After spending some time away on our holidays we returned to the cottage keen to harvest the honey. Apparently the end of August is the usual time to harvest for most people here but we felt that the ‘flow’ was tailing off and we need to treat with anti-varroa medicine before even beginning the winter feed.
The actual harvesting was today but it began yesterday evening when I ventured out to place clearing boards and bee escapes on two of the hives. The idea is that the bees can move only one way through the bee escapes and therefore they slowly empty the box where all the honey is stored overnight. Our bees are usually quite gentle and I have inspected them without smoke on several occasions. With this in mind I approached and opened a hive and began to clear a little surplus wax away in preparation for the clearing board. ATTACK! Nearly instantly a squadron of a hundred bees went straight for my veil and tried to sting me and relay their anger. I dandered back to my kit box to get my smoker, it seems that an overcast evening near the end of the flow changes my docile little cuddly bees into……normal bees.
This afternoon we collected a nearly-full eight frames from one hive and two frames from another hive. Once we deemed them to be bee-free they were brought into the kitchen. Just before the harvesting began we had to close up all the windows in the cottage to make sure the bees could not steal the honey back. Then we had to find the little man’s winnie the pooh bear and lock it in a cupboard for the rest of the evening; we were taking no chances.
When the bees have turned the nectar into honey they cap the cells in wax to seal it up.
The first job is to remove the wax cappings with a knife.
After doing one frame this way we quickly moved on to using a de-capping fork as it seemed more efficient.
Two frames at a time; they were spun in a big drum with a crankshaft. The honey splattered against the side of the drum and ran down to a big honey tap ready for the next stage.
The honey was then filtered through two filters to remove all the floating bits of wax and the occasional, although rare, bit of bee leg and such things. No-one likes bee legs in their honey.
Now we have a big 30lb tub of honey which is having a rest for a day or two to lose its bubbles before it is bottled. Although we do have a little bowl sitting in front of us now. It is resting below a jelly strainer full of honey heavy wax cappings. It is sitting absorbing the warmth of the woodstove and as it drips down we can’t resist the occasional little finger dipped into the bowl.