Thursday, July 08, 2010

Honey Dripping


After harvesting the frame of honeycomb that was so badly ripped in our last hive inspection, Robb and I returned the empty frame to the hive. Many beekeepers use a centrifugal extractor, but Robb and I are going low-tech, and using the crush-and-strain method.

We cut the honeycomb out of the frame with a sharp knife, drop it into a stainer bag, and mash it up with the back of a spoon or a pestle. Then we suspend the bag over a pitcher, and let the honey drip out.

It's remarkably un-messy, when you consider all the honey involved. There's no gear to buy, and it doesn't use electricity.

We hadn't been planning on harvesting honey last week, but when we tore the comb that the bees had built, honey dripped everywhere, and were obliged to collect it because the spilled honey was drowning bees.

Today, when we went to return the harvested frame, the same thing happened. The bees seem compelled to glue together all of their combs, which then get torn to pieces when Robb and I move the frames around.

This prompted another impromptu honey harvest. I'd share pictures, except I haven't worked out a very photogenic system, and I really don't want to get honey all over my camera.

This is what a harvested frame looks like. I love the frame-hanging thingamajigger. It frees up my hands, and is so helpful for photography. I just have to remind myself that it is there, and not lean into it, when I'm looking into the hive. I don't need to jam my torso into a frame-full of bees!

It will be interesting to see how long it takes the bees to build new comb on this frame. Twenty minutes after returning this frame to the hive, the bees were already hard at work.


Christine said...

I love the last photo of the bees linked together (forget what you call it, but I know you've talked about it before)- it's like they're on invisible comb!

. . . Lisa and Robb . . . said...

You're right about that, Christine.


Anonymous said...

So, how do you separate the honey from the bees? Certainly they don't come into the house for the spoon/pestle process...

Just wondering,

Kay/The Little Foxes said...

I like the last photo too - only I thought they were breaking into an impromptu honey-bee version of "YMCA"....... ;-))

. . . Lisa and Robb . . . said...

We use a brush that I made out of turkey feathers to brush the bees off the honeycomb. If that doesn't work, we puff smoke on them, which usually moves them along.

If the frame is broken, and dripping honey, it's more difficult to evict the bees. They want to gather up the honey and bring it back into the hive.

Stefaneener said...

I wonder if interleaving the frames between straightly drawn ones would help. This is one of the reasons I went away from top-bar frames. If I used some foundationless frames now, I think I'd put them in between ones with comb on them, hoping that the bees would stay straight. What about "leaves" of wax foundation from top to bottom in strips, as guides? Or maybe it doesn't bother you very much! I'm pretty OCD about straight comb.


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