Monday, September 17, 2012

Harvesting Honey ~ Part One

The weekend was absolutely beautiful.  We were able to spend some time in the garden and preserving food.  Late last week, as we would go in and out of the garden, we were welcomed by a fragrant odor.  Honey!  Yes, depending on the wind direction, we could actually smell the hives!  Such a cool thing.  Then, upon one of our evening inspections of them we noticed that the hives were kicking out the drones, a sure sign of these busy bees' winter preparations.  We decided it was time to harvest the largest hive, and check the wild swarm to see if we could harvest the half starter box we put them in with in July.

So we started small.  First, B checked to see if there was any comb in the bottom box of the smaller hive.  There was comb in that box and a mixture of brood and capped honey in the box above, with a full box of honey to feed them for the winter, we were set to harvest the half sized box on top. 

We used liberal amounts of smoke, and overall, the bees were very calm during the whole process. 

When separating the two boxes there was some extra comb that pulled apart.  B has heard that using something like a piano wire to slide between the two boxes before removing will minimize this effect.  Something for us to try next time.

So we set the harvested boxes of honey aside so that the remaining bees in the boxes could find their way home.  The disruption sent many bees to the hive entrances to fan, so that those separated could return.

B then removed the chunks of cone that came apart and put them into a bowl.  This little bit of comb gave us about 1/2 a bottle of honey in addition to tons to snack on the rest of the evening with all the kids.

This is a shot of the half box.  We put the two boxes into a large Tupperware container overnight, weighted down, but with an escape route for the bees.  This morning, we moved that Tupperware to a shaded area of our porch and hopefully the remaining bees will vacate during the day today.

We have ordered what we need to complete extracting the honey from the comb, so that will be a task in the next week or so.  We estimate about 30 pounds of honey.  Not too bad from a first season, and with only 1 1/2 boxes harvested!  The third hive, we left alone.  We added a new queen to it about 6 weeks ago and there is now active brood.  They have one box full of honey but have not yet ventured into the second box.  We will leave them to regenerate their numbers and will hopefully start the spring with three hives, two of which will most likely need to be split!

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