July 17, 2017  22° Sticky                                 graphic: Dallas Guihan

"Hello fresh air and sunshine, come pouring through my room."            g.clair

Thirty-two hives seemed like a good idea this spring, when the bees were so audibly happy to be freed of their winter cloaks and the post-rain forage was promising wondrous things to come. 

Now those wondrous things have come to pass, transformed into quantities of honey I have never seen from my smaller 8-frame hives. Super after super loaded with frames of honey two inches thick, with bright white cappings, early and heavenly. We can't stop dipping our fingers into the honey pooling on the drip boards below. So wonderful, so different from last year's dark, thick woodsy honey...

But back to the harvest. I have to admit, I love the honey, but dread taking it from the bees. They work so hard for it. I do my best to be as non-invasive as possible, but of course, they know their honey is being taken away. After trying a few approaches, I found the triangle bee escapes work best for me. For those non-beekeepers, bee escapes go under the honey for a couple of days which allows the bees to return to the brood nest in the evening, or go back to foraging, but not to return. After two days, we can remove the honey supers with very few bees and little disturbance to the hive. What bees are left tend to fly back to the hive from the honey house. It's a lot of lifting, though. Felicia and I lift all the supers off, check to see if the frames are capped (if they aren't, the supers go back on the hive under the bee escape so the bees can keep working on it), put the bee escapes on and then the honey supers back on. Two days later we're lifting all the honey supers again, loading them on the wagon and then lifting them off the wagon in the house house. Each of them weighs between 25 and 35 pounds. I have 44 supers.

The reason the frames are so thick is that most of my frames are drawn comb now, so I can place 7 in a super rather than 8, giving the bees more room for honey for each frame. This makes the frame easier to uncap (don't forget we're using a cold knife or uncapping fork). I think it gives us more honey as well.

Harvest time is 'all hands on deck'. Payton, Felicia's sister is helping again this year. And Megan and Dallas have arrived to help. In addition to documenting the process (above) Dallas runs the extractor. He's methodical and safe, using a timer to make sure the frames are clean and ready to be replaced on the hives. Bees love this part, they get the yummy frames back to lick off and fill with nectar. I get them back on as fast as I can, and all is forgiven. (I hope.)

Honey! So much honey! The 100 kg. tanks fill quickly and then I am using every available 5-6 gallon pail. In the end we have more than 800 pounds for this early harvest. Yikes! This is as much as we extracted for all of last year's god-forsaken drought impaired harvest. This will translate into 70-80 cases, requiring another order of jars and labels. Some beekeepers do one harvest at the end of the season, but my honey always sells out the previous year, so my retail customers are eager to get some early honey, so I do two harvests, one in July and one in August. 

So I get to do this all over again in just a few weeks.