Yesterday was our second honey harvest of 2013, and what a sweet one it was! Our first harvest this year was two months ago, back in June. I knew for several weeks that there was honey ready to be harvested, but it had taken until now to find a good time when my wife and I were both available for the operation. And this time I decided to try something new, at least new to me, to improve the harvesting.
To facilitate the operation, I used a big plastic storage container (with lid) to hold the frames of honey. Previously I had put them in an unused shallow wooden hive super, without a lid. First I removed each frame from the hive, carefully brushing the bees back into the hive using my bee brush. Then the frame went into the container, hopefully minus any bees. Since our beehive is a good distance away from the house, and down a steep hill, I used a wheelbarrow to haul the container full of frames (and honey) back up to the house.
Once I got it up to the house, I left the closed container sit out on the deck for about two hours while we had lunch and I cooled off from the harvest operation. It was 90°F at 10:30AM when I worked the hive, and I’m sure it was even hotter for me wearing my jacket, veil and long pants. Keeping the container outside let the honey stay warm and closer to ‘hive temperature’, which we hoped would make it flow faster once we took it inside.
We brought the frames into the kitchen one at a time, cutting the honeycomb out into a glass baking dish. Then we crushed the comb with a big wooden pestle, and scooped it out into a fine mesh honey strainer suspended over a five gallon bucket. The bucket is fitted with a honey gate at the bottom for filling the containers. The honey was easier to extract this time than it was back in June, no doubt because it is hotter now in August. And honey certainly flows faster when it is warm! After all the honey has dripped from the strainer, we will save the beeswax and melt it in our solar wax melter. My wife wrote a tutorial on that process: How To: Solar Beeswax Melter.
Once we were done with the crushing, I put the empty frames down next to the hive to let the bees clean them up. I will pick them up this morning and take them back to the shop, where I will finish the cleaning, removing all the bits of wax and propolis (bee glue) and fit them with new beeswax foundation before they go back in the hive.
We harvested just over 29 pounds of lovely honey from this operation. After some serious sampling by me and my wife, we decided it was a bit milder tasting than the first harvest this year. This honey is probably predominately made from clover, with other flowers and herbs thrown in, while the earlier batch was a mix of tree nectar. It has been a great year for honey here. We’ve gotten right at 48 pounds so far from our single hive, and that is not counting the honey that the bees store for their own use – which is a considerable amount and way more than what we take.
However, the best news came after we were done, when my wife declared that she is ready to join the fun at the hive. Up until now she not participated in those activities, but we have ordered her a jacket and veil and she will get to witness the next harvest up close and personal. I can only hope she enjoys working with the bees as much as I do. Beekeeping is a fascinating and rewarding hobby and I never cease to be amazed at seeing them at work. I hope you’ve enjoyed hearing about our honey harvest, and you can bet I’ll be back soon with more bee news when it happens!