… is a lot of honey.
Actually, it was more like 98 or 100 pounds, but at a certain point, one gives up caring about the exact number.
Since we’d been working on the plane annual for two weeks, we certainly didn’t plan to extract honey this weekend, but apparently the bees thought differently.
We’ve been treating them for Varroa with Formic Pro and gotten the first strips in, but ten days later when the second strips were due, it was too hot. The temperature has to be 85 F or below for the first three days after putting in the strips, and we’ve not had three days in a row below that temperature for quite a while.
You can do two strips at once for 14 days, but when we’ve done that in the past, we ended up with dead queens, so we’re more cautious now.
Normally when we’re treating, we don’t open the hive even to look in the honey supers, but they’ve been crazy busy, filling the frames this year, and we were afraid they’d get too crowded with no place to move out of the brood nest. And when I looked in the directions for Formic Pro, it says don’t disturb the brood. By looking only in the supers, at least we’d be following the letter — if not the spirit — of the law.
So, Saturday, we peeked, and it was a good thing we did because we ended up swapping out fifteen frames full of honey for fifteen new ones. And there were eight more full ones we couldn’t switch because we were out of new frames despite investing in (many!) new frames this season.
The bees were also festooning. That’s when they kind of chain together, and supposedly they do it mostly when they’re building comb.
There are lots of theories about why they do this, but nobody’s quite sure. Whatever the reason, it’s a neat thing to see.
Anyway, because we needed empty frames to replace the eight full ones, we had to extract sooner than we planned, and that’s why we ended up extracting honey on the 4th of July weekend.
In the end, we pulled honey from thirty-four frames*, including ten we’d already taken out and frozen** for forty-eight hours.
Actually, since our friend MJ had her very first honey harvest(!!!) and brought frames to extract with us, we pulled from thirty-eight.
Here’s MJ using a knife to uncap her frames. Interestingly, her honey had a strong mint flavor despite mint not yet being in bloom. Both she and I noticed it, so perhaps the bees foraged on another flower in the mint family.
It was a long, hot, sticky, exhausting day.
Long enough and sticky enough and exhausting enough that we decided to finetune our process.
We’ve always drained the extractor into the filter, and then into a bucket for jar filling, but with this much honey, the procedure became bottlenecked at the filter.
Also, despite being fine in the past for less honey, our little plastic extractor really wasn’t up to par for the amount we had to extract.
End result: yesterday, we ordered a new, larger extractor and decided in the future we will extract one day, and filter and fill the jars later.
However, these decisions were made after slogging through the old way and spending yesterday finishing up the cleaning of the many tools we use, melting wax, and then cleaning again.
We had talked about going out to celebrate our big honey harvest, but we were so tired we ate leftover pizza on Saturday and ended up eating dinner Sunday at ten pm, so still no celebration.
Today, I began the semi-final step in rendering the wax and began filtering the honey that drained from it when I did the first melting. Then I steam-mopped the floor.
The Engineer and I also reached the momentous conclusion that we have to start selling our honey. We are simply expending too much effort and spending too much money to sustain it as a hobby without an influx of cash for the end result.
In other news, our “comb in a jar” experiment has taken a leap forward as the bees have finally(!) moved into the jars.
We looked in today when we put the second Formic Pro strips on the hives, and it looked like the bees were filling some of the comb.
How exciting is that!!
If you’re curious what 96 pounds of honey looks like, here’s a couple of pictures which show both the honey and part of the mess in the kitchen after the honey extraction.
*If you’re good at calculating, you’re may wonder how we ended up with thirty-four frames because 10+15+8 = 33, not 34. It’s because we missed replacing one frame somewhere, which means a hive has only nine. Although bees are notoriously picky about their space, this isn’t as big of a deal as one might expect. The fact is some beekeepers run nine frames instead of ten because they think the bees make more honey that way.
**The freezing is to kill any wax moth eggs in the wax so they don’t hatch and destroy the frames of comb. If the frames are being extracted immediately, it doesn’t matter because the wax is separated and rendered before any eggs can hatch.