A few weeks ago when the MWM was pushing to harvest our honey -- Lash, our Bee Sensei, taught him a great lesson: Patience! Beekeepers must be patient and wait for the bees to cap the honey comb before they remove it. Lash told the MWM (as he made him TAKE BACK the supers the first time) that if you remove the super of honey prior to the bees sealing the honey it will ferment or be “green” which will cause customers to nitpick. So, he told us not to remove the honey combs until all frames were completely capped.
Well, the Diva is a wife – and all wives like to say those four little words time and again – you know – “I TOLD you so…” Yup. Those were the words. The MWM was not happy. We took the supers back, and he put them back on the hives. Now, the bees were happy.
Do you think we listened to our bee Sensei after that? Not completely. We left the supers there for another few weeks, but we are living between two states and don’t have the time for all that patience. So, Lash and Pat were very kind and allowed us to put our three supers in their drying room for a couple weeks until they were totally sealed.
You know -- the bees aren't going to freely hand over their honey to you. They take great offense to robbers in great white suits taking their gold on the run. You have to figure out some way to remove the bees from their honey first.
Some beekeepers use leaf blowers to blow the bees away, some use smelly stink products which is a chemical and not the natural route in my eyes, some people use a bee escape which I hear works well. But, the MWM and I decided on the old-fashioned way: pick up each full frame of honey and just brush the bees off. After which, he'd throw a wet towel on the cleaned off frame and hope they didn’t watch where we hid it.
Well, our bees were just a little too smart for that. Lash and the MWM put all that apple mush from our cider pressing the previous week behind the hive. The bees were all watching us from what I liked to call the “bar” as the mush was surely fermented by then. I thought, “Great. A bunch of drunk bees and me – perfect together.” Not.
We made it though. No stingers that day.
Once we made it to the honey harvesting day – we were instructed on how to extract our country gold. Lash’s guess: 20 lbs. It was only our first take from this hive. The bees spent most of the year building comb.
First, we used what is called a hot knife. They work great at slicing off the caps on each cell so that the honey can be extracted. We also use a pick that gets the tops off the comb that the knife misses. There’s a knack to using this handy-dandy little tool – Lash filled us in – if you don’t use it just right, you will lose a lot of honey, or get too much wax in it.
Here I am, extracting at the Sensei's – yes, I do look a mess. I was tired, and sticky, but for the most part pretty happy.
The extractor was a steel crank 4 frame which spins at a high rate of speed, slinging the honey out of the comb. Pat had to hold it down on the table! The pieces of wax, bee legs and wings and other things I really didn’t want to know about that came off our frames were filtered through a strainer as the honey came out of the extractor.
Honey is sticky. It will drip. The floor, extractor, and anything that is touched while uncapping or handling wet frames will become sticky – Pat reminded Lash of this little fact frequently *smile*.
After spending the day with Lash and Pat, and seeing all the equipment they had for this process: extractors, uncapping tanks and other extracting equipment I thought they are probably best borrowed or shared. Extracting equipment, like Cider Presses, are probably only used only one week out of the year. The rest of the year they just gather dust.
Honey – Gold – Lottery! Diva dripping in gold??? That sure sounds good to me! So, I played the lottery this week and had an idea; I’d love to have a community honey house and cider pressing room if I win --- it would be a great place for building community partnership.
Lastly, let the bees clean the “wet” empty supers. Lash said the bees do a great job of drying those supers of any extra honey after extracting. The MWM and Lash moved our little stack of supers near one of their hives, and tons of bees just dug in! They were fat and happy, and the clean-up job was free.
We came away with twenty-one pounds of spring honey -- The "floral notes" of our Spring Honey are --- dandelions, basswood blossoms, apple blossoms, maple trees and locust. That’s twenty-one bottles. Bottling was the icing on the top for me – I created the labels and have been waiting to use them all year. I will have to upgrade the above shot when my blackberry charges – we here in the NJ/NYC area had snow dumped on us before Halloween and there are power outages everywhere…
Muck Boot Diva