honey and wax products. The city beekeeper explains to us over a coffee what makes his honey and the busy bees so special and patiently answers all our bee questions. In contrast to other beekeepers, Mr. Hernández did not place his first colony of bees in the country, but in the middle of the city, on the roof of his shop.

 

To set up beehives in the middle of the city of Kassel was unconventional at first, but much more practical for the hobby beekeeper, since he could always look after his bees and the bee colonies also benefit from the many different green areas of the city. We will soon be able to convince ourselves of the top quality of our honey.

But first Mr. Hernández has to remove the wax layer from the combs so that the honey can be centrifuged.

At the back of the shop is the honey kitchen. Here, Mr. Hernández uses a knife which is slightly heated to remove the wax layer from the honeycombs.

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The beekeeper collects this high-purity wax because, on the one hand, it still contains valuable honey residues and, on the other hand, the wax can be used in a variety of ways, for example for candles. In a centrifuge, the combs are now evenly centrifuged. The even speed is crucial so that the combs do not break, and after a few seconds we can see the first honey in the bucket.

 

After five minutes the first bucket is filled. Gradually all the combs are thrown and bucket number four quickly fills up.

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Today we were able to harvest about 70 kg honey from two bee colonies. The honey is sieved three times in the course of the process, each time even finer, so that wax residues do not get lost in the honey jar.

 

With a measuring device the beekeeper can see how high the water content in our honey is, everything under 20% is good, our honey has only 17%. Mr. Hernández puts the empty honeycombs back into the wooden boxes. The honey residues, which are still in the combs, are returned to the busy bees.

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Now it is finally time to try the first honey. Mr. Hernández fills a small glass with our honey. Fresh rolls from the baker and fresh honey directly from the beekeeper - Monday morning can't get any better!.

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