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.