Beekeeping: A Summer Solstice Honey Harvest

It turns out one of our hives was super productive this spring – we were able to extract a few frames of honey in late June, just in time for the summer solstice!

While all 5 of our hives have been showing strong healthy activity this year, Hive 2 in particular this year has really seemed to grow! This was the ‘weaker’ of the two hives last year, which we didn’t end up harvesting any honey from. They (and Hive 1) survived the winter and since the spring I have noticed a ton of activity from them!

While making my usual weekend beekeeping rounds last weekend, I went into the hive to check them out. It was pretty apparent that they were doing well, because when I went to take off the inner top board, I could hardly lift it – it was dripping with honey! They had begun to build comb through the opening at the top of the board.

I went to the beekeeping store to chat about the issue with the owner, and it sounded like I had a wonderful opportunity to get a mid-summer harvest in before the fall! I also wanted to harvest now to free up some room in the hives so the bees don’t swarm! My harrowing tale of catching a swarm is up here, and luckily it was a wild swarm and not one of my own!

Back home, I checked the top 2 honey supers in Hive 2, and there were about 7 frames in the bottom super that were full of capped honey. The top one was half-capped so I left it for a little later in the summer 🙂

Brett and I set up a honey station in the kitchen (we are still extracting by hand with a hive tool + strainer system) and we got to work: I would bring up 3 or 4 frames at a time, we would uncap the honey, strain it through a large mess kitchen strainer, and reserve the wax aside. Once we got a good amount of honey off the frames, I would run the frames back down, replace them in the hive, and bring up the next few frames.

It was in the 80s that day, and even in my ventilated bee suit I was dripping! I also had to use a smoker on the bees to get them off the frames once I pulled them from the hive – that and the bee brush did the trick so no strays got in the kitchen while we were harvesting.

We are looking into a better extraction system for later in the year, but the strainer system works pretty well for now. It takes a while for the honey to drop off the wax through, which is the most time consuming part of the process. That, and everything in the kitchen gets so sticky!

We filled a large pot and a large bowl with all of our honey, and then we strained it again through a nut milk bag to get all the fine pieces of wax out. The best part is sampling some right from the bowl – yum!

Our 2018 harvest was very late in the season – since we were mostly busy with the wedding, we didn’t end up harvesting until late October! The honey we got was rich, dark, and amber in color and tasted great.

Our early summer June honey tastes equally as good, but it is a clear light yellow honey – not at all like the dark amber from last fall. We got about 30 lbs of honey in total, about 3.5 gallons just from the 7 frames!

Once we strained out the wax, I put it in a pan near the hives for the bees to go through and eat any remaining honey from the wax. We will probably make more chapstick with that this year – a very popular product with our friends/family!

Overall, it was surprising to harvest honey so early in the season but we reaped the sweet rewards. Considering we got so much early in the season, I am looking forward to a great fall bounty later in the year.

 

 

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