Currently, Hall Farms is home to three honeybee hives; two that Jeremy purchased and one that an exterminator asked him to retrieve. Jeremy loves his bees. I love the honey they produce, but I’m allergic to bees. I’ve been taught that unless I bother them, they won’t bother me. I try to keep my distance as much as possible. A week or so ago, I ventured a little closer to photograph Jeremy pulling frames from one of the hives. I created this Spring Honey Harvest Pictorial to allow readers to get a closer look at small scale spring honey harvest.
When Jeremy first mentioned getting honeybees, I told him he was crazy. I love honey, but with my allergy I try to keep my distance from them. When I was a small girl, my great grandmother would get fresh local honey and we would share the honeycomb. It’s my favorite part. In fact, when Jeremy pulled the hive frames, I was more concerned with getting honeycomb than the actual honey. I thought about my great grandmother, and that she was likely smiling down on me with amusement because I was still reaching for the honeycomb. The hive frames on this particular hive make it more difficult to extract honeycomb. The frame has a beeswax foundation with wire embedded to help with stability.
Jeremy promised that he would prepare frames for comb honey next season so that I could have traditional honeycomb.
The honeybee hives are strategically placed near the orchard to help with pollination and provide a steady food supply for the bees.
Jeremy currently has a mixture of sugar and water on the hive that he recently retrieved from a tree in a golf course community. Instead of killing the bees, they did the right thing and found someone willing to relocate the newly swarmed hive. The sugar water sustains the bees as they acclimate to their new surroundings and allows them to get to work building comb and tending to their egg-laying queen. Honeybees only live about 35 days in the summer, so without preparation for the next generation, the hive would not survived. Of the three hives, this is the only one where Jeremy can routinely locate the queen.
If you ever run across an unwanted honeybee swarm/hive, find a local beekeeper or beekeeping association; they’ll almost certainly help find someone to relocate it for you. Exterminators charge to kill them; beekeepers will take them off your hands for free. The honeybee population has been in steady decline, and everyone should do their part to help #SaveTheBees.
Jeremy suited up into his beekeeping suit before firing up his bee smoker. Bees don’t like smoke, and it’s an easy way to calm them while you work around them. The smoke does two things: it masks the smell of warning pheromones the bees emit to signal an attack, and it forces them to stick their heads into the cells and eat honey in anticipation of a fire-forced evacuation. The cool, white smoke is harmless to the bees as long as you’re careful to burn only natural fibers such as untreated burlap or cotton.
If Jeremy goes to the trouble of suiting up and lighting the smoker, he will inspect all of the hives thoroughly. He inspects them about once a week during the active months to make sure they have adequate room, to make sure the queen is active, and to check their progress filling honeycomb. The bees tell you when a frame is ready to harvest; when the honey reaches an ideal humidity for storage, they cap the cell with wax. A fully capped frame is ready to harvest. To make sure the bees stay in the hive, Jeremy sprays a substance called Honey Bee Gone onto a felt-lined fume board and places it on top of the hive. The noxious odor drives the bees down into the lower levels of the hive in a matter of a few minutes, after which he removes the board and any frames ready for harvest.
Here are some of the photos from the spring honey harvest:
The lowest “box” on the hive is called the hive body/brood chamber. The box on top of that one is called a super. It’s used for brood and honey storage. The top box is an additional honey super which is where most beekeepers extract honey from.
Jeremy will bring the hive frames in the house to upcap them, and remove the honey. He harvested 12 lbs of honey from 4 medium frames out of the 10 available in the super.
There is still plenty of honey left in the honeycomb when it is pulled from the extractor. I couldn’t keep my hands out of it. You don’t actually eat the wax, you just chew it until all of the honey is removed.
Later today, I’ll process the remaining honeycomb to harvest the beeswax. I plan to use it to make lotion bars and candles. You can be on the lookout for those tutorial posts later.
I made a pan of biscuits that night, and we slathered them with butter and fresh honey. It was so delicious.
I hope you enjoyed my spring honey harvest pictorial. Check back later to check out the recipes I’ve made using fresh honey, and the tutorials for homemade candles and body lotion bars. If you have any tried and true recipes that use honey, please shoot me an email. I would love to give your recipe a try.