Tuesday, 21 July 2015

Honey... and cabbage!

Yesterday we harvested the first honey this year. To our great relief we found that the bees of our new colony turn out to be really rather peaceful, particularly compared to the horribly hostile ones we had last year. (Pity they didn't survive the winter, but to be perfectly honest, no-one is going to miss them!) Either way, even aside from the potential risk of getting stung by bees, honey harvesting is quite a messy business, not to mention sticky!

First you have to lift frames full of honey out of the hive, starting well above shoulder height as can be seen in the picture above. Each frame, if mainly capped, weighs about 2 kilos or so, and they have lots of confused bees hanging on to them which need to be brushed off too. And as soon as you have taken the frames that have enough honey to be worth extracting you need to take these away to somewhere bee-free rather quickly before the clever little ones find the honey and all fly there in order to take it back.

Once this is done you have a few hours of rather sticky work - uncapping and extracting the honey - to look forward to. But as long as you are prepared that everything, and I really mean everything will get very sticky, it is quite a fun process. Here is a picture of me uncapping a frame of honey.

The bees put a seal on each honeycomb cell once they are happy with the water content in the honey. If the honey contains too much water it will ferment, so they fan the honey by flapping their wings above the cell until enough water evaporates. Fascinating little insects, aren't they? Naturally for the same reason, as a beekeeper you are looking to extract mainly capped honey, and the 17 frames that we selected yesterday were all basically completely capped. And at the end of the day, when you are looking at 36.5 kilos of beautiful golden, quite literally mellifluous honey, all the hard work seems like nothing.

We finished the day with another beautiful bit of harvesting: that of the first cabbage (of the brassica oleracea var. capitata elliptica variety, there does not seem to be an English name for it) from our new garden. It was so crisp and sweet that more than half of it ended up being eaten fresh as a snack!

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