Honey Harvest

July 16, 2017 – My first honey harvest!  Talk about exhilarating!  With the weather being sunny lately after all the rain we had I knew I was going to have some extracting to do, and soon.  So, I bought an eight-shallow frame manual extractor from a supplier in Ottawa.

With the help of my Mom and Dad we harvested the top shallow super situated above the queen excluder from hive #2.  Upon inspection, we saw that the bees did a pretty good job capping the honey, using nearly all cells in most frames of the shallow.  My oh my, that shallow full of honey was heavy when I propped it up to see underneath.  My Dad and I went about removing the frames one by one from the hive to an empty box in the RTV.  We worked slowly and methodically.  The bees didn’t get too worked up about us taking their honey reserves, that is until I began gently brushing them off the frames with the bee brush to ensure that we did not take away any stow-aways bees.

After putting the lids back on the hives we drove the RTV back to the roadside building, unloaded the super into the back of my vehicle, where I’d had the forethought to lay newspaper down to catch any honey drips.

I uncapped each frame using my electric uncapping knife.  Having used both methods – heating a regular knife under hot water, as well as the electric uncapping knife – I must say to any other novice beekeepers out there, the electric knife is worth the splurge; the uncapping process is sped up and much more of the comb is left intact, equating to less repair time for the bees to fix the comb/ more time and energy spent on making honey.  After uncapping a frame as carefully as possible, I slid it into position in the extractor.

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The wax cappings

Given that I was doing this in my entranceway, without a table nor all the proper equipment, it was a painfullly slow process, however my excitement banished all concept of time while extracting.   Now, for anyone who knows about the type of extractor I’m talking about, they know that the feet are to be bolted to the floor for stability purposes.  Also they know the centrifugal force of the frames in the basket inside gets to be substantial after cranking the handle.  Since the extractor’s location in my entranceway was temporary, I was not about to drill screws into the tile to anchor the feet for that extra stability.  Instead, AJ and I wrestled to keep the extractor stable while cranking the handle.

Honey Extractor

Honey frames after being spun and honey collecting at the extractor’s bottom .

The honey flew out of the frames onto the sides, then slowly slid down to collect at the bottom of the barrel.  After spinning enough times to remove honey from one side of the frames, we then cranked the spinner handle the other way to remove honey from the other side.  By the time I was satisfied with the amount that we’d extracted from the frames, we stopped for the night to allow the honey to slowly gather at the bottom.  (Coincidentally, our air conditioning is not working and we’re experiencing a heat wave.  The one up side to that is that the honey is moving very well!)

 

 

 

What excitement I felt while opening the honey gate, watching the golden honey pour

Honey Flowing From The Honey Gate

The bounty from my first extraction pouring onto the sieve!

out onto a sieve for filtering.  I was buzzing with pride.  I’ve read that a shallow super typically yields 25-30 lbs of honey.  My yield was 24.5 lbs!

 

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Advice

An interesting conversation I had with the head beekeeper of the Ottawa Community Beekeepers Association stands out in my head.  He told me to always be thinking about the next winter – in the fall, do the bees have enough honey stores in the hive?  Winter is coming.  Is there enough brood for the winter cluster?  Winter is coming.  In the summer, do the bees have enough to forage on?  Winter is coming.  Are the bee pests at a manageable level?  Winter is coming.  In the spring, is colony build up happening fast enough?  Winter is coming.  Is my queen healthy and strong?  Winter is coming.  The list goes on.  He stressed to always be two steps ahead in terms of preparation.  As with most things in life, my honey production will depend on my preparation and anticipating my bees needs.

April flurries bring May…..worries?

I am looking outside at a snowstorm.  It is April 6 and it is snowstorming outside.  Brrr.  It has been too cold the past few days for any sap to flow.  The forecast for tomorrow is promising for good sap run.

I am torn between feeling elated that I’ll be able to get at least one more boil in before the end of the maple syrup run, and feeling angst about the cold weather’s effect on the health of the bees’ that I am ordering.  Talk about a new feeling, being worried about bees.  The bees are not even in my possession yet and I am already worried about them.  I must remember that the bees I am ordering from my local supplier, Mahmoud at Forestdew Honey (www.forestdewhoney.com), are overwintered in an indoor,  climate controlled ‘beedome’ so they will not be subjected to the erratic weather conditions outside.  The bees I have ordered are New World Carniolians.  While half of the colonies I am getting will have imported queens, the other half will have Ontario queens.  (My reasoning behind this: why not?)  I will take note of which are which and make observations on whether the colonies featuring imported or domestic queens perform better. Courtesy of my Opa, the beeyard will host several homemade hives, as pictured below.  IMG_1552What a craftsman he is.   The bees will be ready for pick-up in late May.  In the meantime I have more beehives to assemble and a bee yard to prepare for their arrival.  That, I believe will keep me busy as a bee until they arrive.

 

Beekeeping: A New Hobby

My newest venture is beekeeping!  Even though my adventure into the world of beekeeping will commence next year when the bees arrive in the mail, my preparations for their arrival have already begun. As with any other hobby or study of mine my first steps are to immerse myself in literature on the topic. I am up to my eyeballs in beekeeping books; I have scads of research on seasonal nectar sources. And the sketches have started. A doodle in a margin here, a quick drawing on a pad of paper there.  Anytime my mind wanders I start doodling.  Plus, I have a book on order that is considered by many to be the source for all beekeeping knowledge.  “Hive and the Honeybee” by Lorenzo Langstroth himself, the man who revolutionized beekeeping with his hive design.  I am going to start my bee-yard with one or two pre-assembled hives, then using those as models try to construct my own.  I attained instructions on how to build Langstroth hives and I’ll start on construction of those this fall.

While meandering the woods my mind is also at work devising where to put my bee yard; access to water, nectar, and shelter from the wind are musts.  Just the other day I came across a big bear paw print in the mud along a path.  The fact that we have a bear living in our woods I must consider in my beekeeping plans as well.  While the idea of Winnie the Pooh stealing honey from my hives is humorous, real bears do not exhibit Pooh’s docile manner.  They will rip my hives apart to get at the honey and nectar inside.  In order to protect against the destructiveness of bears and other vermin I’ll need to get vermin boards and an electric fence to surround my hives.  I’m excited to start harvesting honey yet I think it’s a good thing that I am starting my preparations a year early.  There certainly is a lot to learn and think about.