I have honey!
Over the winter, there really isn’t much you can do with honeybees. Except for poking your head in during very warm days to make sure they have enough honey stored to get them through the season. I tried to stay out as much as possible, realizing that they know a lot more than I do about keeping themselves alive.
However, spring has arrived!
As such, soon after it looked like we were in for consistent warm weather, I poked my head in with a much different intention: robbing them of their honey! I didn’t want to take too much – but dang it, I’ve been at this for a year and have spent a lot of money, so I want some honey!! Sunny, runny, bunny, funny, money, honey. (Sorry – the line before last rhymed and I couldn’t stop myself.)
They’re doing great, and I saw some frames packed with brood (larvae/eggs), so it looks to me like they’re healthy. I only took one frame from each, and those frames weren’t 100% capped and ready but they weren’t too far from it. (Don’t worry – there was plenty of honey left in the hive. I’ll take more after everything’s in bloom, though) I didn’t even get stung, even though I was brushing them off of the frames pretty aggressively.
After I got the frames, I realized I had no idea what to do with them. Most legit beekeepers have access to an extractor and other fancy tools to help them efficiently remove the honey. However, I don’t know if I’d consider myself a legit beekeeper yet, and since those things cost money I figure I’d try to have a go without them. (I’m really excited about the Honey Flow system, but that’s a lot of money, too… One of my frames costs $1, and a frame from the Honey Flow costs about $80. Basically, I don’t want to spend a bunch more money until I know I can pay myself back with honey. I’m rhyming honey with money a lot in this post.)
My first idea wasn’t a very good one.
I basically just stood them up like a teepee over a pan and used a spoon to scoop the honey out. It wasn’t very quick, and I got a lot of spoons dirty because I tended to stick them in my mouth. Don’t worry – I’m no double dipper. If a spoon went in my mouth, it didn’t go back in the honeycomb. I promise.
I got pretty impatient, because I felt like I wasn’t getting very far even though I was scraping a lot of wax off. So, I simply looked at a few websites on how to harvest honey without an extractor and got some much better ideas.
I just scraped everything off the frame into a colander. I didn’t want to use a strainer, because when you filter honey you actually lose some of the benefits. Unfiltered raw honey has pollen in it, and this is the pollen from my own back yard so it can help with my specific allergies, since I’d be ingesting the same pollen that my sinuses have a problem sorting through. When you filter, those chunks of pollen can get thrown out. (I should have taken a picture of some of the pollen, but I didn’t think about it. I will next time. Unless I forget again. (You can see the pollen on the next picture, but it looks more like dirt.)
The picture above is after I scraped from one frame all the comb that contained honey into the colander. There’s still a lot of pollen, but I don’t think I missed any honey from that one. I’ll get the wax later.
After that, I crushed the comb, forcing a bunch of honey, pollen, and some small chunks of wax into the bowl below. I ate more wax in that day or two of extracting honey than the rest of my life combined. Not that I’ve eaten a lot of wax in my life, nor that I just munched on wax all day – I just figure the little bits and pieces added up, since I was sucking the honey off of them.
I poured the honey out into a mason jar, then crushed more comb, then poured, etc. Finally, I just let it set for a long time dripping down, and the comb was fairly dry. I’m planning on melting the wax in a cloth in the sun, which would let any trapped honey run out, but it’ll take a while. On top of that, I had an ant problem when I left the whole setup out overnight. (Well, technically my wife had an ant problem… I just came home to an unhappy wife who dealt with an ant problem.) So – if I set it out somewhere to melt and separate, I’ll need to make sure our six legged friends don’t have access.
To clean up, I left the frames on top of the hives, because bees will suck absolutely any remaining honey off of it. I read somewhere that it can take bees collectively flying up to 40 million miles to make a pound of honey, so it would make sense that they would spend the time to get even the slightest amount of honey close by. Sure enough, I left the frames overnight, and they were bone dry the next day, with bees still checking it out.
The honey has a very interesting taste, with a little bit of a kick to it, because all (actual) honey is flavored by the pollen and nectar that the bees gather from. For a while I tried to analyze it to figure out what plant I wast tasting, but then I realized I was basically not seeing the forest from the trees. Honey! I have honey from my back yard! I’ll figure out plant-flavors later!
I ended up getting three pints of honey, and I have been eating more honey than ever! My friend Chris gave me some bread that his family baked, and I pretty much ate that with a 1:1 ratio of honey to bread. My intention was to sell honey, but at the rate I’m using it, I might have to hoard it all… I’ve been putting it in coffee, and I figure if I can replace all my sugar intake with honey, then I’ll be healthier. Right?