It is hard to imagine that attending a library program two years ago would result in jars and jars of honey!
This past March when we opened the hive, there was no sign of life. It was a hard winter for bees, a common occurrence throughout Ohio. We ordered another package, Italian bees this time, and they had a head start in spring from all the work the Russian bees accomplished last year. For Bob’s birthday in May I bought him a queen excluder – a piece of metal which sits between the boxes (also known as “supers” in the bee world) and keeps the queen out of all the boxes above it. The slats are too small for her to fit through, but the worker bees can get through easily. Everything above this excluder is honey – no eggs, no larvae, etc.
In July we opened the hive and saw the frames in the top super were filled with capped honey (if it isn’t capped, it’s not ready to collect). The frames in the box below were almost fully capped. We knew it was time to seriously think about harvesting!
Friends of ours are beekeepers, and they graciously let us borrow all their honey-gathering equipment. After listening to their sage advice and watching many You Tube videos, we were ready to begin. The frames came out of the supers, the wax-cutting knife was plugged in and hot, the wax was cut off the frames, the frames were put in the extractor, the extractor was spun as fast as we could spin it, the honey was drained out through two strainers into a collection bucket, and when we opened the “honey gate”, the jars below filled with honey.
The first night we filled 35 4-ounce jars, and the next night we filled 20 12-ounce jars – a grand total of just over three gallons! The honey seems to have a minty taste – the taste of the honey comes from the types of flowers the bees visit. There is still much more honey in the hive, but we are done collecting for this year.
We may try the honey in late June next year – it will probably have a different taste from the spring flowers that are available. And hopefully our bees will last the winter!