A tale of two (beekeeping) cities

I learned a new word when I was in Münster, York’s German twin town, a couple of weeks ago. That word was: Imker. It means ‘beekeeper’.  And beekeeping doesn’t get much more local than at my friend Margret’s house. Look carefully and you’ll see the beehives (Bienenstöcke) are on the roof of her house!

Spot the (German) bee hives!
Spot the (German) bee hives!

The day I went round to visit, the Imker – her brother-in-law Gerd – and his son Lukas were harvesting the honey from the hives. It was a fascinating process to watch (not least because the last time I’d seen Lukas, he was not much more than a toddler!)

One of the hives at ground level
One of the hives down at ground level, opened up ready for harvesting

So here is Lukas (all grown up now) decapping a frame of honeycomb – i.e. taking off the wax cappings. They’ll make candles out of this beeswax.

Lukas decapping a honeycomb frame
Lukas decapping a honeycomb frame

Then the frames go into Imker Gerd’s centrifuge, and the honey comes dripping out of the bottom, into the yellow bucket you can see below.

Gert with his centrifuge.
Imker Gerd with his centrifuge.

They harvest the honey like this twice a year, once in May and then again in August, when we were there.

Lukas decapping a honeycomb frame
Father and son at work harvesting the honey

This is the first time I’ve seen the honey harvesting process (and immediately tasted the delicious results!) The nearest I’d been to honey production before was when I visited John and Katy’s hives here in York, to take the penultimate photo for my Buzzing! book.

My husband and I were lucky enough to be given a jar of their May ‘echter deutscher Blütenhonig’ (genuine German blossom honey) to bring back home. ‘Spitzenqualität vom Imker’ it says on the label. And now I know what that means – both linguistically and taste-wise!

The Münster honey makes it back to twin town York
The Münster honey makes it back to twin town York

Actually, as I’ve been writing this I’ve discovered there are several English words to do with beekeeping that I didn’t know and had to look up. ‘Decapping’ being one of them. And it may well be that I’ve got some of my beekeeping phraseology wrong here too – in which case, feel free to set me straight!

I’m on much surer ground when it comes to performing my Honeybee poem (from p. 24 of my Buzzing! book). Maybe I ought to think about performing that in German in future … .

Meanwhile: Guten Appetit!

Anneliese Emmans Dean – theBigBuzz – Bringing poetry to life


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