I’m feeling very blessed today after completing an extraction of honey from two separate hives for a client.
One colony, is in its third year since swarming into their Warre hive, and the other was a swarm caught last summer and placed into a WBC ( William Broughton Carr, traditional looking hive) .
‘No1’ gave us a little honey last summer. All natural comb in an eke placed above the two standard Warre boxes. We’d also had at least two swarms from her last year and one this year.
“Honey has all the trace elements and combined nutrition, perfect for bee health and immunity”
We only do full inspections twice a year, Spring & late summer but we visit the Bees at least once a week so they know who we are. It’s very important that the bees do recognise you, it’s very easy to forget this and march straight in, taking honey or going through frames and it certainly doesn’t go down well if they don’t recognise you, not surprising then if they attack!
On Friday we visited talking to them about our intentions to take the full eke of honeycomb. The two brood boxes have observation windows and we’d seen how extensive their honey stores were and knew that they’d have enough to get them through the winter after we’d taken ‘our share’. All was calm with all the colonies and so Monday morning we were all set for extraction!
“Warm but overcast, we visited Winifred in the WBC and prepared to open her up.”
Monday’s weather was perfect after the much needed rain of the weekend. Warm but overcast, we visited Winifred in the WBC and prepared to open her up. We had two super boxes and took 13 capped frames from them, leaving the rest. and their overflowing brood box to keep them going through the winter. Whatever we extract, we keep a portion of it aside to return to the bees should they need it during the winter months. It’s a responsibility when caring for bees to ensure that they can remain healthy, and honey has all the trace elements and combined nutrition, perfect for bee health and immunity. Bees collect pollen and nectar and make honey to last their colony through the winter, following summer if weather is not good, the next winter and into Spring, hoping that the following Spring dandelion or Rapeseed crop would get them going again. I do wonder if the bees can foresee weather patterns and so what looks to us like a great honey crop is actually a foretelling of some tough seasons ahead?
By taking individual frames from the super and placing them in an empty super on a garden tray, we are able to ensure that only fully capped honey is removed and that any bees can return to their hive before loading the honey into my van. Using goose feathers or fresh grass to brush the bees off we were able to cover the frames with a tablecloth bee free.
Next we visited No 1 in the Warre hive. Having been pre warned, they were very calm and not too bothered at all about us taking the eke full of honey comb. Again, any stray bees were gently brushed off and returned to their full brood boxes.
I do wonder if the bees can foresee weather patterns and so what looks to us like a great honey crop is actually a foretelling of some tough seasons ahead?
Grateful of our harvest we travelled to my kitchen, already prepped for extraction and set to work.
“By replacing any utensils and wax into the hive, the bees clean up all the honey…”
Using a very clever honey comb cutter, we were able to cut the fresh honeycomb into chunks that fitted into trays ready to be sealed and returned to the client. By placing the honey comb on an oven grill with a tray beneath, any honey drips through and can be collected later. We were extremely impressed to fill 42 boxes and had a healthy quantity of off cuts for straining and returning to the bees to ‘clean up’. By replacing any utensils and wax into the hive, the bees clean up all the honey and the remaining clean wax can then the melted to use in candles or potions and creams.
All the frames from Winifred were spun using a manual tangential extractor after we’d sliced the cappings off from the comb. If the cappings aren’t removed then the honey can’t be spun out.
The honey is left to settle, running down from the insides of the extractor and then poured through a filter into jars. This is pure raw honey, with the bits of bees and large chunks of wax caught in the filter (usually a fine stainless steel sieve or clean tights for a finer strain!) Tasting the honey, we found that the cut comb was a selection of bean blossom, through multi floral with lime, each flavour stored separately by the bees.
From the clients 15 colonies, we only took honey from these two, ensuring that we only harvest from the strongest hives and ensuring that we leave enough honey for the bees, which is the most important factor!With my ‘Bee Team’ we look after various client’s colonies throughout the year, only using natural swarming methods and no chemical treatments. We also only feed with a pollen and nutrient rich organic fondant when bees are at risk of starving, for instance a small cast swarm or after a long hard winter. By ensuring that most honey is left with the bees maximises their chances for survival and good health, after all, honey is made for the bees!
If you’d like the Bee Team to help you with placing, choosing and management of bee hives, leave a comment and we’ll get in touch!