Bee Mama Missive: Honey!

My bees make incredible honey.  It’s just amazing stuff.

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Because our bees were overcrowded in their hives, we recently removed one bar with drawn comb from each box and those bars were full of capped honey.  The other frames had some brood or were empty, so we didn’t remove those.  Removing the bars with honey lessens the amount of stored honey for the bees during winter, but we have a long growing season here in Austin and there is still time for the bees to replenish their supply, assuming the hive survives. Bees are excellent little foragers and they’ll rapidly make up the loss of honey.

We were totally unprepared for the extraction of honey from our hives.   As we pulled out our chosen combs of honey, I bagged them in airtight plastic gallon bags and placed them into the freezer until I had time to remove the honey from the comb.

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I’m not sure there’s a need for expensive equipment to extract honey from a home bee hive.  It’s probably nice to have a professional extractor and if I’m ever serious about honey production, I’d consider investing in one.   But for this relatively small and unplanned job, we kept things low-tech.

I emptied comb with honey into an old metal colander placed in a bowl.

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Do you see how the colander is propped up?  Yeah, that’s right–with tea boxes strategically placed on the edges of the bowl, flanked by jars buttressing each side.  Didn’t I say it was a low-tech operation?

I crushed the comb with a heavy, large spoon and let the honey drip slowly into the bowl.  Bees make beautiful comb.  Perfect hexagons, with firm but malleable texture, honeycomb is a truly remarkable product.  I hated to crush the comb, but it there’s no way around squishing it up to get to the honey.

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I didn’t toss out the crushed comb, but stored in the freezer. Sometime in the future,  I’ll melt it down when (if?) I add other boxes to our hives.  We use top bars for the bees to comb-build on and if there is a strip of wax on the bar, like this,

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the bees use it as a guide for their comb-building.

Once most of the honey was out of the comb and into the bowl, Bee Daddy poured the honey into a jar through a tea strainer.  The tea strainer caught  any extraneous materials (primarily wax) left in the honey from the first round with the colander.

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It’s a messy job.   Sticky honey dripped onto the counters, floors, table–everywhere!  I never quite realized how water-soluble honey is though–it cleans up immediately.  So, while messy, this neat freak (yeah, I am, sorta) didn’t fret too much over the mess.

I washed each jar as we finished.

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We bottled almost 7 cups of honey!  Wow!  Sweet, locally produced honey.  Our bees fly within a 3 mile radius of our home, so it doesn’t get more local than that.  We’ve shared  honey and will keep some for future use.  Several people who’ve tasted our bees’ honey think it tastes like peaches.  Interesting.  There are peach trees around, but peach pollen/nectar wouldn’t  comprise but a very small percentage of the honey.  Our bees produce honey that tastes better than any store bought honey that I’ve ever tried–that stuff is just not in the same category at all.

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With the deaths of our queens, our bees are struggling a bit.  I appreciate their hard work and am awed by their amazing abilities.  I hope this isn’t our last honey harvest, though I imagine we won’t get honey again for quite a long time.

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Thanks bees!  You’re the best!

 

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5 thoughts on “Bee Mama Missive: Honey!

  1. Local honey (and it can’t get much more local than your own back yard!) is always best. Supermarket honey is filtered to get pollen and other particles out that won’t hurt anybody but might speed up crystallization which the American market won’t tolerate. I know otherwise reasonable people who throw honey out if it crystallizes. Such a waste!

    Thinking about this a bit – were peaches even in bloom much when you first let your bees out? Because while I love the idea your honey tastes “like peaches”, I wonder if that is simply the way local flowers of all sorts taste in fresh honey? Delicious, regardless. Yay bees! You are the best!

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    • I wondered the same thing about the peach blossom connection. We hived the bees on April 13th (wow–3 months ago today!). I believe the peach blossoms would have been finished by then. I really think it’s just that the local honey tastes so different from the honey in stores–with the exception of Round Rock Honey-that’s really good too. Laura Weaver (owner of BeeWeaver Apiary, where we bought our bees) told me that much of the honey in grocery stores is either shipped from oversees or is from tallow pollen, which she said promotes a bitter taste. That explains the difference in taste, I think. Regardless, our honey is fabulous and I love my little bees!

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  2. That is a lot of honey! Congratulations. I had read somewhere that most of the honey sold in stores has no pollen content because of the way it is processed so it may be pollen you are tasting. I am so happy for you. (fingers crossed for the new queens)

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    • You’re right about the pollen thing–it is generally absent from large-scale commercial honey. I checked my hives yesterday and Scar’s new queen is laying up a storm! There were lots of capped and uncapped larvae, so I’m feeling better about that hive. I moved a bar with larvae from Scar to Mufasa, so those bees will have at least a few new bees in the next week or so. I hope to re-queen Mufasa this week. Like you, fingers crossed!

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