Well hey! Back off holiday and the first job ( before even unpacking) is to check the hives. Good news on the allotment – there are eggs and capped brood which means the bees have at last managed to rear a queen. They’re not out of trouble yet – they’re going to need a lot of help to build up for the winter but there’s a little hope for them.
The Demon hive is doing great, the bees have filled a few frames in the extra super I put on before going away but the season is coming to a close and with the hive currently touching the ceiling it’s about time I raided the poor creatures’ nest and shrunk things down again.
This is one of those times when suiting up properly is a really good idea – the bees are gonna get mad and I’m going to be in a small metal shed with them. Whilst I’m at it I’ll also rationalise the nest – the bees have brood spread across two boxes with a few empty frames either side. Bees prefer to move up rather than sideways so with luck if I shift all the brood down and the empties up, they’ll fill the empty space with honey for the winter. My life becomes easier for inspecting and they stand a better chance over the winter.
I’ve spotted my dear queen – and caught her in the act of laying so all seems to be right in the hive – aside from it being taller than me and sounding like a mob of angry kazoo players.
‘Harvesting” ie. Stealing took about 45mins and the beasts were indeed more than a little annoyed – some sod broke into their home, raided the larder and ran away. Because of the confined space, they cover every surface ( including me ). The workshop is basically a no go zone – I’m used to bees being loose in there but it’s rarely more than a hundred, looks closer to a thousand at the moment but, no stings!
Extracting is easy, fun and a chore. The extractor needs to be extracted from the attic and cleaned. Combs need to be uncapped using my shiny new uncapping fork ( a lot easier than last year’s carving knife), loaded into the device and spun – with a hand crank. A couple of minutes is all it takes, then they’re turned round and the other side spun.
What kind of fool would stick a camera in a honey centrifuge? Yep, you can see the video here: Honey centrifuge. I’m amazed how well it came out, and that I didn’t break anything.
This years honey is darker than last and has a sharper, almost minty bite to it, apparently my bees visited a lot of blackberry. Eight frames done and the lugs are dragging in the pool of honey at the bottom. It needs draining via a sieve to settle – centrifuging leaves fine air bubbles in the honey and it takes a few days for them to clear.
The garden is thick with bees – hundreds of them are out trying to locate their missing honey and the few spots that dripped onto the patio are enough to give them a clue, a few wasps are in on the act as well and the dog is snapping furiously at anything that buzzes too close.
Here’s a quiz for you – what kind of idiot would get covered in honey, grab a box of empty, sticky frames and walk into a garden of agitated bees? Common sense zero, stings ten – which isn’t a bad total for the year after last year’s fifty. My wife’s been sat out there all afternoon untouched but a poor bloke on top of a crane next door has been investigated several times, I guess his white overalls look suspiciously like a bee suit.
Fifteen frames and one full bucket later, I’m emptying pasta and rice out of tubs in the larder in a panic. It’s probably a good thing the allotment bees gave nothing – I have storage space issues. It’ll be worse when it’s all in jars. I’d better make a shopping list for next season and actually order the stuff this time.
Ten frames after that I’m feeling sick. Rather than licking any more honey off fingers, table and floor I should resort to the conventional floor cloth for cleaning up. I still have two frames of cut comb to do, I think they can wait until tomorrow but I’d better have a quick taste just in case.
The dog is slightly sticky, I have fuzz on my tongue, wax in my teeth and an aching pancreas. My socks still stick to the kitchen floor after a third mopping.
It’s been a good day.