These bees continue to surprise and amaze me! After yesterday's robbery, I decided it would be a good idea to pop open the lid of the robbed hive and make sure nothing else unforseen was happening. All seemed to be back to "normal" with team blue (has anything really been "normal" with this hive since the day I brought it home?) and since I still had a smoker full of pinestraw I opened up the top super on the green hive to see how things were progressing.
Much to my surprise I found ten full, capped frames of beautiful honey! This is the super I added on July 4 since the first super was full of honey and brood and the girls were working hard and still packing in the nectar and pollen. I was hoping it might be filled by the end of summer, but had not expected it to be full already.
After a day spent tracking down the bee club's extractor, Eliza and I went a picked it up on Wednesday evening and prepared to wake early on Thursday for our first honey harvest!
Thursday morning dawned cloudy and looking like rain, so I knew we had to work fast. After a quick cup of coffee we suited up and fired up the smoker. I elected to try to remove the frames this time without using either fume board or other equipment. This was partially because I didn't HAVE a fume board or other equipment, but also because it just seemed a simpler and more natural thing to do without and I wanted to see if it would work.
With Eliza suited up and standing about 20 feet from the hive with a plastic box and lid, and Emmy standing nearby with the camera I smoked the front of the hive, then removed the lid and smoked pretty good inside. Waited a few seconds, then I removed the first heavy frame. It was absolutely covered with bees and, I must say, they didn't seem all that overjoyed to see me! I gave the frame a quick but firm shake to dislodge some of the bees, then quickly brushed the rest down into the super, took the frame to Eliza who stuck it into the box and slammed on the lid, then went back for more. Looking back on it now I probably should have removed the entire super and brushed the bees into the bottom super since every frame I removed had more and more bees on it from the previous frame. But . . . live and learn!
After shaking and brushing for about 15 minutes there were hundreds of bees in the air, checking me out nose to nose and getting more and more agitated but - no stings. I took only 6 of the 10 frames in the end because the middle two were from the Apiguard-treated hive and 1 had some upcapped honey. The other I left for the girls as a peace offering.
I was SO glad that I'd helped my friend Jane with her honey harvest back in June because it definitely made the whole process go so much smoother. We loaded the extrator with 4 frames for the first spin after lightly scratching the wax cappings with a fork. Then turned each frame over and did the opposite side and the 2 remaining frames. Then - the best part of all - opening up the tap and seeing our honey for the first time as it flowed out of the extractor, through the seive and into our white honey bucket. And - another surprise! Instead of the light, typical wildflower honey I expected to see, out flowed a very dark, thick, and full-bodied honey with a distinct lemony-y flavor!! What looked like a miniscule amount of honey in the bottom of that huge extractor turned out to weigh in right at 23 pounds which, considering I wasn't expecting honey at all this year, was not a bad haul at all.
I have no idea what to call this honey, and why it's so dark and strong. Since July 4 there have been odds and ends blooming in the garden, and loads of crepe myrtle along the road. There were butter beans and blackeyed peas and the liriope was in bloom. Who knows? But, as I told my neighbor Dan, it seems only appropriate that my first Grassroots honey would turn out strong and opinionated - just like this community! In the end, we filled up 10 honey bears, 4 half-pint jelly jars, and 6 pint jars. It's so exciting to see them all sitting on the dining room table with the light shining through that honey - I'm not sure when I'll be able to put it away!
Thank you girls for all your hard work bringing in nectar, filling your beautiful wax cells, and capping them off. I truly feel honored to be able to share your bounty and only hope that you consider the good place to live and forage that I've given you is, in some way, a fair exchange.