Sac State bees go commercial as sale of Hornet Honey begins

The Sustainability project gets a higher profile with latest honey extraction, packaging and offering to the public.
Tue Sep 10, 2019

By Dixie Reid

Talk about a sweet deal: Sacramento State’s homegrown Hornet Honey is now available for sale.

The honey shop, at the front counter of the Facilities Management building, is open 9 a.m. - 4:30 p.m. Monday through Friday. A 6-ounce jar costs $8, or two for $12, and three for $20.

Plenty of honey is available, and the semi-annual honey harvest on Friday, Sept. 13, could add another 150 pounds of sticky sweetness to the larder.

Sac State is home to approximately 140,000 honeybees. They live in three hives in the University’s BAC Yard (the Bioconversion and Agricultural Collaborative) and four hives in the neighboring Capital Public Radio garden.

Students in Professor Kelly Thompson’s Food Production & Sustainability class, in the Department of Family and Consumer Sciences, assist Sac State Sustainability with beekeeping and will perform the honey extraction.

The resident honeybees don’t have far to travel for nectar. They likely feed on citrus trees and pomegranate shrubs in Sac State’s burgeoning fruit orchard, near the BAC Yard, and on stone fruit trees at CapRadio. They may venture farther for other sources, which is why each honey batch has a unique look and taste.

“The first batch we harvested, in August 2018, was amber in color and had floral notes in the beginning. It finished with a slight mint flavor, due to mint growing near the hives,” said Thompson, who has a master’s degree in food/sensory science from Kansas State University.

“The second batch was light in color and had more fruity notes. The terroir – the characteristic taste determined by the environment – has a big impact on honey flavors, just like wine.”

The BAC Yard serves as an outdoor lab for Thompson’s students, who learn first-hand about such sustainable efforts as composting, aquaponics, and raising honeybees.

“Cap Radio got its hives first, and after we experienced beekeeping there, we decided that honeybees would be a good addition to the BAC Yard,” said Ryan Todd, manager of Sac State Sustainability.

“We were aware of the huge decline in pollinators worldwide and thought this could be our way of helping with the problem, while giving us a hands-on teaching tool to educate K-12 and Sac State students.”

Hornet Honey made its public debut in May 2019 during Bites on the Bridge, Sac State’s farm-to-fork party on the Guy West Bridge. Thompson’s students prepared appetizers, often using campus honey as an ingredient. The 250 paying guests were offered sample-size jars of Hornet Honey as a souvenir.  

University President Robert S. Nelsen approved the public sale of Hornet Honey in late August. Any proceeds above the cost of glass jars and labels will go toward the BAC Yard’s beekeeping project.

Friday’s extraction exercise could result in as many as 200 6-ounce jars of honey, which have a long shelf life.

“Honey never goes bad,” said Jennifer Campbell, a registered dietician with Student Health & Counseling Services. “It’s an antioxidant. It’s a natural sweetener. It tastes so good.

“And, believe it or not, its antiseptic and antibacterial properties make it useful for helping to heal wounds.”