Monday, September 20, 2010

[G] Show me the honey

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Official Google Blog: Show me the honey

Since we installed four beehives on campus this spring, the area around the hives has been, well, a hive of activity. Many Googlers took the beekeeping plunge, donning bee suits and diving into regular beekeeping activities such as regular checks for diseases and parasites. Today, we have more than 80 employees signed up to care for the bees. We’re happy to report that the bees have prospered at Google (must be all the free food) and the hives have grown from their original one-story “campus,” the Hiveplex, to five stories.

Over the past few weeks, there’s been a ton of anticipation on campus as the hives filled with honey and harvest time drew closer. Each beekeeping team is assigned to one of the four colored hives, and some teams were spotted peeking into other hives to see which was ahead in terms of honey production.

The actual harvest, last week, was a fun-filled event with both traditional and modern methods of honey extraction. Under the helpful guidance of Bill Tomaszewski of Marin Bee Company, Googlers took turns uncapping the honey (removing the protective wax that bees use to cover a cell once it’s filled with honey), hand-cranking the honey extraction machinery to spin the honey out of the honey comb and pouring the honey through filters to remove the bits of wax and other particles that came from the hive.

The end result was beyond any of our expectations—approximately 405lbs of raw, natural honey. (We were so eager to taste the harvest that we neglected to use the scales that had been set up!) We also determined it was more or less a dead heat for which hive was the most productive. Even with such a harvest, we made sure we left enough honey behind to allow the bees to get comfortably through the winter months.

The honey is being put to good use—everyone who participated in the extraction got a jar to take home, while the rest of the honey will be used in the cafes and for cooking classes organized by Marc Rasic, an executive chef at Google and one of the people behind the beekeeping initiative.

We’re also relieved that none of the hives have succumbed to Colony Collapse Disorder, but we’ll be keeping a close eye on them over the winter months to ensure that they stay happy, healthy and ready to start work again in the spring. We're already looking forward to next year!

Posted by Rob Peterson, Manager, Software Engineering

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