Sunday, 9 November 2014
When we got our hive and small nucleus of bees , complete with queen, earlier this year , we thought it would just be a case of establishing a colony, keeping them alive and healthy, in the hope that they'd produce enough honey stocks to help them survive throughout the winter ready to multiply and produce lots of honey next year. HOWEVER!!! We didn't take into account what a brilliant summer we would have this year, plus the fact that our hive is the only one for miles around so they had free range to forage far and wide (well up to 3 miles away)in an around the village of Llwyngwril. Our hive was also situated in our walled garden where there was an absolute abundance of foraging material from flowering fruit trees, flowering green bean plants and dozens of sweet pea plants. In early September I cleared and removed the top super (a section of the hive with 10 frames of honeycomb, where the bees store honey and the queen is excluded from laying eggs). It was groaning with capped honey! Meanwhile I'd added another 10 frames of fresh wax foundation to another super in the hope that they might still be collecting and storing nectar and pollen. I asked my mentor, Paul, if I could go and watch him extract some of his honey , so that I would know what to do when I borrowed a spinner from the local beekeeping association. He kindly suggested that I bring my frames to his place and use his electric spinner. I was there like a shot! The whole process took less than an hour. My 10 frames were turned into 26 jars of clear runny honey with minimal fuss, effort or stickiness! Paul told me to put the super of wet frames back into the hive for the bees to 'lick' the remains of the honey off the combs to take back down into the brood box to store for the winter. I did this and after inspecting the hive a week later , found that they hadn't 'licked' it dry but continued to produce more honey! They'd also filled and capped the frames I'd added a week or two earlier. The bees were doing so well, I had to buy another super and make up 10 more frames! I couldn't keep up! So after a fantastic October we had another 20 frames full of capped honey to extract and the bees still had a super full of honey to keep themselves, as well as lots of honey in the brood box (where the queen was still busily laying eggs!). I didn't want to impose on Paul again so managed to track down the beekeeping association's manual extractor and brought it back to Pen y Lon. Mike and I spent an exhausting afternoon using this extractor. We had to take turns, with one vigorously cranking the handle while the other sat on top of the drum to keep it from jumping around the kitchen! We managed to extract a couple of plastic bucketsful of deliciously smelling honey but there was also honey everywhere and the buckets had a scum of particles of wax about 2 cms deep on the top. What to do now? We'd passed it through a double honey sieve but that obviously wasn't fine enough. Muslin! That was the answer! The honey wouldn't go off so it could wait until we'd been over to York for a family visit. We managed to buy some muslin in a Lakeland shop. We were all set! Back home and we set about straining a ladleful of honey through the muslin into a clean jam jar. 12 hours later and it was still straining - literally! Back to the drawing board. We tried cheesecloth but the holes in that just stretched so anything could pass through. In the end we just strained the honey again through finer plastic sieves and eventually all the honey was jarred up- 44 jars in all! It does have a fine film of wax on top but hey, what does it matter? SO ........ we were just going to give jars of honey to friends and family as presents but we'd still have shelves groaning with jars of honey. We may as well sell it. Anyone know anyone who would like to buy some? We've also got the Beekeeping Association AGM coming up where everyone tastes each others honey. How will ours compare? Will they be able to taste runner bean and sweet pea?