Another Laissez-Faire Beekeeping Season

Reader Contribution by Erin Baldwin
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I must start with a confession. I have become a bit of a laissez-faire beekeeper. This has been the result of trying to juggle a busy toddler, a pregnancy and every day responsibilities. Let’s just say, I am not comfortable bringing Little Farmer T to the apiary with me quite yet (gentle movements … not so much) and my bee suit won’t zip over this enormous belly anyway. I am thankful for my sister, Amy, holding down the ins-and-outs of beekeeping for me during my preoccupation.

Last winter was long, rainy, snowy and downright bitter, and we experienced a lot of loss. We came into the spring season with just two hives, one of which was very weak. During the summer, we kept our hive numbers low and plan on spring 2014 as a rebuilding year with us purchasing package bees.

Photo: Marjan Velijanoski/Fotolia

All that considered, we were able to maintain a single strong hive through the summer and harvested a single shallow super that equated to a little less than 25 pounds of honey or about 2 gallons.

The bees quickly filled the deep supers with brood and honey, so we added a single shallow super for surplus honey a few months ago. During late summer, we typically see expanses of goldenrod and wildflowers and this year’s harvest, while darker and more robust than last season’s, is still very sweet. A hive inspection last week revealed 10 frames filled to the brim with capped honey and ready for harvest. We added an escape board and a few days later were able to slip the shallow super off the hive.

The process of harvesting honey was fairly simple thanks to investing in an extractor a few seasons ago. It pretty much goes uncap, extract and bottle. We use an electric uncapping knife to uncap the wax-sealed honeycomb. Next, we place the uncapped frames into our hand-cranked honey extractor and, with a little muscle, spin the frames forcing the honey out of the comb and onto the walls of the extractor where it drips down into the bottom on the barrel. A spigot on the extractor allows the honey to flow out of the extractor into a five-gallon bucket with a double strainer on top to remove any stray bits of wax or debris. And finally, from the five-gallon bucket we pour the honey into more manageable half-pint and pint jars ready to share and store. 

Photo: Natika/Fotolia

Now, we simply get to sit back and enjoy the last few warm days of fall with some delicious homemade bread and fresh honey. 

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