Our four honey bee colonies exploded with life today and brought in loads of pollen from somewhere; we don’t know where. Here’s the video:
In other news, we’re feeding our bees back their own honey — capped and partially capped honey from the honey supers. We scraped off the cappings and installed the frames over the inner covers. The bees go mad for it. We’ve given them back about a dozen frames so far, probably close to 30 pounds of honey. We could have kept it for ourselves, but we’re happy with the 40 or so pounds they’ve already given us, which is more than we expected anyway.
Whenever the bees have a chance to do anything that contributes to the survival of the colony, they do it, even if it kills them. After a week of not doing much of anything in freezing cold weather, the bees came pouring out of hives this morning, many of them coming back loaded down with pollen.
I don’t know where they found the pollen, but I’m impressed. Here’s a cropped-in grainy shot:
It looked as if the bees were shutting down for winter, but give them some early morning sunshine and temperatures hovering a little over 10°C (50°F), and away they go, making the most of what little warm temperatures are left in this year. And where is all this pollen coming from? A late-blooming field of Goldenrod must be close by. I don’t know.
We’ve had entrance reducers on all our hives for the past few weeks, and it doesn’t look like we can remove them any time soon because the wasps (a.k.a. yellow jackets) are everywhere. They’re constantly trying to get into the hives. Here’s a photo showing about six wasps blocking a ventilation hole (most of the screened holes in our ventilator rims are filled with wasps):
My patented mouse-proof entrance reducers worked well enough for us last winter. They’re cheap and easy to build. But I decided to try something different this year. It’s not as cheap and easy, but neither is it complicated. I simply stapled some half-inch mesh over the entrances of the hives like this:
I got this tip from a Brushy Mountain video (I just can’t remember which one). I chose this method for mouse-proofing the hives this winter because it provides better ventilation. I just hope it doesn’t provide too much ventilation by allowing more cold wind to blow through the hives. Continue reading →
UPDATE (Nov. 06/11): It’s been a month since we extracted and bottled the honey — and it’s still cloudy. All the honey we bottled from crushing and straining earlier in September turned perfectly clear easily within 10 days of bottling (it looks like apple juice). I’m not sure why the extracted honey hasn’t become clear, though I suspect it’s because it was inevitably mixed with a different type of honey that was left over in the extractor before we used it.
We extracted the last eight frames from our honey bee hives this weekend. It came to about 8 litres after bottling. That’s somewhere around 25 pounds or 11kg. We extracted the honey with another beekeeper who got into beekeeping last summer the same time we did. He went before of us. Some of the following photos are of his honey — starting with this one:
The honey on his frames probably came from Goldenrod nectar. The appearance of the Goldenrod honey comb was different than our comb. The flavour of the honey was more earthy too. Our honey probably came from Japanese Knotweed and other floral sources that aren’t as distinctive as Goldenrod. It’s all good honey, though. At any rate, step one was to put all the frames in a rack on the decapping table. Continue reading →
Someone asked me, “What do you mean by ‘capped’ honey?” My answer: Capped honey is like anything that has a cap on it, like a jar of jam, for instance. If the jar of jam didn’t have a cap on it, it would dry up, go mouldy, turn rancid, start to ferment, etc. Bees are like that with their honey. First they build comb consisting of thousand of hexagonal shaped cells — those are the jars. Each cell in turn is filled with nectar. The bees evaporate the nectar until its reduced to a thick sweet liquid that we call honey. When it’s just right, they seal up the cell with a layer of wax often referred to as a cap, just like the lid on a jar of jam. Here’s a photo showing a frame of honey with cells that are capped and not yet capped. (Is “uncapped” the same as “not yet capped”? Let’s just say it is.)
The open cells are uncapped. Most of the cells in middle of the frame are capped. Hence, capped honey, sometimes referred to as fully cured honey.
Please note that this is the poor man’s version of crush and strained honey. Plastic buckets from the hardware store contain BFA, a substance that is generally not good for humans. I doubt much BFA would get into the honey in this process because the honey isn’t stored in the plastic. It mostly just passes through the plastic funnels and sits in the plastic bucket for less than a day. But still, food-grade plastic buckets are preferable. Honey meant for public consumption should never come in contact with non-food-grade plastic.
Here’s a narrated video of us harvesting the last five foundationless frames from our hives this year. We cut out 28 small squares of honey comb from a little over 1 and a half frames. We crushed and strained the rest of it and bottled it the next day.
We meant to strain the crushed comb using the 3-bucket system that requires a paint strainer, but we put the paint strainer on the wrong bucket (the paint strainer goes on the bottom bucket), so we had to improvise a bit. That mistake cost us some honey, but it wasn’t too drastic.
We made our second batch (or maybe it’s our third batch) of cut comb yesterday. It’s the last of the foundationless honey comb for this year. Our cut comb is messy and wouldn’t win any awards at the county fair — which is just the way we like it. That’s called keepin’ it real. Our method of making cut comb is simple: 1) Cut the comb from the medium sized frame. 2) Chop the comb into 18 little gooeily delicious squares. 3) Put the little squares of cut honey comb into little plastic containers. 4) That’s it. We also freeze the honey for 24 hours, but that’s something else. At any rate, it’s not the most exciting video, and it doesn’t hold a candle to my last video, Eating Raw Honey Comb, which, by the way, is the best darn tootin’ video I’ve ever posted, but here it is:
We also cut and strained a little over three frames of foundationless honey comb yesterday. I’ll post that video after we’ve bottled the honey.
I gave a friend some honey this past week, a jar of honey and a piece of cut honey comb. They took the jar but passed on the comb. I couldn’t believe it. I almost took back the jar of honey right then and there. Even now I wish I’d only given them a small jar. That’s right. I’ve become a honey snob. Sue me. I have no desire to give our honey to anyone who doesn’t appreciate it. You don’t like raw honey comb? You think it’s gross? No honey for you!
I had planned to describe the floral aromas and flavours of the honey in the video, but I became speechless as soon as I put the honey in my mouth.