Honey HarvestJuly 24, 2011
Motivated by the bottom of my last jar of honey I have harvested some honey from the hives over the last few days.
The bee escape needed some expected modifications – the bees easily climbed through the openings of the mesh. But since I was in the hive I decided to take some individual frames (rather than an entire box). I sorted through two boxes and took a couple of frames of nicely capped honey and put them in a 5 gallon bucket I’d brought for just this eventuality. Of course there were lots of bees on those frames, but this group was easily brushed off, a towel was tossed over the frames and buckets, I left my bee clothes down in my storage box and I traipsed on home.
By the way, this was the first time I really felt I’d put the nitrile gloves to the test. No stings. Between my hat, veil, scrubs, and nitrile gloves I feel invincible!
The next day I went down and retrieved a couple more frames. I also put the bee escape, version 2, on the 2nd hive. Today I opened that hive again and the bee escape had done a fine job. Where yesterday there had been thousands of bees in that box, today there were about 50. The box and the 50 bees went into a wheelbarrow and took a ride up to the house. In the yard I chose the frames I wanted to harvest – not all were fully capped (the bees cover over the comb cell – cap them – when the honey is ready) – brushed off the bees and brought them (the frames, not the bees) inside. Meanwhile the bees that had come along on the box gave up on those frames and were lapping up spilled honey. Later, I took the wheelbarrow and box back to the hive with about 1/2 of the bees that had been on the box before – the others were flying around near the house. They were still around at dinner time too, mostly in a little cluster. They may have been chilly. If they are still there in the morning I’ll try to put them in a cup and take them back to the hive.
Meanwhile – back to harvesting.
Many beekeepers use extractors that spin the frames around and cause the honey to sling out of the honey comb. These combs, however, are typically built on foundation and that makes them a bit sturdier. I don’t use foundation so I use the crush and strain method. Its pretty much how it sounds – you crush up the comb and strain the honey through a mesh strainer.
frames in the pan before crushing,
and all smushed up! Notice the dark and light honey; they taste a bit different from each other, but they are all going into the same mix.
All told I have about 2 to 2.5 gallons of honey.
I hope to harvest a few more frames in the Fall. I want to be sure the bees have enough honey for the winter though. I tend to be very conservative – I’d feel horrible if they starved to death – and it isn’t as if I am making my living doing this.
I also have a bit of trepidation about this honey. Not all the honey was capped yet – that’s bound to happen, and I tried to limit how much uncapped honey I took. The problem with uncapped honey is it has too much water content and it isn’t “shelf-stable” yet. A little uncapped honey isn’t an issue, but too much will raise the water content in the honey and that can lead to honey that ferments. Fermented honey is generally not good (although not everyone thinks it has to be tossed). Another issue is the humidity – honey will actually extract water from the air. It was very humid this week and I put the honey bucket in the garage overnight a couple of nights so the warmth (hot nights) would keep the honey dripping through the wax and mesh. Now I’m wondering if that was such a good idea. Oh well, only time will tell. Until the honey ferments – if it will at all – it will be perfectly fine.
Tomorrow I bottle.