Thursday, October 14, 2010

How Sweet It Is!

2010 Honey Harvest!  The bee art is a linoleum block print by Cadence.

We have a honey harvest!
I wasn't so sure we would. My bees had several setbacks this year--first they swarmed in May, then I lost my queen and all the brood. I got a frame of brood (the developing eggs and larvae) from another beekeeper and from that my bees raised a new queen, but queens raised this way are not as productive as hybrid queens.
Last week my beekeeper friend Sue helped me check out my hive.  Darn, we found NO honey in the super, the top box of frames supposed to be full of honey intended for the beekeeper.  But in the  deeps, the bottom boxes  with larger frames for  brood and honey stores for the bees,  there were many heavy frames of beautiful capped honey. Sue thought there was plenty for me to remove a couple frames and have a small harvest and still leave enough for the bees this winter.
As the cells of the comb are filled with honey, the bees cap it off with pretty cream-colored beeswax. I removed this frame that was  full of capped honey on both sides and another that was about half full.
Since I don't have an extractor (a piece of equipment that spins the frames, extracting the honey through centrifugal force) I sliced off the thin wax layer and set the frames into a fine plastic sieve fitted into a 5 gallon bucket.  Honey drizzled slowly, very, very slowly, down the frames, was filtered by the sieve and dripped into the bucket.
After two days I got impatient with gravity and I scraped all the comb off the frame, squeezing the honey out of it as well as I could.  This was much faster. And stickier -- by the time I was done, I managed to get the entire kitchen sticky.
After squeezing the honey out of the wax, I washed the  wax in a bowl of clean, warm water;  I can use the wax to make candles (someday!) and I will feed the honey-water to my bees. I didn't wash the sticky frames --I reinserted them into the hive and the bees will clean them up (they never waste a drop of honey)  and start constructing new comb on them.
I was pleasantly surprised to end up with 2 quarts of honey from the two frames!  The honey is a beautiful amber color, and a bit cloudy.  The cloudiness is caused by  tiny bits of   pollen, wax, and propylis suspended in the honey.  I could clarify it by further filtering and pasteurizing it, but heating would destroy all the micronutrients that make raw honey so nutritious.
This honey is most scrumptious that has ever touched my tongue.  I can taste the prairie wildflowers from which it was made!  It is also the most extravagantly expensive honey I have ever tasted -- not counting my time, my cost has been well over $100 per pint.  However, in future years my costs will  be much less and I expect to become a much better beekeeper.  Plus, the value of the bees is much more than the honey they produce-- they also pollinate our vegetables and flowers and provide much enjoyment.


Toodie said...

So happy you got some honey this year. As a kid we used to buy square honey comb, yum!!!!

Ribbit said...

Theyre is an earthiness to home honey that just can't be matched with isolated clover honey bees.

Congratulations on your first harvest. You'll be thrilled with the results, I'm sure.

katiegirl said...

WOW! Great job! The honey is so pretty in those jars!

gz said...

good for you for not going down the sugar water route

Stephen said...

Yeah! I agree with katiegirl.. those honey in the jars are so lovely..!

I love honey, they have many usage aside from culinary, they can be use also as remedies for certain ailment.

Health Is Riches