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Sunday, August 1, 2010

First Honey Harvest

We just returned from a week vacation to the East Coast, and after a bit of resting from the long drive today I received permission from my sweetie to check on my bees. 

West Hive Update: The surviving workers and their new queen have been busy working in the hive.  During the bees' time without a queen they were filling the brood chamber with lots of honey and pollen; and since they had no queen they didn't bother leaving any honeycomb cells open for the raising of brood.  Now that they have a queen they have been moving or eating honey to make space for the new brood.  I pulled a couple of frames for a quick inspection and found larva, so I know the queen is working.  As before, no honeycomb is being pulled out in the honey super.  I will give them a pass since they workers are low in number and they are busy with the new queen, but I believe there is something about that super they don't like.

East Hive Update:  I checked on the honey super and the cells on all the frames are 80-90% capped honey!  I found one frame that was nearly complete and decided to harvest the honey.  I took one frame to the farm house and got to work.  My plan was to decap one side of the frame and let the honey drip out of the honeycomb cells.  I used my decapping knife, but found it did not easily decap and tore apart much of the honeycomb.  I then tried using another decapping tool that looks more like an old fashion hair pick.  That tool worked much better for removing just the caps.  I flipped the frame over to let the honey drip out and guess what?  Nothing dripped out!  I wound up just scraping out all of the honeycomb and pressing it through a wire screen to separate the wax from the honey.  I also heated up some of the comb in the microwave to get the honey out of the comb more easily. 

The first frame of honey!

Bees cap off the honey with wax when it is ripe, which is 17% moisture content.

Since the honey was too thick to drip out, I had to scape out all of the honey comb from the frame.

Using Grandma's sive to separate the wax from the honey.


My first frame yielded 5 half-pints of honey.

I was quite an operation, taking much longer than I anticipated.  I was most surprised at the wax...this stuff is quite sticky and it gets over everything you use!  However, I did have some sweet rewards.  I filled 5 half-pint jars with beautiful honey!  It is a translucent yellow and the family describes the taste as different from what they buy in the stores.  In describing the struggles I had with getting the honey out of the frame, my wife gave me permission to get a honey extractor to do it right.  While on vacation we also talked about expansion of the bee operation, and I plan on buying assembled frames from Dadant and building five more hives.

Another interesting thing happened while on vacation.  I received two phone calls regarding bee colonies in an old house and in a backyard shed.  I am planning on making a bee vacuum this week and seeing if we can remove the colony and transfer them into a new hive.  I already have Dick talked into the idea (it didn't take much arm twisting).

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