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Beekeeper offers honey of a lesson in Sands Point

Shem Ishmael, of Hempstead, cuts honey comb while

Shem Ishmael, of Hempstead, cuts honey comb while bee whisperer Patrick Gannon watches as they learn to extract fresh honey from hives during a "Honey Harvest" workshop held at the Sands Point Preserve in Sands Point on Sunday, Aug. 10, 2014. Credit: Steve Pfost

Dozens of residents and their children buzzed around an interactive beekeeping demonstration Sunday -- much like drone bees crowd their queen to stay warm during winter -- and learned to harvest honey at Sands Point Preserve.

"People often fear honey bees because honey bees are often confused with yellow jackets and wasps," said Patrick Gannon, a beekeeper for more than 30 years and chairman of Science Education at Hofstra University, at the workshop.

The workshop is the preserve's fourth in a series of honey bee seminars. There, Gannon presented pictures of small children holding wooden frames covered in thousands of bees.

"Kids are fearless," he said. "Once you take the fear away, it's fascinating . . . and delicious."

Guests licked their lips as Gannon demonstrated the removal of beeswax from wooden beekeeping frames, which hold combs of honey.

Gannon, 60, is a neurobiologist by trade and a self-proclaimed "bee whisperer" at heart.

The England native denounced the "beekeeper" title, and said he doesn't wear protective gear when handling beehives.

"The astronaut suit?" he joked. "Never."

Gannon, who has been stung hundreds of times, said he knows to back off when bees begin "divebombing" his forehead.

"Bees can keep themselves," he said. "It's all about responding appropriately and reading their behavior."

Gannon wiggled an electrically heated knife back and forth down the wooden frame. Soundlessly, the hot metal sliced the white wax cap off each honeycomb and exposed its golden goo.

"If the knife is too hot, you melt all the honey and don't have as much when you're done," Jean-Marie Posner, Sands Point Preserve director, said.

In 2011, Posner brought the series to Sands Point after she met Gannon at a farmer's summit at Hofstra.

After the honey was exposed, the frames were whirled in a machine similar to a salad spinner. The extracted honey poured out a tap and into a barrel. It is then filtered and placed into jars for sale.

The demonstration yielded nearly 40 pounds in jars of the sticky syrup, harvested from wildflowers around the preserve.

"Delish," said Eli Kawitz, 5, of Port Washington.

The sweet scent filled the 7,000-square-foot sound stage at Castle Gould, where part of the recently released "Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles" live-action film was produced last year, Posner said.

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