I pulled this funny looking 5-pounder of comb honey from one of my hives yesterday. No humans or bees were harmed. The honey extractor known as a “Flow Hive” would deprive me of this experience. Beekeeping, for me, is about being close to the bees. Honey is the bonus.
Or as we say in French, Bombes au Chocolat de Miel.
I made some chocolate covered honey comb loosely based on an idea or recipe I stole from page 157 of the American Bee Journal, the February 2020 edition, and boy oh boy was it delicious.
I made some with milk chocolate too, but the dark chocolate ones were the best. The milk chocolate ones were a little too sweet. It all just blended together, whereas the dark chocolate made the comb honey flavour, along with the smooth velvety feel of the beeswax, jump up and say, “Wow!”
By the way, this simple method of dipping comb honey in chocolate should work well with anything. Whatever the kids can think of dunking into chocolate, go for it. (So said the person who has only done this once.)
This is Fireweed honey:
There’s a big difference between Fireweed and regular Wildflower honey. Take a look:
Here’s a less-than-5-minute video of me extracting some honey outdoors, something I wouldn’t recommend to anyone new at this beekeeping foolishness. (Cut down from a 15-minute video.) The video works as a review of the Maxant 3100p extractor which cost me $1400 (Canadian) after taxes and shipping a few years ago. Spoiler alert: The 9-frame extractor does the job, but the legs that come with it are useless. Don’t even bother with them. The base of the extractor needs to be bolted down to something unmovable and secure to operate properly and safely.
So I pulled out my honey extractor and used it to whip some honey out of about six or seven medium frames. The honey wasn’t completely cured. That is, it wasn’t completely capped and some of the nectar was still floating around fancy and loose and therefore, technically, it wasn’t honey. But it was (and is) technically delicious, so who cares? Not me. I don’t sell it for public consumption, but I eat it all the time and so do my friends. It’s probably not a bad honey for making mead.
I stole some comb honey from my bees for the first time in about three years.
The bees quickly drew out and filled the comb soon after local fireweed came into bloom, which makes me think it’s mostly fireweed honey. Pure fireweed honey is virtually colourless. It almost looks like it’s made from sugar syrup. I’ve only tasted it once in Newfoundland from hives set up in Logy Bay. I’ve tasted other honey in Newfoundland that claims to be fireweed, but the colour and taste of it makes me think it’s a mix. A pure varietal honey in Newfoundland, with wild flowers growing everywhere, seems unlikely.
The best liquid honey in my book is the stuff that’s been filtered through beeswax like I do in this video. It might look gross, but it’s exquisite.
The only honey I tasted before learning to become a beekeeper was the usual pasteurized junk sold in grocery stores. Now that I have access to raw honey made by honey bees that I know up close and personal, it’s a whole other world of appreciation. In my household of two, we consume about 4 litres of honey every year. Here’s what it looks like when I stick it in the freezer, with an extra jar thrown in because why not?
I extracted about 13 kg / 30 pounds or about 11 litres of honey from one of my hive’s today. Here’s a clip of the honey being strained:
Straining today's #honey harvest.
— Mud Songs Beekeeping (@MudSongsBeek) September 25, 2016
Considering that this was a rebuilding year for me and honey was not a priority, 13 kg is more than enough to make me happy. I’ll easily have enough to keep myself in honey until this time next year.
One more time, but in slow motion!
When I kept my bees in Logy Bay and Portugal Cove, I used to get light honey in the spring and dark honey in the fall. This honey is not dark. Judging from what I’ve seen in bloom in my area of Flatrock, I would guess it’s made mostly from Fireweed and Clover nectar, both of which produce a light honey. It doesn’t have the creamy opaque appearance of Goldenrod honey, nor any of the darkness of Japanese Knotweed honey. I look forward to next year when, hopefully, most of my colonies will come into spring at full strength instead of slowly building up over the summer like they had to do this year.
I plan (that is, I hope) to extract two medium supers full of honey this weekend. But first I need to remove the bees from the honey supers. I do that by placing an escape board beneath the honey supers. Some people call them bee escape boards, but it’s obvious that we’re talking about bees here, so I just call them escape boards. Here’s a video I recorded today that demonstrates how it works:
The bees pass down through a hole in the board (usually at night when they want to be closer to the warmth of the cluster), then through a maze covered by a mesh that leads to the brood chamber. The maze is so massively complicated that the bees are unable to find their way back through it. Within a few days most or all of the bees (in theory) will have “escaped” from the honey super so that humans can easily remove it without bothering anyone.