Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Harvesting Honey

After finding that we had a box full of honey I went to our bee club meeting unsure if we should leave it on the hive for the winter or take it.  We didn't plan or prepare to be able to take any honey in our first year.  I wasn't sure that we would be equipped to do so even if we wanted to.  At the meeting after speaking with a few people and getting a generous offer by Mark, a friend and fellow beekeeper, to use his equipment I decided we should go ahead and harvest the honey off the hive.

On Monday after work I went home feeling ready and prepared to take the honey super off the hive and remove the bees.  I got the box off the hive, closed the hive up and then went over to the honey super to start the process of shaking and brushing the bees off frame by frame.  During honey harvesting you do not smoke the bees otherwise they will dive head first into the comb and you won't be able to get the bees off. 

As I was standing above the box the memory of unhappy bees the two days earlier when I didn't smoke the hive and the sting that followed flooded my memory.  I got scared and anxious.  I began trying to get one frame out but it was heavy with honey and the bees.  As I was working it out it slipped out of my hand back into the box and a plume of bees emerged.  I jumped away and panic took over. 

I went inside called Andy who had no better advice other than to just be safe.  I called two other beekeepers who didn't answer their phones.  I sat in the basement and told myself to put my big girl pants on it would be fine, I could do this.  There was no way I could just leave the box in the middle of my driveway.  I went back outside again stood over the box and full on panic flooded back in.  I worked up enough wits to put the box back on the hive, although not in the proper spot and walk away.  After an hour and a half of work I was back at square one.

I sent out an SOS email to the bee club asking for someone to come save me from myself.  I got back a bunch of emails with advice and a few offers to help over the next couple of days.  The same evening as my pathetic email Mark called offering to come by the next day to help and I gladly accepted.

Tuesday evening Mark came over with his equipment and a leaf blower.  I didn't realize you could just blow the bees out of the box.  In five minutes Mark had blown all the bees out of the box and had it wrapped up in the garage.  It seems that years of experience allow you to fearlessly remove bees quickly.

So I'm not quite the confident beekeeper I thought I was.  I'll get there but for now I'm still a bit of a sissy.  Normally when people come over to the house I tell them that if a bee is bothering them to walk away and not to swat at it.   However on this occasion Mark had to remind me of this as I was ready to run for the hills and flail my arms wildly when a frustrated bee wouldn't leave us alone afterward.  I am sure he was wondering how does this lady have a whole hive in her backyard. 

I don't have pictures for this installment because lets be honest during all of this I wasn't thinking oooh lets get the camera out.  The tale of my dramatics will have to be enough for today.  But I do have pictures for tomorrow's installment of extracting the honey off the comb.


  1. After reading your latest post, I just had to come back and get "the rest of the story" on your bee keeping. I think it's great that you have your own hive. I also didn't know that smoking the bees would make them dive into the comb. My grandparents had about eleven beehives out in the woods when I was a kid. My brother and I learned quickly that you don't swing at them or run through the area. When we got used to them, we didn't give it a second thought about walking right through the area with bees flying all around us. Neither of us ever got stung doing that. You're doing mother earth and your neighbors a favor by having those bees. Think of all the pollination they perform! Keep up the good work!

  2. Thanks! Smoking the bees makes them think that the hive is on fire. So they end up gorging themselves on honey to get ready to flee. Essentially smoking makes them more concerned with saving themselves than with what you are doing.