We are super excited to finally harvest honey from our honeybees! Jon and I have been beekeeping for four years and this is the first year we have collected honey. It's kind of embarrassing to relay this information to others but here is a quick overview to explain why. The first year I was over-zealous in the hive inspections and went in the hive at least one time each week and I think that stressed the colony which made them fail early winter not to mention it was Oregon and moisture was an issue. They also put off two swarms immediately after introducing them in the spring which reduced their numbers so the chances of excess honey were small. The second year I had 3 swarms off one hive and the few frames that contained honey were kept for a spring feeding the next year (colonies survived the winter). The third year we moved across the country and sold the hives (they survived the winter) so we had to start with new hives that contained bare foundation and the queen failed the first week of June. It's been a bit unnerving to not receive gallons upon gallons of honey like other beekeepers do, but we also manage our hives a bit differently than others which has affected the amount of excess honey our bees make. For one thing, we don't feed our colonies gallons of sugar water in the fall and spring to bulk up their food stores. There are many reasons for this, one being we don't think processed table sugar is a healthy diet for the bees. We want to raise honeybees with strong immune systems. We also don't treat our bees for diseases because we want strong, hygienic, healthy genetics in our apiary. Harvesting honey is a secondary reason for us keeping bees, increased pollination is the first.
All together we removed 9 frames with capped foundation from the colony that survived the winter. The second colony was a package of bees introduced this spring.
Most frames were completely covered.
We used an electric carving knife at first to remove the cappings but we found the honey gummed up the blades and almost over-heated the motor so we used a regular bread knife and that did the trick!
Our apiary is going to expand so Jon decided to get the large 9 frame extractor. We spent many hours researching homemade extractors and were hoping to make one ourselves, but we don't know how to weld and don't know of anyone who does food-grade welding (for a reasonable price) and we really wanted to keep everything in stainless steel so we just bought one in the end. We did save $50.00 by making our own stand completely out of reused pallets.
We couldn't wait to see the honey flow out the gate! A fine mesh colander was used to filter out the wax.
The next morning we opened the garage door and let the honeybees clean out the extractor for us. It was quite the feeding frenzy and we had mixed feelings about doing this. We did notice honeybees wrestling on the ground trying to sting each other and there were several dozen bees dead on the ground and in the wax. We're thinking the 2 hives were fighting over the food. Laying the extractor and bucket on it's side did decrease the number of dead bees because it was easier for the bees to fly out. We left all of the cappings on a cookie sheet and they cleaned up that too in addition to the honey bucket and tools.
Jon counted 129 honeybees in this picture and highlighted them with yellow dots.
Here's the colander that filtered out the wax as it left the extractor. The bees cleaned it up so well that it was just a bunch of wax sprinkles in the end.
Jon found this itty bitty worm during the bottling process. I'm pretty sure it's a wax worm. I've only had them in my apiary once and that was the first year of beekeeping. I found the web-like material on one frame while putting away the dead hive in the middle of winter.
I forgot to take a picture when the wax was added to the solar wax melter so this is showing the left over sediment and dead bees left behind after the wax melted.
And the total count was...20.25 pounds! Honey jars are officially on the canning shelf with the rest of our harvest. For a family of three, this would be more than enough for one year, but for us, we don't think we'd have too much. With all of our canning, mead making, and baking, we would need a lot of honey if we decided to no longer use processed sugar.