Yesterday was an exciting day as we harvested the first honey of 2013. I had done a quick inspection a couple of weeks ago and knew there was honey ready. But it took until yesterday to find a day that worked for harvesting. There are several factors I considered.
For one thing, you generally want to harvest on a warm sunny day if possible. That means many of the bees will be out foraging, and there’s less workers to deal with in the hive. I would never harvest on a cloudy or rainy day, when the bees are cranky and it’s standing room only in the hive because it’s not good flying weather! We’ve had quite a few rainy days lately, so that has made us postpone the harvest a couple of times.
I also needed to find a day when both my wife and I had a free afternoon, and I had the energy to suit up in my veil and bee jacket and go down to the hive. It was about 92°F yesterday when I was working the hive, and by the time I was done I was drenched with sweat and my face was as red as a beet. I say that not to complain, but just to tell it like it is. Working with bees is frequently hard and heavy work, and that was the main reason I quit beekeeping the first time I was into it. Now that I’m retired, I have more time to devote to this hobby, but it still requires time and effort to say the least.
But it is an operation with a sweet payoff. Once the frames of honey are out of the hive, I bring them inside the house – preferably leaving any bees outside! We use the ‘crush and strain’ method to separate the honey from the honeycomb. First we cut the comb out of the wooden frame, then crush the comb with a wooden masher (from a food mill). And last we put the crushed comb and honey into a plastic strainer where it strains out into a 5 gallon bucket that has a gate in the bottom to let the honey out.
After the honey has strained, we will save the beeswax to melt in our solar wax melter. It then finds its way into lotions, salves and lip balms we make for our own use. When we have a bit more collected we may pour some for candles, which would also be a nice use for it. My wife made the melter, and she has a tutorial on how to make one called How To: Solar Beeswax Melter. We don’t put beeswax into our soaps, since we’re not convinced it does anything positive for the soap, other than to add hardness. On the other hand, some of the honey does find our way into our soaps, like our Peppermint Honey Oatmeal Soap.
The bees were surprisingly calm yesterday, which made the harvester (me) happy! Even though I was protected by the jacket, veil and gloves, it is no fun when the bees are unhappy and buzzing all around you. There is a good flow of clover nectar right about now (our yard is covered in it), and I’m sure the bees will be making honey with it as long as it is blooming. I will probably go back in a couple of weeks to see if more honey is ready for harvest.
I hope you have enjoyed this update on our first 2013 honey harvest, and how we go about processing it. I’ll be back soon with more happenings from here at Happy Acres!