beekeepingbug

Blogging About My Adventures as a New Backyard Beekeeper

First Honey Harvest July 31, 2011

Filed under: Uncategorized — beekeepingbug @ 12:42 pm

Hello everyone!

It has finally been done! We got our first harvest of ~30LBS of honey extracted and bottled! It was a very fascinating process and I hope we get a second harvest this year and get to do it all over again.

So, after removing the frames of honey from the hive a couple of weeks ago, we had to actually get the honey out of the frames and into the bottles. How does one go about that you may ask? With a centrifuge of course! Since we were not expecting honey this first year, my mother and I did not even contemplate purchasing a centrifuge for spinning honey. It doesn’t help that they are quite expensive. Thankfully our ever-handy beekeeping instructor lives nearby and offered us the use of his extractor.

So, each frame of honey contains honey within the hexagonal-shaped honey comb. The bees cap every chamber with wax. In order to spin the honey out, the wax capping must be cut off or scratched so that the seal is broken. We simply took a brush and broke the wax cappings. Then we loaded the dripping frames into the centrifuge and began to spin. Since the extractor is a centrifuge and very dependant on the balance of weight (the frames were all different weights), the whole extractor had to be held down by the three of us (my mother, our instructor, and I), and even then the whole thing was walking across the table as we spun it. After the spinning is done, the honey slowly drips down the inside walls of the centrifuge and pours out the bottom nozzle through a double strainer. The double strainer removes any big pieces of wax and dirt, but the pollen and tiny bits of wax are still in the honey. This is what makes the honey ‘raw’.

We let the honey drip out over night, and then we had to let it settle in the bucket for a couple of days before we could bottle it (I relate the waiting period to being like the 2 days before Christmas–It was very hard to wait!!). But finally, finally, we were able to bottle it.

My mother and I thought it would be a rather messy and time-consuming process, but it really wasn’t. There wasn’t the huge sticky mess I envisioned. In all, we had two gallons of honey! First, we filled up 4oz jars. We had 24 of those, and filled them up in no time. So, we moved on to the only other jars we had-16oz jars. To our amazement,  we were still filling them after the first pack of six, and we were in awe when we finished with 11 filled 16oz jars and 24-4oz jars.

I brought some in to work, since my co workers have been hearing about these hives for months and were eager to try the honey. The honey is a Spring honey-meaning it is light-colored and light textured. I would say light flavor, but it isn’t. It is intensely sweet and many have described it as citrus-y…I joked about the citrus tree farm we have next door to us, but really, we live around Boston so there are definitely no citrus trees. I’m not sure what the taste is, but it is fantastic.

A lot of people have asked if we’re selling the honey, but since it’s the first batch, we haven’t really tried. By the time we finish giving some to the neighbors for putting up with our eccentricities and everyone else, we won’t have enough to really sell more than a few bottles. But if we get a good haul for the next batch, I may re-consider 🙂

Until next time,

Beekeepingbug

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Sweet Rewards July 22, 2011

Filed under: Bee Package,beehive,Beekeeping,Honey — beekeepingbug @ 3:01 pm

Hello Everyone!

It’s been quite some time since I last posted, but that is because there has not been much to report. Mine and my mother’s hives have been what honey bees do best–be busy and make honey. We have been extremely lucky thus far. We have heard so many horror stories of first year hives succumbing to the (almost) inevitable swarming in the Spring, not long after establishment. Many first year hives this year have also been plagued with queen issues–the queen that came with the original package was superceded, which interrupts the brood process by several weeks.

Somehow, with a bit of luck, our hives have avoided such issues (knock on wood) and have been busy making babies and honey. There is constantly a swarm of new bees taking orientation flights and older bees zipping in and out with goods from the field.

Now, for the good part. My mother and I were consistantly told not to expect honey from our first year hives. First year hives are several months behind in brood and honey production than over-wintered hives and generally make just enough honey to make it through their first winter. However, again by sheer luck, our hives have produced enough honey that we get to take some spoils from our new hobby 🙂

Three weeks ago, the previous hive inspection we performed, my mother and I were a bit overwhelmed by all the burr-comb and honey and sticky mess in our hives. We took too long cleaning house and the bees got agitated so we couldn’t finish. So, we invited our fantastic bee teacher over to show us some tips and tricks and offer insight as to how our hives are doing. As soon as we pried the top off of my hive this week, he said my hive was honey-bound, had no room, and we needed to remove some honey ASAP. Well, that was just music to my ears! I haven’t stopped smiling since! We removed 5 frames (about 20LBS) from my hive. We could have taken more, but not surprisingly, the bees got quite agitated.

We didn’t have time to go into my mother’s hive that night, but with the great tips and tricks our teacher showed us, my mother had enough confidence to inspect her hive solo (my father supervised from the safety of the window, so she wasn’t completely alone with the agitated bees!) She managed to get two bulging frames of honey, which add about 10 LBS to our total. Right now, we are waiting for the chance to extract and bottle the honey, which will hopefully take place next week!

I will most definitely take pictures of the extraction and bottling process, so look out for that!

Until then,

Beekeepingbug