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,



Day One-Installing the Bees April 26, 2011

Filed under: apiary,Bee Package,beehive,Beekeeping,Queen Bee,Uncategorized — beekeepingbug @ 8:25 pm

So the day has finally arrived! My mother and I drove up to NH to pick up our bees on Tuesday, 4/26. The apiary we ordered the bees from was in a surprisingly residential area. The apiary was run out of someone’s driveway/garage. We paid for the bees in the garage and picked up our 2 bee packages (two of hundreds) in the driveway.

We loaded the bee packages into the back of the car and drove home. Even though there were several homeless honey bees clinging to the outside of the packages (probably since they were loaded in Georgia), there were no problems with loose bees flying around the car. These loose bees are referred to as hobos.

When we got back to the house, we gathered all of our supplies near the beehives and got to work pouring the bees into the hives. Someone recently told my mother and I that there is no such thing as ‘mistakes’ when it comes to beekeeping, only ‘learning experiences’. Well, we had quite a few of those.

We dumped the bees in, as you can see in the video. The first minute of the video (which you can totally skip, no hard feelings) is just of my mother and I prying the top off of the package and taking out the can of food. What you don’t see in the video is my mother and I installing the queen cages into the hives before dumping the bees. This is the most crucial part of getting a hive established. If the queen is not installed correctly, it could lead directly or indirectly to her death. See, honey bees are very fickle. If anything goes wrong, or the bees feel disturbed in any way, they will likely blame it on the queen and kill her. That would be very bad! While its possible to get another queen, it delays the hives’ production of new bees. Without a constant supply of new bees, honey production will be severely interrupted.

Thankfully, we haven’t had any problems thus far (we think). We checked on the queen cages today (+5 days after installation) and the queens were released! Yay! Step 1 complete. Unfortunately, the heat of the hive melted the queen cage into the wax foundation and we had to rip a queen cage-sized hole in the foundation. While it looks terrible and ugly as hell, I really hope it won’t cause any problems…

So, our queens are released. For our first venture into the hive (today), we were not supposed to do anything other than make sure the queen was released and take out the cage. We did not look for new eggs or anything, as we wanted to disrupt the bees as little as possible (Ha, yeah right). So hopefully the released queen decided to hang around and lay eggs! In other news, the bees were very busy drawing comb, which is exactly what we want to see! My mother and I were a little nervous about the state of my mother’s hive, because right from he get-go it seemed less active than mine, but they both seem to be doing well!

Next up, the first full inspection! Hopefully next weekend, weather depending.

Until next time,