Honey Harvest Time

Hard to believe that another beekeeping season is almost over.  This has been a rebuilding year for me.  After losing 3 out of 6 colonies, I was hoping to catch some swarms in addition to making splits with the goal of 10 colonies to manage.  I figure that’s the most I can handle while still working full time.  But it was a paltry swarm season – I didn’t catch any myself, but was lucky to get one from a friend.   The splits I did took longer than I wanted to build up, so they missed the main honey flow.  At the end of summer, I have 7 colonies of my own, plus the hive down at Eldorado Ashram.

Karvari and the Eldo bees

Of those 7, only 3 had enough extra honey for me  – two that survived the winter (BnB1 & Left Hand Hive) and the swarm that is in Laura’s hive.  I like to leave a lot of honey for the bees.  If they don’t eat it all, I can harvest some in the spring, or feed it to other hives that are low on stores.

I started off with BnB1  (I’ll make another post about the other two soon).   My plan was to harvest some combs that broke off when I inspected on 4th of July.  But like most of my best laid plans, they changed at the last moment.  There were 4 combs behind those that were all capped honey from earlier in the year (if not last year) on older comb.  Since combs tend to build up pesticides over time, I decided to take those older combs and leave the new, broken combs in place.  It would have been a sticky mess to remove the broken combs, so in the end, it was a win-win.

As I do every year, I invited some people over to watch the honey processing – including my little buddy Cal.  When his mom told him he was going to come to my house, he said, “YES! I get to make MORE honey!”   (As his mom said, “Ah, the me-centric universe of a 4-year-old…”.)  I also invited Laura and her daughter and grand kids, so we had quite the mix of kids and adults.  I talked a bit about the different types of beekeeping equipment which totally bored the kids.  A big thanks to Cal’s mom, Kelly, who took all the pictures/videos!

Explaining about equipment

I use the crush and strain method for processing – cut the honey off the comb into a bucket, crush it all up and then strain it into a bucket for bottling.  I had 4 bars of capped honey, each with about 4 pounds of liquid honey.

Plop, into the pan.

Any honey left on the bars gets put out for the bees to glean off.

This will go to the bees

After the bucket is full, it’s time to crush it all up.

Ready to crush

I use gloves in case there are any bees hidden in the comb.  Even a dead bee can still sting you!

Mashing the comb

After the comb is all crushed, it gets poured into a bucket for straining.  I use a paint strainer and a 2 bucket system.  Since it takes 1 bee her whole life to only make 1/12 of a teaspoon of honey, I try to make sure none gets wasted.

Pouring into the strainer

Gotta get it all!

Then we let it strain for a while.  I always give anyone who attends a jar of honey and this year I made up some honey bears for the kids. 

Bottling the goodness

Cal’s Honey – Made by the bees, just for you!

While we were waiting for the honey to strain a bit, I gave everyone a tour of the bee yard and gardens.

A rapt audience

Showing off BnB1 through the window

Bumblebee on sunflower

Everyone had a good time, learned some new facts about bees and beekeeping and got to taste some yummy sweetness.  Cal’s mom said he got home and talked about all the facts he learned.  His favorite fact – “I got the special bear jar but the grown-ups only got boring plain glass jars!” 

 

 

 

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