Thursday 18 August 2011

Harvest Time - sorry bees, but I want your honey!

This is one of the most exciting times of the year.  We have been looking after the bees all year and now comes the moment to take off the honey.  You can make a guess as to how much the bees have collected, but until it is home and in the jar, there is always an element of 'counting your chickens before they are hatched'.  The colony could be robbed by wasps, there could be a period of cold weather and the bees eat the honey ... and so on.

To get the honey away from the bees we put a wooden 'clearer' board between the honey in the supers and the queen and her brood at the bottom of the hive.  The board has a couple of 'Porter bee escapes' in it (so called because Mr Porter invented them!). These act as a one-way valve for the bees, so whenever a bee leaves the honey at the top of the hive to go down to see the queen, they can't get back. After a couple of days, there will be no bees on the honey, and you can take off the supers for extraction.

Except ... the bees don't all read the same book as me, so some don't go down to see the queen!  Also, they find any tiny hole where the hive woodwork doesn't fit perfectly and get back in that way.  Nevertheless, most of the bees leave.

So, we went to the Hanbury aipary and, using quite a lot of smoke to calm the bees ('cos they don't want to lose all their honey!) took off all the supers and put them in the car ...

Always fun driving around with a car full of bits of beehive, because fairly soon you become aware that you are carrying lots of unwanted hitchhikers!  We drove home in our bee suits, with the front windows and the rear window open, hoping that any bees would be blown backwards and out of the car by the wind.  Anyway we didn't get stung .. this time.

Next job, extracting the honey.