2016-09-20

Handling honey ... and other stuff

I think I had better learn to make a sugar cake or two.  My Italians are still making honey and I have left lots for them for the winter months.  Some I took over to the stronger Carni hive.  The Italians are as robust as ever, with honey, pollen, and plenty of brood.

The stronger of the two Carni hives seems solid.  Bottom deep still has lots of brood, both capped and new.  Second deep has maybe 60 pounds of honey along with some brood in the center frames.  Lots of activity still, clearly building comb and filling it with honey,, though not nearly as agressively as the Italians.

The weaker of the two Carni hives is ....well.. still weak.  The good news is that a new queen seems to have been established in spite of the fact that I did not get a brood frame moved from the stronger Carni hive until about three weeks ago.  There is a lot of uncapped brood and some capped now as well.  But population is very low, and activity at the front of the hive is low.  Not much honey in this hive at all.  No way they are going to make it though the winter without some TLC, food and maybe some added heat.  Even with all that it is going to be touch and go.  I may have to consider moving the hive to a more protected spot for the winter, though I don't really want to do that.

Lots of learing to do yet.....

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On another note: I harvested some of the honey from the Italian supers.  They produced three full supers plus this summer.  Having decided that bees are a joy to work with and having the resources for the bees to forage from, we decided to ''just do it' and bought a little equipment.  A five gallon stainless stock tank with a stand and clamped cover.  And a six frame centrifuge, motor driven.  This is really nice food grade equipment.  I am pleased with the construction, ease of assembly, and quality of materials used.  And really pleased we invested this way just for the saving on cleanup alone.  Food grade equipment is worth the investment.



Handling of honey, frames, and wax is a thing that, I at least, need to do to understand.  One can watch all the video and read all the books, but the bottom line is that it is a hands on experience, and until one gets hands on, one does not really know.  That is true about beekeeping in general of course.  That is what makes it cool.

There are lots of little things to notice:  How the honey flows, what difference just a few degrees of ambient temperature makes in the way the honey flows, the way the wax can be handled, how the tools used interact with the surfaces of the wooden frames.

The wax is an interesting substance which I have yet a lot to learn about.  It is not like paraphine.  Bees wax tends to clump quickly as it cools, into small nugets.  Its malliability is very dependent on a pretty narrow temperature range it seems.  That said, it is a really cool substance.

Harvest was basically comb to jar.  The only 'filtering' I did was through a piece of cheese cloth to hold back a few of the cell tops that end up floating around.  And yet this honey is amaingly clear and light.  The flavor is of course sweet, but not cloyingly so.  There is a tangyness to it.  The abundance of variety of food resources for the bees on the farm is far more than I  had ever noticed before.  I have wondered what might contribute to this particular flavor, but then decided I don't really care.

One often sees honey for sale which is labeled 'clover honey', or some other particular food source is advertised.  I dont' buy into that.  I have specialty honey from various places, both domestic and international.  There is clearly a difference between vaious types from various places.  But where our bees are, there is no monoculture of pollinator food sources.  It is a constant blend.  White clover, red clover, golden rod, queen annes lace, blackberry, wild strawberry, plum, wild apple, maple, walnut, hickory, basswood, thistles, dandilion, and on and on and on.  I had no idea how many different plants were growing on our farm until we installed the bees this spring.  Now, as I drive around on the farm, doing one chore or another, I notice these different plants.  I can't name most of them, but throughout the season, there are a lot of them!

At any rate, the honey tastes great!