Saturday, September 5, 2009

Robbing the Bees

It was time. Time to rob the bees of their extra honey.

An offer came to extract my honey at Clovermead on Saturday and because I don't have an extractor and they did, I couldn't say no to this great opportunity.

Dad and I headed out to the bee yard on Friday. I had just requeened Hive #1 which was under a no peeking, no disturbing law so I was in a bit of a quandary about whether it would be wise to sneak off a honey super.

I did it in stealth mode. No smoke, pop the outer cover. Peel the cloth inner covering as noiselessly as possible... yeah right!

The bees' propolis had it glued down and it cracked as I pulled it off each frame. I ended up doing the bandaid thing and taking it off with one quick swipe.

I slipped off their super and set it aside. Then I put the cloth and outer cover back on. That part done was done.

The bees still had the yellow super with frames if they felt inclined to build foundation and store nectar. If not, no worries because I'd save it for them for next year.

Under that super was another super, the pink one which is all honey, capped and very heavy. That's for them for the winter. And finally is the bigger box, the white deep which they will also fill with honey.

Hopefully the queen is in that deep laying eggs as I write this. I think of Queen Elizabeth a lot. I hope the bees have licked all the candy out of her cage so she can be free to lay.

I hope too they've accepted her as their hive mother. Time will tell. I will not snoop down that far into the hive until the week is up. Bad enough that I stole a box of honey.

Hive #2's honey super was not as heavy as Hive #1's. It's not a competition at all but I believe Hive 2 lost their queen before Hive 1 and struggled more to catch up. Isn't it funny because originally Hive 1 was behind Hive 2 in production such as comb building, nectar and pollen gathering.

They had more brood and their boxes got heavier faster. They also had a lot more activity outside on their porch than Hive 1. Yet Hive 1 seems to have surpassed Hive 2. They had much more honey capped and ready to go. They didn't do so bad after all, except for losing their queen and having to make another one. And then she died. What an experience this has been!

Almost all of the frames in Hive 2 were not ready for extraction. They had honey but the bees hadn't finished capping it yet. On some frames the honey was capped on one side but not the other.

Because all the books and training said not to extract uncapped honey, I took these frames and put them in the yellow super. Then I removed the undrawn frames from the yellow super since they didn't appear to need them. (Henry advised later that I probably could have extracted the uncapped frames because of our run of hot dry weather lately).
I hope over the next couple weeks the bees look to cap the rest of that honey.

So, I ended up with one box of 6 frames of capped honey to extract.

No complaints. This was after all the first year for these bees (starting from nucs) and we've had one of the worst summers for rain in our history.

The invite for Clovermead was made more special because it was their Harvest Day. Every Saturday in September they have multiple events going on which visitors can watch or participate in. There's candle making, honey extraction and a bee beard. This in addition to their regular features which are farm animals, hay rides, go-carts and the bee train.

They had a really nice 2 frame electric extractor. It was only about 6" wide and was square built. I'd never seen one like this before but it was NICE.

Chris Heimstra started off by trimming cappings on a couple frames and putting them in the extractor --all this in front of a bus load of people out on a day trip to Clovermead. They were lined up in rows and watching with great curiousity.

Throughout the process Chris shared info about bees and honey and fielded questions from the crowd.
Then it was my turn! He handed over the microphone and the hot knife.

There's nothing like jumping in and doing something for the first time in front of a large audience AND sharing interesting bee facts and fielding questions at the same time. I loved it!

We told the group I'd never done extracting before and I asked them to tell me what I'm doing wrong :)

After all 6 frames had run through the extractor I ended up with a small pail of honey. Sorry no photos of me in action. The paparazzi (Mom) wasn't present on this trip and Dad was too busy telling me, in front of the crowd, that I wasn't doing it right to get out the camera for some photos.

I've put the honey through the double strainer to filter out the bees' knees (and other misc bee parts and comb that were in it) and now I'll let it sit for a few days so that the bubbles will rise up and dissipate.

Meanwhile the comb cappings are sitting in another filter, slowly dripping into a container. Then that honey will be added to the main amount.

I can't wait to explore candle making as well as making lip and foot balms.

This photo at left is of Tom the turkey who danced and wagged his tail feathers to get my attention. He was certain that the whole day's event shouldn't be only about honey bees so I felt compelled to take his photo.

There was a lovely pot bellied pig too, but I was too busy feeding him bits of corn and forgot to take a photo.

My honey is very light coloured and Henry told me all their honey has comb out pretty light as well, in fact the lightest it's ever been.

I've got a big sweet high going at the moment. I've been eating spoonfuls of it all evening and eating the comb cappings too. Yum! Who needs caffeine when there's honey available!

Somehow though, honey from your very own bee yard seems to taste much sweeter than honey from anywhere else :)
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