Last week I was asked if I would like to participate in Carmel Valley Ranch’s Bee Experience. My response: absolutely! I have always been fascinated by the mysterious creatures and their pollinating powers and couldn’t wait to learn more. The Bee Experience is run by Carmel Valley Ranch’s resident beekeeper and allows resort guests to suit up and take a tour of the property’s apiary and learn about the complexity of honey bees and their importance to the ranch.
The “experience” began at Carmel Valley Ranch’s Golf Club where a group of 25 of us met with the property’s full time bee keeper, John Russo. John is a Carmel Valley local and farmer who watches over the ranch’s 60,000 Italian honey bees. After a brief introduction on what to expect, we bee enthusiasts followed John up to the apiary. Before reaching our destination we stopped and discussed the importance of the bees to the ranch, especially the property’s hundreds of flowers and 7,000 lavender plants.
Once we arrived at the apiary John discussed the intricate world of honey bees and answered particular questions. I was astounded by the detailed information and knowledge Mr. Russo was able to provide. I learned that each bee is assigned a specific job within the hive that is determined by age. The bees’ jobs rotate very quickly as their lifespan ranges from 4-6 weeks. A few of the jobs include guard (keeps foreigners out), patrol (looks for unwanted insects inside the hive), nurse (takes care of the young), janitor (cleans up after others), undertakers (takes out deceased bees) and of course the queen. The queen bee is essential to the hive and her primary role is to reproduce. She can lay up to 2,000 eggs per day! Unlike the worker bees, the queen can live up to 5 years old. The queens’ scent is also imperative as it lets the other worker bees know which colony they belong to. The unique pheromone also alerts the guard bee as to who can be let into the hive.
After this extremely interesting lesson in the lives of bees we were able to suit up and get in with the much talked about insects. Beforehand I was advised to stay away from wearing bright colored apparel and soaking in perfume, unless I really wanted to attract attention from the honey bees. The white hooded suit, veil and gloves are great protection against the stinging creatures.
Once we went inside John opened up the hive box and took out one of the wooden frames. The frame/comb was covered in glorious-looking honey, and, of course, bees. Luckily John used a smoker to calm them down. It was an awesome experience feeling untouchable while surrounded by a swarm of potentially dangerous honey bees.
In the apiary John described the difference between the male and female bees. It was easy to distinguish between the two because females had an hourglass figure compared to the bulky males. Females were also hard at work while males looked like they were relaxing. Go figure.
Unfortunately we missed the honey harvest by a week. I would have loved to try the golden elixir. John explained how the influence of the lavender and other plants affects the taste of the final product. Lavender honey sounds delicious!
I would highly recommend this unique opportunity, especially for families. Several children were with my group and their charming curiosity permeated throughout.
Want to be a bee keeper?
Currently the Bee Keeper Experience is only open to guests of the Carmel Valley Ranch. For more information please contact the property’s concierge at 831-620-6427.
As the Content Manager at the Monterey County Convention & Visitors Bureau, Allyson manages digital marketing and social media for SeeMonterey. If she's not taking scenic pictures around the county, you are likely to find her on the Monterey Bay Coastal Rec Trail, sipping wine in Carmel Valley or hiking at Fort Ord National Monument.