As most of you will know, last year there was a lot of beekeeping effort on my part – involving approx. 2 swarms, Queen Less colonies, high varroa and several panic attacks. And there was not a lot in return – 4 jars of honey, 2 of which were unripe and the other 2 scraped out of the comb. Read: The joys and guilt of harvesting my first honey for how my first harvest panned out.
This year however, I have actually PRODUCED! Or rather my bees have.
Yes - one of my hives has produced a surplus of honey – about 13lb which has filled 25 jars. It might not be enough to sell to shops, but it does mean that I have enough to give to friends (very discerning ones) for Christmas. Not bad for three frames of bees with a Queen that I put in their new home on the 9th June!
I consider the success a joint effort. Yes the bees have worked hard (to produce this quantity the bees have flown about 700,000 miles – that’s the equivalent of almost two trips from the Earth to the Moon and back and visited about 26,000,000 flowers) and I, of course, have done the vital task of peering at them occasionally (a.k.a. “inspecting”).
If you find these numbers mind blowing, check out my new page on Honey Facts.
The process of extraction was fun, if time consuming and sticky. Here’s my STEP BY STEP GUIDE TO EXTRACTION…
1 – FIND A LOCATION – And by this, I mean find somewhere other than your own home to do the extraction. In my case, it was my parent’s house. This was agreed with simply bribery and promises of a year long supply of honey.
2 – GET HELP – In my case, my Mum and Dad. Basically they couldn’t resist getting involved.
3 – DO NOT GIVE TOO MANY INSTRUCTIONS TO YOUR HELPER (and definitely do not “ssshhhh” her when she is trying to give advice) – Or your mum might decide she can, in fact, ‘resist’ the urge to help you.
4 – MARVEL AT THE CAPPED HONEY FRAMES – It’s true! The evidence! These bees really do make honey.
5 – CUT THE CAPS – Uncapping the honey is like undressing a gorgeous woman. Only a little bit less intimidating and even more fiddly.
It’s fascinating to cut off the wax cappings and watch the honey ooze out and reflect on the process that has resulted in this golden liquid, before putting it in the extractor (which I borrowed from a fellow beekeeper) and spinning it.
It’s surprising to see that the comb is empty after just 1 minute of spinning. You think that you haven’t got much in the bottom of the tank but before you know it you need to empty it into a plastic tub. And 14 frames later you might have filled that 30lb tub.
6 – STOP FOR TEA – It’s a long process. I optimistically started at 7.30pm thinking I’d be back in time for a bit of News at 10, but came staggering back home at 2am.
It’s a sad day when your late nights no longer involve snakebite, clubbing and kebabs, but tea, biscuits and your parents … Mind you, both have the same sticky floor effect.
7 – TAKE PRIDE IN YOUR JARS – Yes! Finally a use for my labels! I am inordinately proud of my jars. Have a read of my labelling advice page to find out what you legally need to put on there, and how to go about producing them.
8 – TIDY UP – Or promise to. I had to come back the next day. My Dad and I (I know, it’s shameful) both had a go at mopping up the honey but the floor remained sticky three washes in.
I’ve subsequently spent some time researching the best ways to clean up honey and it seems it’s … hot water and hard scrubbing. Exactly what you do not want to hear.
9 – REMEMBER TO KEEP THE WAX CAPPINGS – I put the wet frames and cappings back on the hive and amazingly they were dry within a few days.
This video shows how dry they were:
In brief – the Queens are now marked (unbelievable I know), the varroa counts are low, the colonies are healthy and currently have Apiguard on top.
All the notes on the number of frames of bees, amount of brood and stores, feeding and treatments are detailed in my hive records. These include photos and videos.
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- If this post is the alternative guide to harvesting, I have written a more traditional guide here: Harvesting Honey