We’ve had our very own beehive since early spring – and yesterday had our first crop of honey!
Strictly speaking, it’s not our beehive, we’re just renting it, but they are such amazing little creatures that we certainly feel very protective towards them. Some of the hive went walkabout a couple of weeks ago, fortunately swarming only as far as the other side of the fence. Beekeeper Alan came and was joined by our own Junior Beekeeper to collect them in a box with Alan returning towards dark to take them off to continue as a new colony.
I was a bit concerned when I saw more bees than usual on the outside of the box hive and Junior Beekeeper let Alan know – were we going to lose more to swarming? He duly arrived yesterday and put my fears to rest. Turns out the hive sits at a pretty constant temperature (read why here – the heat of the brood determines what sort of workers they will be) and when it starts to get too hot groups of bees take themselves outside to try and lower the internal temperature. The more I know about bees the more remarkable I think they are!
At any rate Alan reckoned it was time to take our first harvest of honey. And with Junior Beekeeper away checking his own new hive (brought home later last night), Alan roped in The Vege Grower who was more than happy to be hands-on. Alan left us his decanting bucket and with instructions to ‘wring out’ out wax … our final total of honey was 10kg!! We think we’ll call “our” produce 82bee, cause we live at house number 82. But there are lots of punning ideas buzzing around …
While we had a cup of tea afterwards Alan, who used to be a lawyer, said he started as a hobbyist with one hive and then two – and before he knew it he had 20 (and a small word-of-mouth business). Handiest tip of the day: Where to buy plastic, screw-top jars to fill with honey.
Here’s a photo essay of yesterday’s honey collection. All photos by Sandra Simpson.
Step 1: Alan smokes the landing area to calm the bees. Yes, it looks a little weedy around the hive. Funny, that. (I’ve discovered that dying bees can still sting and that it’s hard to spot a bee in the dusk.)
Step 2: After the hive’s lid is removed, Alan smokes the top box which is where he’ll take the honey from.
Alan checks the second box to ensure there’s enough food there and to assess whether to crop that as well (we didn’t).
Step 3: Remove the frames – Alan exhibits a “perfectly capped” one.
Step 4: The Vege Grower gets in on the act – gently brushing any bees off the frame.
Step 5: The Vege Grower pushes the frame through the extractor – a contraption in a plastic box that comprises two blades that lock around the frame. You then push the frame through and the honey slides off. The extractor sits on top of a muslin-lined bucket that has a spigot off one side.
Best not to hang around while extracting the honey because all it does is attract the poor bees. We found we’d carried about a dozen inside with the honey so carefully caught them and released outside again.
Step 6: Start filling your containers. The muslin stops most wax coming through (we’re likely to get some comb honey next time).
Step 7: Take the wax out of the bucket and wring it out!
Step 8: Enjoy the taste of spring … and wonder what you’re going to do with the reality of 10kg of honey (there’s a few glass jars too that aren’t in this photo)!