After a couple of false starts (where we got all geared up and ready to extract honey, only to decide that it wasn’t quite ready yet), we finally extracted honey a couple of weekends ago. You may remember that we had one box that was full of honey when we added in the third box to the hive. The theory was that the bees would fill that second honey box up (the base box became the ‘brood box’ which was mainly for the queen to lay eggs) and then we could extract box honey boxes together. Unfortunately it didn’t quite work out like that, perhaps because we left it a bit too late in summer to add the second honey box. The second time we almost extracted honey, it looked like nothing much had happened in that second honey box and the first box looked less full than we remembered. It also looked like there were very few brood cells and we could not spot the queen (panic!). So we closed it all up again and waited for another month. A mistake as it turned out.
This time the top honey box, previously full, was now noticeably less full than the last time we looked. Later that afternoon after all the extraction was done I read my bee keepers book and it said that if you leave it too long to extract, once the weather starts getting cooler the bees start eating the honey themselves as they decide that they have enough for winter and don’t need to collect more. The population drops as they don’t want to have too many mouths to feed in the lean times, which explains why there were less brood cells. We still didn’t spot the queen this time either, but we could see larvae which means she was around at least a few days ago.
The middle honey box still had virtually nothing in it. A bit of wax was built up but pretty much no honey. That made it easy for me to remove that box and eight empty frames to store away for the winter. I took off eight frames which were about 2/3 full, for honey extraction. Live and learn. Next time I will extract the honey earlier. Never mind, the seven kilos of honey we got has made us very happy. Just enough for a jar for each of the family members, some for us, and jar for each of the kids teachers (essential according to them). Celia from Fig Jam and Lime Cordial (my “blog friend” as the kids call her) also made it onto the ‘essential’ distribution list.
The honey has a really lovely lemon taste. After his first taste of honey my dad has decided that he would like to keep bees too! We are certainly doing our share of educating people about bees. Tara did another presentation to her class about bees and the honey extraction process (any excuse for a presentation from the powerpoint queen!). And all visitors to our house are always fascinated to check out the bees.
The process of getting the honey out was fairly smooth. Sam helped me get the frames out. Andrew and Tara took them into the house in a carefully sealed and bee-free box and started the process of getting out the honey. We made sure we kept the back door closed while they were doing the honey….but they left the front door open! And sure enough, the bees found their way into the house via the open front door. Soon we had about 15 not so happy bees buzzing around the room where they were extracting the honey. Sam proved to be very adept at catching those bees (with a glass jar and piece of paper would you believe?!) and putting them outside. With all those bees buzzing around, we managed to get the whole thing done without anyone getting stung. Quite an achievement!
We allowed the honey to drain into a bucket covered with a very fine mesh filter cloth. The wax capping that was cut off each frame we gathered together in a ball and melted in a saucepan on the stove. Unfortunately I hadn’t read the bee book by that stage or I would have known to melt it over a double boiler. I would have also known to not forget it on the stove and allow it to bubble away madly. The cappings wax is supposed to be the best and is often used in cosmetics and medicinal products. I am going to try my hand at making some moisturiser with it.
An interesting thing I notice with this honey is that the bees seem to recognise the smell of their own honey and come in to investigate if I happen to leave a jar open, or even not tightly closed. They have never done this with other honey, even the similar raw honey we got from my friend Russell. Interesting.
The other day I noticed lots of dead bees lying outside my hive. Gulp. Is this natural winter sort of activity (where they kick the drones out of the hive so they don’t have to feed them over winter) or an after effect of stealing their honey? I have to do an inspection tomorrow to try and figure out what is going on. Very inconveniently Russell is away on an extended overseas holiday. Come home soon Russell, my bees need you!!