As the seasons change, it is time to begin feeding the bees. This helps to ensure their survival over the upcoming winter months. In the fall, bees take a 2:1 sugar syrup.Yesterday, I planned to place the sugar syrup feeders on the hives. Here on Cape Cod, our club suggests feeding them for the first two weeks in October. Since I was already suited up, I also decided to do this year’s final hive inspections. These would be the last full inspections before spring next year. Little did I know that it would unexpectedly be my first honey harvest.
To my delight, all three of my hives have done well. They have good stores of honey and seems to be rather stocked up for winter. Unfortunately as I opened the fullest the hive on my property, I accidentally broke one of the frames inside the deep. I had forgotten that when they are this packed with honey, it is always easiest to pull the number two frame versus the number one frame. Late in the season, the first frame is usually “glued” to the wall of the hive with propolis. I ended up pulling the top bar of the frame completely off! I did this last year too. When will I learn?!
I could have left the frame in place until next spring or I could have dealt with it then. I decided since this hive was chock full of honey on the other 19 frames, that it would be okay for me to take just this one frame for myself. So, I placed a new frame with new foundation into the hive and brought the broken frame, heavy with honey inside. I would be using the cookie sheet method of extraction for this one frame.
I took a large cookie sheet from the pantry and placed it on the counter top. I stood the frame up on the cookie sheet and with a large serrated bread knife, I ran it down along the top of the capped honeycombs. Honey began to ooze. Once I uncapped all of the cells, I placed it face down on the cookie sheet. The honey began to drip out of the cells onto the cookie sheet. With a bit more finagling from a smaller knife, I was able to remove most of this side’s honey. The process was slow. Finally the frame was empty of most of the honey. I returned it to the top portion of the hive where I had placed the feeder. This way the bees could remove the rest of the honey over a couple of days. It was temporary.
Back inside, I began the laborious process of filtering the honey comb out of the honey. I wanted to strain out bits of honey comb. For this small job, I used a knee-high pantyhose. Over the clean glass jars, I placed a funnel and with a silicone spatula I scooped up the honey. I let the honey run off the spatula and into the pantyhose. It drained into the funnel and into the jar. The method was sound but slow. No matter the technique, honey extraction is laborious! In no time, the kitchen was covered in honey. I was covered in honey. I had it on my clothes, my hands, arms and even on my bare feet! In the end I harvested four six ounce jars. After two years of beekeeping, I finally had my first bit of honey.