Though it’s a sweaty affair, harvesting honey in 100° weather is liquid joy. This morning, I took 2 gallons from my backyard hive and the floral ambrosia flowed fast and light. Divine!
The Bee Team at Google (80 people strong) just harvested its first combs of honey last week.
Under the helpful guidance of Bill Tomaszewski of Marin Bee Company, Googlers took turns uncapping the honey (removing the protective wax that bees use to cover a cell once it’s filled with honey), hand-cranking the honey extraction machinery to spin the honey out of the honey comb and pouring the honey through filters to remove the bits of wax and other particles that came from the hive.
Together with Jodi and James from the City Open Space crew, we harvested a box of honey from the cottonwood tree hive. It’s a dark buttery fall honey without a hint of astringency. As part of our volunteer efforts, we kindly tracked honey and mud all throughout the Westside Visitor’s Center and used every wet towel on site.
Want to try Albuquerque Open Space honey and donate to their programs? You can buy a jar or two at this Saturday’s Urban Farm Fest but get there early as supplies are limited.
Despite setbacks in the Valley, our Nob Hill hives are jamming. This weekend, we harvested 5 gallons of honey, rendering our kitchen a veritable storage unit for the Apocalypse (In case of peak oil or Doomsday, you now know where to find a cache of sweetener.)
It’s a gorgeous toasted-butter hue with flavors of backyard fruit trees and honey locust. You’ll find our Spring 2010 vintage on the menu this month at the James Beard-nominated restaurant, Jennifer James 101, and at the Pollinator Celebration on June 26. Ooh la la! I’m so excited.
So angry pesticide-spraying farmers be damned! I’m spreading a thick layer of honey on my toast this morning like a miniature revolution.
Or as they say, in the parlance of our times, “Sometimes you eat the bar, sometimes the bar eats you.”
Brushing bees off honey frames I’m about to pilfer isn’t fun for anyone. The bees get testy, I get buzzed, and by the time I’ve cleared bees off all the frames in a box, everyone’s beyond foul in mood. Waiter, make that a double!
That’s why I simply adore the bee escape, aka “clearer board”. What is a bee escape, you ask? It’s essentially a one-way valve that allows bees to leave but doesn’t let ’em back in. Perfect for clearing a box of honey with minimal stress to me and the bees.
So how do you use it? Oh do allow me, darlings. Continue reading
This here’s a little tale about how we supered our top bar hive. Yep, I hear the purists cringing and the aesthetes too. And they’re right — we’ve got a Frankenstein on our hands.
Why did we do it?
The Kerry hive is full beyond belief — every bar is packed with honey, pollen, and fresh worker brood. No matter how many bars I harvest, the girls are drawing more within a short week or two and showing no signs of a slow down. It’s a full house.
So, rather than fight the gift of a madly productive hive, we’re rolling with it.
How did we do it?
First, let me admit it’s all my partner’s idea.
He’s obsessed with Langstroth hives and secretly bought a couple to “experiment with.” Next thing I know, I hear myself saying it’s OK to add Langstroth honey supers to a top bar hive which, were I sober or not in love with him, I’d have thought the most perverse of sins.
So here’s what we did:
- Remove one bar from the back of the hive
- Cut spacers about 3/8 inch (enough to allow “bee space”)
- Put spacers between bars at the back of the hive
- Place an empty super on top of the spaced bars at the back of the hive
- To provide evenness for a cover, place an empty super at the front of the hive (there’s no space yet between the bars underneath this super)
- Place a cover on top of both supers
And here’s the photo essay version…
Despite quite convincing threats, the Kerry hive never swarmed. And you know what that means — HONEY.
Over the past couple days, I’ve harvested 25 pounds of fragrant Spring honey from the Kerry hive whose occupants gave up swarming in favor of foraging. Every bar but two in that hive was filled with either honey, brood, or pollen which means my kitchen has been sacrificed to the honey gods for a full-time straining operation.
I’m out of strainers, I’m out of jars. And yet the honey still flows.
Albuquerque bee-man TJ Carr is endlessly engineering new tools and methods to ease the plight of top-bar beekeepers like myself. His latest nugget of beekeeping wisdom is a gravity-filtration system for honey harvesting from top bar hives.
This weekend, I tried it for myself. With a filtration system dependent totally on gravity and 24 lazy hours, let’s just say it fit right into my schedule.
Wanna try it for yourself? Here are some more details to get you started.