Yes, today should have been an inspection, but I passed on the inspection in favor of doing my first small harvest.
- calm, no wind
- about 75 degrees
- dry (storms the previous night, but mostly dry)
- I used a new smoke today… weeds to start, plus pine needles and some of the cedar chips from the bee yard. VERY effective with a sweet, calm smell.
- The bees were wonderful today. Nice enough that I took off my gloves (yay!). I thought they’d be very aggressive with the harvest, but no.
I once again had Mackay helping me, which was nice. Sadly, school starts for him on Monday, so I’m on my own for the rest of the year unless I can convince someone else to join me. I started thinking the other day how few inspections I have left, and I’m a little saddened by that. I’ve very much enjoyed my visits to the beeyard. Fun stuff, and I’m very much looking forward to next year when I’m hoping to split my two hives into four. I’ll stop at four for now. Two is enough work to keep me happy, four is probably going to push it a bit until I get fast enough to make inspections quicker.
On to some pictures….
We used a fume pad to move the bees out of the honey supers. Instead of the nasty Bee-be-gone, I used a recipe from Brushy Mountain Bee Farms that smelled like cherries. Very lovely, although a little strong. We threw this on Hive 1, waited 5 minutes and no one had left! We gave it another 5, and the top super was empty.
Most of the frames in the first honey super were still being drawn out, so we moved straight on to the second honey super. That’s where the above picture came from. You can see a very happy amount of honey, but notice how much is uncapped? That means the nectar has not yet cured/had enough moisture added or removed. Basically, if we harvested this, we’d have a good chance of spoiling the honey. We ended up taking nothing from the second honey super, but in another two to three weeks, this should all be ready to go!
I remembered from my last inspection that Hive 1 had several full deep frames of honey (like the one pictured above), so we went into the top brood box and stole this masterpiece for harvesting. Check that out! Both sides were completely capped, and the frame was quite heavy.
Not to spoil the surprise, but this ended up being the only frame we harvested. We could have taken four or five like this from Hive 1, but that is the food the bees have for winter. In Hive 2, there wasn’t anything ready, although we’ll probably get several full frames from there in a few weeks. I was glad to harvest only one frame as well. In my quest for experimentation, having only one frame made crushing, as opposed to spinning, for extraction a good choice. I’ll show pictures of the crushing process later.
Cleaning the bees off the frame we harvested, which we replaced with an empty frame. Mackay, holding the frame, was sure he was going to get stung, but the bees are surprisingly not all that bothered by the brush.
A happy pile o’ bees on top of the brood box being smoked into the hive.
No pictures from Hive 2. We were in there just long enough to check if there was harvestable honey. On to the harvesting pictures….
Oh. My. Love.
I will confess right now that the first scoop went straight into our mouths. The honey was shockingly flowery, almost overwhelming to the point that I could not handle more than a small taste afterwards. The honey had a citrusy flavor to it, which I thought tasted kind of peachy. Either way, it tasted like walking through a flower bed of a thousand different flowers. Incredible.
Check out that color! As you can see, the crushing method is just what it sounds like. You literally crush the comb during harvesting. The advantage is that you end up with more wax if you want it. The disadvantage is that the bees have to make the wax again. Bees have to eat 8 pounds of honey to make 1 pound of wax, so if honey production is your goal, crushing is NOT the ideal method. The only reason I crushed this frame was for the experience. I want to try it all, including eventually doing a top-bar hive.
This is the last of the honey off the frame. I took the cleaned frame and set it outside the hive, where the bees immediately came in and started cleaning it off for me.
And here’s that dish full of honey. That, for the record, is a 9X13 deep baking dish.
Assuming all the wax chunks are broken up (which they were), the next step is to pour the honey and wax into a strainer. Here we used a cheesecloth held in place with duct tape. Only the best in the Loveless house!
And here’s the finished product. The honey sits in a gently warm oven (nothing too hot) while it filters through the cheesecloth. It’ll take a few hours of filtering (it’s been in there for three so far), and then I’ll pour that into jars. I’m guessing we’ll get at least a quart out of this one frame. TONS of honey in there.
All in all, this was a fun experience. I’d guess, when all is said and done, that we’ll get a very good harvest this year. Much more than we were expecting anyway. And because I crushed this batch, I’ll have some wax for other projects (soap, furniture polish, salves, etc.).