Thursday, June 28, 2012
Oh So Sweet!
Yes, we got our very first honey from our own bees! It was not really planned, but we have a nice 1/2 pint of Straightfork honey.
Last Thursday, the county bee inspector came to inspect my hives. This is done to check to see that there are no infectious diseases within the hive that can be transferred to other bees. The inspector recommends ways to solve any problem he might find. I was really looking forward to having someone who was knowledgeable get into my hives with me to see what was what.
I learned a lot. First we got into the top bar hive, or hive #1, that we started with last year. Dave, the inspector, had never seen a TBH (top bar hive) before and he was very interested in it. Unfortunately (or fortunately depending on how you look at it) we managed to break a comb, as they are very heavy and only attached at the top. This is how I managed to procure our first honey. In the photo to the left, the broken comb is laying on my table. The yellow areas are honey that the bees have covered with wax caps. They do that once the honey is at the proper sugar/water ratio. They know when that is. The orangey brown cells in the comb have pollen stored in them. And right in the center there are a few cells (a dozen) that contain "brood" or baby bees. To the right is a cross section of the comb and you can see the honey and a few cells of pollen.
To extract the honey, I cut the wax caps off the parts of the comb that had honey and put them in a sieve over a plastic container and placed a glass mixing bowl over the whole thing and let it sit out on the sunny deck in 90+ degree heat. It worked quite well.
But before I did all this we verified that the queen was in the top bar hive (we saw her) and we scraped out some of the ants that I am having a problem with in there. We did all this over a 10 minute period of time and used NO smoke on these bees. They are so gentle. I was wearing my bee jacket, but Dave wears only a hat and veil and his regular t-shirt. No stings. No threats. Very calm hive.
Once we closed up the TBH, we moved over to hive #2, the new one I started this year. We did go ahead and smoke this hive as I have been shown some aggressive behavior by these bees when I have not used smoke. If you recall from last week's post, I had put my 3rd box on the hive less than a week prior to this inspection. We were amazed to see that the bees had drawn out (or made) comb on almost all the frames in that short period of time. There were beautiful frames of capped honey in the second box also. I asked Dave when he thought I should add another box and he suggested I do it by the end of the weekend. I wish I had remembered to take my camera up with us, but I was not expecting Dave to arrive when he did and I just forgot it. So the hives passed inspection and are thriving. All good news.
That was Thursday. Saturday I was busy all day with our fund raiser for the Humane Society (which went very well), so it was Sunday morning when I lit my smoker and put on my bee jacket and took my 4th box full of frames up to #2. Here is the hive with the 4 boxes on it. All the bees are down in the frist 3 boxes and you can see the 10 frames.
Before I put the 4ht box on top, I pulled a couple frames out of box #3 to see how they were doing.
You can see the golden honey in the center of the lovely new white comb that the bees have made in only a week. Hopefully, this whole comb will be full of honey and all capped off next time I look.
Each time I go into the hives I learn a little more, especially with an experienced beekeeper, and my confidence grows. These are fascinating creatures.
And yes, it has been hot. Though we did have a couple of cool days early this week, it is back up into the 90's today and for the next few days. The creek has completely dried up, except where Rowdy is swimming at the top. There is a spring you can see coming out from under a rock in a perfectly dry place and beyond that spring is lovely cool fresh water. It is up to my upper thighs in depth in one nice shady spot (yes, I was in it on Sunday!). But closer to the house, this is how it looks. I just love this section of the creek. It looks like someone came along an placed huge pavers down. Isn't that cool?
There was a very large poplar tree that came down in our hayfield last week and Sam worked on getting it cut up and hauled out of the field on Sunday. The tree actually took down a smaller maple tree with it when it came down. It was on the bank of the creek and it appears that too much soil was washed away by the creek to support the tree's root system anymore. The huge logs will be sawed up into boards on Sam's sawmill and the rest will become firewood in the fall.
It was all our little tractor could do to haul these huge logs home. This was the smaller one.
On the fibery front, I finished the shawlette I was knitting from my hand-dyed millspun alpaca. I think it came out pretty. Love the colors.
So now I am working on a pair of socks and a mystery knit along (KAL). The mystery KAL is fun because it is a whole group of knitters knitting the same thing and we only get pieces of the pattern at a time. Of course there is a discussion board about it on ravelry.com where pictures and comments can be shared.