The careful insect ‘midst his works I view,
Now from the flowers exhaust the fragrant dew,
With golden treasures load his little thighs,
And steer his distant journey through the skies.
~ John Gay, Rural Sports (canto I, l. 82)
Harvesting the Honey
It is that time of the year where we get break open the hive and see what the ladies have been up to, and harvest a little of the sweet stuff for ourselves. This is our first year beekeeping so there has been a large learning element to the whole experience. Back in July we added two boxes to the brood chamber. We hadn’t realized at the time that we may have been overextending them a little bit. As you will see in the video above, the fourth box was almost entirely empty. While the bees had started laying a foundation of wax on the frames, there was no comb or honey to be found. In the third box, however, there was evidence of a very healthy hive who have been tirelessly at work storing honey, and even creating more brood. We took only three frames out because we want to make sure the hive has more than enough honey to make it through the winter.
Honey without the Extractor
Ideally, we would have a nice shiny extractor by now, but the price point has made this more of a reality for next season than this season. Luckily though, there is a DIY trick that makes harvesting honey without an extractor very possible, and rather easy too! By placing a colander atop a big metal pot, gravity does all the hard work of extracting the honey from the waxy comb. Using the hive tool, we just scrape off the comb into the colander, and within a few hours the honey has collected into the pot and is ready to be jarred.
One of the biggest differences of the fall harvest honey is that it is significantly darker than the light, bright-yellow spring honey. It reminds me more of a maple syrup – but it tastes absolutely delicious! The reason for the darker hue is that the pollen collected from the late summer flowers produces a darker product than the flowers of spring and early summer.
The next important step for us this year is to make sure that the hive has enough pollen and protein to make it through the winter. Although we were very careful to not take too much honey from them, we decided that we will supplement their diet with something called “pollen patties.” These are moist patties made up of pollen, sugar, soy, yeast and water. By feeding the hive in fall with this supplement we hope to ensure they are well fed throughout the winter and also help give them a boost for spring. We will be adding these to the hive in a few weeks.
It may seem odd that straight exposure to pollen often triggers allergies but that exposure to pollen in the honey usually has the opposite effect…In honey the allergens are delivered in small, manageable doses and the effect over time is very much like that from undergoing a whole series of allergy immunology injections.
~Thomas Leo Ogren, “Allergy-Free Gardening”