Let the honey harvest begin! Sunday afternoon John began harvesting honey. A sudden thunderstorm cut his work short, so he only pulled frames from one hive. The rest will have to wait until next weekend. He was able to pull ten frames of honey from that one hive, yielding about four gallons of honey. We’ll know more exactly once we’ve put it into jars.
In this picture, John has smoked the hive using smelly stuff to drive the bees deep into the hive to avoid having them attack him. (He’ll correct me on this. I don’t know what the smelly stuff is called, probably “Smelly Stuff.” ) He pulls out each frame to check that the honey has been capped. Uncapped honey–nectar– is not yet ready to be harvested. Frames that are fully capped he pulls from the hive and replaces with an empty frame. He uses a soft brush to swish bees off the frame. Experience is such a wonderful teacher. Last year he did not use the smelly stuff effectively or use a brush and we had a horde of bees in the backyard all afternoon. And then this spring we had an appearance of bees in the basement. That was not cool. This year only two bees made it back to the house with him.
Here John cuts the caps from the frame so that we can access the honey. Frames are placed two at a time in our super-fancy honeyspinner. This super sophisticated device resembles a grey trashcan inside of which is a metal basket attached to a hand crank. I get to work the hand crank (my neck is somewhat cranky as a result). Our little centrifuge spins the honey out of the comb and it collects in the bottom of the trashcan, I mean, honey spinner.
(I’m not posting a picture of me spinning the honey because (1) John took the picture and it’s blurry and (2) I look like an idiot.)
The honey in some frames was very light and in others quite dark. The difference in color in these two pictures is not a result of lighting in the room. The honey in these frames really differed this much in color. This has to do with whatever flowers the bees were working on at the time. Last year all of the frames had dark honey. This time we spun the various colors together. The result is a lighter honey than we had last year.
Last year’s honey had a deep flavor, like molasses almost. This honey smells like wild berries. While we spun the honey, the aroma of wild berries filled the room. Tasting it, we tried to guess which berries. There is a hint of wild grape in there. Hard to say.
Here the honey is dripping from the spinner into the five-gallon storage bucket. This bucket has a spout on it for easy transfer into honey jars. We filled the bucket with about four gallons of honey from the ten frames.
We filter our honey. Some people like raw unfiltered honey, with the bit of wax and pollen still in it. But it can also have little bee parts in it, too. I’d just as soon get rid of little bee legs and such. It looks better when I drizzle it on ice cream.
The filter sits right on the storage bucket.
The four gallons that we spun on Sunday are now sitting for a few days to allow air bubble to rise. We will skim off the bubbles before putting the honey into jars, currently scheduled for Thursday evening.