Thursday, October 9, 2014

I've Got the Sweet Stuff: Honey Harvest

We had an accidental honey harvest.

Mr. Chanclas went out to check the bees last week and found that they had built up honeycomb on the sides of the top bar box, which caused the combs (that hang down from the bars in a vertical fashion) to stick to the sides. When he tried to remove one of the top bars to examine the comb on it the whole comb pulled loose and fell into the bottom of the hive.

Uh-oh. This is probably when the bees started stinging him. He was wearing his bee veil, pants, and long-sleeves, so he was mostly protected. His wimpy gardening gloves (with the wrists cut off) were not up to the job, though. Upon later reflection, he decided that he should have walked away at that point, beefed up his bee protection, and come back a few minutes later to deal with the problem. But in the moment he was so worried about the hive that he just gritted his teeth and took his time removing the fallen comb from the hive.

I didn't know anything was up until he appeared at the house in a vile mood with a plate full of broken, honey-oozing comb (complete with bees buzzing around the top). Of course he didn't mention that he had just been stung a dozen times. That information came out later as his hands and wrists doubled in size. (Eye-rolling here.)

The upside of this whole event is that we got an unexpected honey harvest. We were not going to harvest for some time yet but the two combs that broke off provided us with three pints of new honey! And it is a beautiful, golden, delicious honey at that.

Chanclas was worried about his queen bee (genus Apis, not Homo sapiens) but he spotted her in the hive a few days later, undamaged and continuing with her work. Whew.

Extracting the honey from the comb in our kitchen was messy work. The kids were in charge of squashing live bees that fell on the kitchen floor. (Poor little buggers but it was all we could do.) Chanclas pushed the waxy honeycomb through a fine-mesh strainer to extract the honey into a bowl.

Then we took the remaining waxy comb blob and put it in a wide-mouth canning jar with only the metal ring screwed on top (without the metal seal). Then I took a second wide-mouth jar and used the metal ring to screw on a square of heavy-duty mesh fabric (intended for window screens and saved by me years ago for some then-unimagined project), which I then duct-taped to the first jar. Then I inverted the whole business and put it in the closet with the hot water heater, which is the warmest spot in the house. A few days later I went to pull out a mop and discovered another pint of golden goodness.

What a simple and effective solution! And free. I like free.

And, in case you are wondering, Mr. Chanclas' hands and wrists were back to normal size four days later. And he's wearing proper bee gloves now.