Spring Flow Honey Harvest
We have been busy this summer, and so have our bees!
Jordan doesn’t really let me play with the bees that much. They were supposed to be my thing but then he totally hijacked them and got super nerdy about them and now they are his bees and he manages our 3 hives and 2 hives at his parents’ in Hebron. He knows a ton about them and is always learning more. Joking aside, it is one of my absolute favorite things to hear him talk about and when I have this baby, I’ll be able to get back in there and brush shoulders with him in the apiary again. It’s like therapy and I love this hobby we’ve explored together. I’ve read a lot about these cute little bees but my favorite book, we’re talking cover-to-cover were The Backyard Beekeeper and First Lessons in Beekeeping. So I have a working knowledge about bees and how to keep and apiary. Jordan has taken that knowledge and has gone onto in-depth troubleshooting and closely monitoring the behavior of the bees.
We’ve had some bee keeper woes this season. We have had a hive swarm, have gone queenless, and have seen some other odd behaviors in our bees. Swarming is when a colony feels cramped and decides to split. They raise up a new queen (typically in a very calculated way at the bottom of a frame) and when she is almost ready to hatch, about 70 percent of the bees huddle around the original queen and form a swarm. When it’s time, they fly swiftly and in unison to a branch, or stump or some other location in one big black cloud. Scouts fly out from that swarm to find a location to start their new colony together, and after a lot of back and forth debates and bee discussions, they pick a location and settle there. Meanwhile, the original hive that we have has 30% of the bees remaining, and a queen cell that will hopefully hatch soon, go out and mate, and then try to reestablish that colony as her own (which is exactly what happened, good job bees!)
We also lost a queen. Queenlessness is something that can happen in any number of ways. It’s anyone’s guess how it happened to one of ours but we could tell by these superseder cells the bees made. See, the queen lets out hormones that regulate the entire hive system and keep everyone behaving normally. Without a queen, a hive could completely die within a matter of weeks. When she’s gone, or weak, the bees begin to raise up another queen by feeding a very specific and rich honey called “royal jelly” to one of the eggs the old queen had laid in any random or sporadic spot on the frames. Whichever queen hatches first emerges, destroys the other queen cells, leaves to mate and then takes her throne in her new colony. All the bees are back to work and fussing over their queen and her eggs to try to build back up and continue to work on their honey supply to try to make it through the winter. We’ve experienced one successful requeening in our hive that swarmed and are watching the queenless hive closely to see what happens.
The time came to try out Jordan’s homemade honey extractor. Jordan and Dale selected 10 frames of capped honey from the hives in Hebron and we all gathered around to see what they came up with. Delicious.
First of all, a small honey super with 10 frames is HEAVY. It was amazing to see how much those bees had made. The perfect hexagons, the sweet smell and the heavenly taste are all so miraculous. The process was…successful…but also messy and really involved. Jordan’s system worked, but for the larger harvest, it would be worth the cost to streamline the process and buy a honey extractor and some other tools.
Regardless of the process, we were able to get a lot of honey! About 3 gallons worth, including the honey we rendered from the wax.
All I had to do was warm all the wax and honey in a pot until it was all liquid. Then I stretched some pantyhose over a container and poured the whole mixture through to remove any impurities. Wax floats on honey, so when the mixture cooled, all the wax floated to the top, and I picked it off, washed it, melted it again and poured it into molds to use. Meanwhile, I strained the honey at the bottom (no longer considered raw honey because it was heated) and poured it into jars to use for baking!
That’s where we are in our beekeeping journey so far this year! Wish us luck as we continue to learn and work out the kinks. The journey is the best part of our Satellite Homesteading. This little success was as sweet as it sounds.
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