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Voelker Orth celebrates founder with beekeeping fest

The Voelker Orth Museum is teaching Queens residents about the birds and the bees — literally.

Elisabetha Orth, who in her will established the organization that turned her family’s Victorian home in Flushing into the museum, loved three garden critters best: bees, birds and butterflies.

The museum began plans to celebrate two of those flying friends with a family festival last Thursday during which young and old attendees learned about bees and honey. Museum officials are planning another one on birds for a future date.

The highlight of the event was a chance for the gathered gardeners to bear witness to where the sticky, sweet treat comes from, as Urte Schaedle, the museum’s horticulturist and education coordinator, made honey right in front of them.

Schaedle, who has been working with bees since she was a young girl in Germany four decades ago, took combs full of untapped honey made by bees in hives the museum keeps next to the home, scraped them and put them in a centrifuge. Out came the delectable syrup.

“The centrifuge spins the honey. It turns it around really fast, then it comes out the spout here,” she told the salivating onlookers. “After the honey is spun out, this tray goes back to the bees and they clean it up again to make more honey.”

Astoria resident Jill Reichenbach brought her son Julian, 3, to the event and the two of them had fun while learning.

“He finds it really interesting, and he loves honey. We’re going to taste some honey in a minute,” she said. “We took a tour of the house which was really neat, and I love the garden, too. It’s a great place.”

Dubbed the “honey harvest,” the demonstration was the second in a series of events aimed at bringing children and families to the museum, according to Director Debby Silverfine. The first was a fair to celebrate Earth Day earlier this year.

“Children are fascinated by our bees and our plants and adults are as well, so we thought we’d mix it up and offer a family day,” she explained.

The museum hopes to host a beekeeping class for adults at a later date. It also sells its homemade honey for $8 per 8-ounce jar as a way to help fund its programs.

Fred Gerber, the museum’s new board president, said the event was also a chance to teach children and neighbors about the history right in their backyards.

“It ties into the Victorian theme of the house,” he said. “A Victorian garden is supposed to produce in a lot of ways, and honey is one of the ways we do that.”

Reach reporter Connor Adams Sheets by e-mail at or by phone at 718-260-4538.

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