I harvested some honey from my hive the other day. It was hot – a great day to visit the hive, as the bees were mostly out foraging so there are less in the hive. Also, it’s better to do it on a hot day so you don’t lower the temperature in the hive (varroa survive at lower temps so it can encourage them to flourish by opening the hive too much).
So I dressed in a full set of clothes to cover myself, as the bees can sting straight thorough my suit so best to have an extra layer. Then the bee suit on top, complete with wellies & long gloves. It was extremely hot!
I had my smoker ready with added Lavender to help calm the bees. An experienced bee inspector had told me it’s good to add calming herbs. Seems a no-brainer, but not something you are generally taught in books.
After checking the supers and how much honey the bees had, I decided to take 5 frames. This left the quite vigorous hive with an entire super of honey plus what was in the brood chamber, for their winter stores.
I have recently read that its a good idea to take less than you think, and you can always check the hive in the spring and take a little more then if the bees seem to have extra.
I avoid feeding them any sugar syrup unless it’s a new nucleus. They make honey to feed themselves, so best to let them keep what they need.
So back to the title of my blog. Is it ‘keeping’ bees? I argue not. They cannot be kept, they are wild creatures and do their wild thing. And they definitely aren’t keen on hive robbery! Which is ultimately what I feel I am doing. For thousands of years people have been taking honey from wild bees to satisfy our sweet tooth. Imagine the feeling the first human had when they tasted honey! I am humble and grateful for this amazing bounty on my doorstep, and for really surprisingly little effort. I robbed 5 kilos of honey this year, up 2kg from last year. Hoping to get another hive going in the spring.
Wonderful feisty little creatures, I plant many plants for their delectation, and am tasting this biodiversity in their honey.
Long live the bee.
Two of the 5 frames I robbed. Notice the thick comb they have built on the side of the frame.
My non technical method of getting the honey out of the combs. With scissors I cut the comb of of the frames into a large pan. Using a potato masher I mash up the comb to release the honey. Then strain through muslin supported by a colander into another pan. Leave overnight to drain before transferring into clean jars.
Keep the comb for candle making….but thats another story!