Yay for honey!

Friday 22 August 2014 is a day that will go down as one of the happiest (and stickiest) days of my life - the day I harvested honey from my bees! Although can you believe that I actually feel twinges of guilt for stealing the honey away from them when I know how hard they work to collect it. 

Earlier on in the week I had earmarked the honey I was going to extract. There was a full super (6 frames) on the left side of the Beehaus, one frame in the super on the right and also two full frames of honey inside the brood box. I wasn't entirely sure how much honey this would give me but as long as I could get four jars out to give to my neighbours who have been curious and understanding, especially Pat three doors down when a swarm of bees chose to collect themselves in her garden earlier on the year.

There are extractors that I could have loaned from my local beekeeping branch, but as I only had a few frames I chose to use the 'press and drip' method. Essentially, this entails scrapping the honey from the frames into a colander over a bowl, pressing it down and then letting it drip through overnight. 

Here I am getting stuck into the sticky business of hand extraction.

A close-up shot. I have to say that I couldn't help testing the honey as I was extracting it. So much so that I actually made one of my teeth ache, and that is saying something considering what a honey monster I am.

Most of the honey I extracted was sealed however, there were a few cells that weren't. You should only extract sealed honey because the water content is low and means it can happily live in a jar for a long time. But the water content in the unsealed cells is higher and means that the honey can ferment in the jar. A way to check whether the honey is right is to whack the frame against a tree (or, in my case, a pole) and if the honey flies out then it's not ready. Mine didn't so hopefully it will be alright. But truth be told, I'll probably eat the honey so fast that it won't have time to ferment anyway.

One of the bees trying to steal back her honey.

Having left the comb to drip through the sieve over night I was left with thick, golden honey. I didn't heat it so all the natural goodness has been kept.

This is all the honey I got minus two jars, which I gave away before I took the photo. How brilliant is that? The four small ones are for my neighbours, one for my sister, one for my previous beehive landlords Sarah and Ian, one for my mentor Nicki, one for my friend Lina and one for the outlaws. That leaves me with four jars - that should do me for two weeks or so. And I'm not kidding either, I do eat honey THAT quickly.

As I was stealing the bees' winter stores away from them, I made up some sugar syrup solution to replace it. I put 2.5 litre feeders on all three colonies on Friday night and when I went out today (Monday) they were all finished. 

It was pouring with rain outside but I thought I'd make up some more syrup (syrup essentially entails 2 parts white sugar to one part water) and just be very quick about putting it on the hives. I think only a few bees got wet in the operation.

A beekeeper dedicated to the cause - raincoat on with full feeder in hand.


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