Over the course of the summer a group of workers were quietly labouring away around the Blackcomb Benchlands. Their work is mundane but vital, and it mostly goes completely unnoticed and unacknowledged.
Steve Gourley oversees the work along with Kerry Duff, the director of public relations at the Fairmont Chateau Whistler as well as a few others at the hotel. There's no denying Gourley was pleased with the productivity of the crew, which created 180kg (400 lbs) of product this summer.
These teams of workers, some 120,000 in total, do what they do on six legs and two wings — they are, of course, honeybees.
Gourley, a beekeeper based in the Fraser Valley, i a regular with his Gold Strike Honey at the Whistler Farmer's Market.
InJuly he put four hives on the roof of the Chateau and the hives did very well, he says.
"We were a little bit late this year, we missed all the lupines," says Gourley from his Fraser Valley farm where he has a few hundred hives.
Every 14 days he dropped in and checked his Whistler bees. Everything went well over the course of the summer and into the fall. Gourley says his bees were getting the pollen they needed from the residential flowers around Whistler.
"There's hints of lavender in there," he says of the final product. "I've got it settling right now. I tested it yesterday and it's beautiful. It's nice and floral, it's an amber colour."
For those who believe honey is honey and it all tastes the same, Gourley says he'll show you otherwise.
His bees produce a variety of honey flavours in colours that range from white to his pumpkin honey with its red hues. The most popular honey he produces comes from bees located in areas where fireweed is abundant.
"You could have a different flavour of honey less than a kilometre apart," Gourley explains. "It depends where they are reaching out to. A bee will forage, basically, three kilometres from its home, either direction. If hives were a kilometre apart the one set of colonies might not get to that flower source that's four kilometres away."
He says it is just amazing what the bees do and his mind is blown every time he extracts honey.
The honey from the Whistler bees is going into a few large buckets for use by the kitchen at the Chateau while the rest of it is going into small jars either for sale at the hotel or for use on the tables at the hotel eateries.
Gourley is working out details with the team at the Chateau to prepare for next season when he'd like to place as many as a dozen hives in Whistler. In addition to going bigger he wants to set the bees up earlier next year. He's looking at May 1 as a possible start date for bee season on the Benchlands.
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