Bees and Honey
The Fall Honey Flow
Monday, October 29, 2012
While most people were batting down the hatches for Hurricane Sandy, I spent the weekend finally extracting honey from my hive before the storm arrived. Most beekeepers advise against extracting when rain is in the forecast because an increase in moisture can lead to a higher water content in the honey, which can lead to fermentation when it is being stored. However, I did the extraction two days before the storm hit and since I was already so late on extracting the honey for the season, I wasn’t left with much choice. So on Saturday afternoon, two days before Sandy was due to make landfall I went into my hive and pulled the frames. As you can see in the picture below (that’s me in the bee suit), the first step was to open the hive and inspect frames that had large amounts of solid brown covering over the comb. This is a sign that there is honey below, and not nectar with its high water content.
I then shook the bees from the frames, and placed them in a Tupperware bin. After I took out 6 frames, I brought them to the back porch where I shook or swatted off any remaining bees, and I brought them into the house.
As you can see below, the outside of the frame with its solid brown covering is where all of the honey is stored. The small brown spots in the center that look like nuts are actually cells that are incubating new drones, which we left alone. Actually, at one point, small drones started hatching and crawling out of the cells. It was pretty amazing to watch.
The reason for my procrastination for this season’s extraction was because I wanted to use an actual mechanical extractor. But I couldn’t coordinate meeting up with my beekeeper friend who knew how to use it. Instead, I took a more DYI approach. I first laid the frames on a cooking sheet. Next to that I set up a colander over a pot. I then took a spatula and scraped the comb off of the frame and placed it in the colander to let it drain into the pot. As you can see in the picture below, it was actually quite efficient for doing such a small batch.
I then left the comb to drain and went back to put the frames back into the hive. The reason I only took six frames was because I extracted so late in the season and I didn’t want to take out too much honey being that there are only a very small amount of flowers still in bloom in the city. Also, by scraping the comb off rather than cutting out the entire frame, I at least left the bees with somewhat of a base to build some more comb before the winter sets in. This way I don’t have to feed the bees sugar water over the winter as some beekeepers are forced to do. I then went back in the house, removed the colander full of comb and put the honey on a low heat to partially liquefy it. By doing this, it made it easier to pour it through the fine strainer to get out any more bits of comb. And just like that, those six frames filled up these mason jars totaling almost two gallons of honey.
One of the best things about processing honey is that cleaning up your mess usually requires using your finger to quickly swab up the honey you spill and eat it on the spot. I must admit that I’ve recently been questioning if I should keep my hive. After maintaining a city block’s worth of a garden, 3 laying hens and a large berry patch, I just felt a little over extended. But after taking that first taste, I think I may have another year of beekeeping in me.
The Woodlands Community Apiary
Wednesday, October 19, 2011
This spring I re-newed my love for the Woodlands—not just because I became a member of the Woodlands Community Garden, but also because of the new apiary that is housed there, the Woodlands Community Apiary. I know I’m oversimplifying this theory, but it’s been documented that eating locally produced honey can help stave of seasonal allergies… so by participating in Daniel Duffy’s project, via a Kickstarter campaign, I’m not only helping out the youth benefiting from working on the project, and the honey bees who get protected by the hives, but I personally would get some medicinal benefits of the honey produced a mere 200ft away from my community garden.
Honey from the same place that I grow my veggies.
How cool is that?
Earlier this spring I took a picture of the hives:
and the accompanying sign:
I will admit that during the course of the summer I would go over and peek at the hives… and maybe say a little friendly hello to the honey bees. Yes, I talked to the bees. So, you can imagine just how excited I was when I finally got the email saying my honey share was ready for pickup!
I feel like this honey is too precious to eat and so I’m saving it for very special treats. Right now all I’m doing is taking the lid off and dipping a finger in to enjoy it a few drops at a time. So, what should I use the honey for?
Sustainable Saturdays in University City
Tuesday, July 12, 2011
Foraging! Wine and Cheese! Local Honey! Farmers’ Market! Seed Bombs! Get in this great series of events this coming Saturday! Farm to Table in West Philadelphia.
Beekeeping Project Needs Support
Monday, February 07, 2011
There’s an awesome new project afoot in West Philadelphia - a community apiary and youth beekeeping program! Daniel Duffy, who currently tends bees in partnership with The Woodlands Community Garden and UC Green, has developed a kickstarter website that offers membership in a Community Supported Apiary in return for funds to help launch this project. From Duffy himself:
“I’ve been working with local beekeepers, farmers and UC Green to raise money for a community bee yard and the first urban apiary-to-table youth beekeeping project. We’ve put out a web site, which you can see here. Right now we’re raising money through Community Supported Apiary (CSA) shares and individual donations to set up hives at the Woodlands Cemetery in April.
Educators have started using beekeeping as an educational tool. With 20% of Philadelphia youth out of work and school, our bee yard will provide a unique opportunity to help students develop widely-applicable jobs skills and entrepreneurial savvy. Students are now applying for a program where they’ll use the apiary to raise bees and sell their honey at the farmers market.
But honeybees are primarily important because they pollinate a third of our food, and they’re dying off at an alarming rate. Some estimates give the bees little more than 20 years to live in the US. With so many commercial beekeepers backing out of the business because of economic necessity, there’s a void to be filled with new ideas and models.
There is a good reason to rely on individuals to fund this project. It has the potential to get different communities involved. And while we have a plan and the partnerships to help carry it out, it still helps to get lots of input in the project’s nascent stage.”
And if you really care about bee health, sign this petition to urge the EPA to ban the pesticide clothianidin that has been linked to Colony Collapse Disorder.