Sunday, November 4, 2012

Honey Time!

We are collecting some honey from the bees, and I just wanted to give a bit of an update.

We cut the comb off that we want to harvest and break it up into this bucket.
The bucket has holes in it and it sits on top of a grease splatter gard so that it falls into the bottom bucket and all the wax remains in the top bucket. Emily particularly enjoyed smashing up the comb so that the honey is released.

This is what the comb looks like right out of the hives:
Note the top bars that we have been using ar cut off on the left of the bucket.
 In a traditional Langstroth hive, these would be left in the frame and spun out using a honey centrifuge, you can do that with top bar hives also although it is much harder to get all of the honey without damaging the comb significantly. One other thing to mention at this point is that traditional commercial bee keepers try to save as much comb as possible. Generally this is because the bees use a lot of honey drawing out comb (it takes a lot of energy to make that much wax). The problem with that approach is that most bee diseases come from comb that is used over and over and over again. That kind of re-use does increase honey production but it also increases the pesticides brought into the hive from the flowers that the bees are visiting, it allows diseases like nosemea and foulbrood to get a foothold against the hives natural defenses, it allows parasites like varoa destructor to infest beyond recovery. A close analogy would be what if you used the same set of sheets for several years before changing them, oh and you ate all your meals in your bed, and did most of your work in bed. By allowing the bees to make new comb we sacrifice some honey, but we also clean the bees sheets. I think it is a welcome trade off in order to have healthier bees.

 After about a week, we end up with this:
The honey has strained through into the bottom bucket, and the wax is left in the top bucket. You can see a little honey still in the wax but it is almost out.  We will melt down this wax along with some of the brood combs that we culled from the hive and make some yummy smelling bees wax for something.

Here is the paper bag full of brood comb ready for melting: 
The darker comb is where the baby bees were raised, our queen sure had a bunch of babies!!!
It sure is fun to see the end of the process that started so many months ago.