First the Harvest, then the Floor

Author: Meera, October 24, 2016

My kitchen floor was littered with bits of wax and bee glue yesterday. It took me over an hour on my knees to scrub and clean it after I had uncapped thirty frames of honey I’d taken from my hives.

 

bucket of honey with strainer supporting all the wax spun off during extraction

A bucket of honey with strainer supporting wax spun off during honey extraction

 

 

 

 

In the process of scraping each frame and then unsealing all the capped cells on the front and back of each frame, drops of wax and propolis, or bee glue (created by the bees from bee saliva, wax, and exudate from botanical sources) fell to the floor. I tracked it from the counter, sink, and extractor on the soles of my shoes.

 

 

Even before I put my honey buckets under the extractor spigot, I tape fine mesh strainers over the buckets to catch wax and other debris.

 

 

Springtime honey appears golden whereas autumn honey is often darker (depending on what's flowering)

Three frames containing honey, but the sweet stuff is locked inside a honeycomb of cells sealed with wax by the bees

 

 

 

 

Once all the frames are processed and the buckets are sealed, I put the wax I’ve removed from the frames into a mesh bag to drain the honey (usually a much smaller quantity of honey is recovered from this process).

 

 

When the honey has been removed from the mesh bag, I place that wax on a cookie sheet and set it in the garden for the bees to clean.  After the bees have cleaned all the wax (by eating any drops of honey left), I save the wax to melt into bars for candles or soap-making.

 

 

I drain two frames at a time in a five-gallon bucket

A frame with wax cap cells opened and ready to put into the extractor

 

Back in in the kitchen, the extractor, it must be washed inside and out. Once cleaned and moved to the patio, I must start removing the wax and propolis from the floor. For that, I use an old thin, metal spatula to scrape the tile free of wax.

 

 

A soap and water scrub follows. Then I rinse and dry the floor with rags before moving the honey extractor back into the kitchen.

 

 

 

Honey from a bottling bucket is drained into sterile jars

Honey from a bottling bucket is drained into sterile jars

 

 

I won’t take honey again until next year. But now the honey must be bottled–that means I must sterilize bottles and prepare labels. Keeping honeybees is really only this labor intensive during and after the honey harvest. But the harvest is well worth all the work.

 

 

If you enjoy reading about farmette topics (including gardening, beekeeping, and delicious recipes), check out my cozy mysteries A BEELINE TO MURDER and also THE MURDER OF A QUEEN BEE in the Henny Penny Farmette series (from Kensington Publishing).

 

 *          *          *

Enjoy reading about farming topics? Check out my cozy mysteries–A BEELINE TO MURDER and also THE MURDER OF A QUEEN BEE  (both in the Henny Penny Farmette series from Kensington Publishing).

 

These novels are chocked full of recipes, farming tips, chicken and beekeeping tips, sayings and, of course, a charming cozy mystery. For more info, click on the links under the pictures.

 

The books are available through online retailers such as Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Kobo Books, and Walmart as well as from traditional bookstores everywhere.

 

 

The first novel in the Henny Penny Farmette series

See, http://tinyurl.com/hxy3s8q

 

This debut novel launched the Henny Penny Farmette series of mysteries and sold out its first press run. It’s now available in mass market paperback and other formats.

 

 

 

 

The second cozy  mystery in the Henny Penny Farmette series, available Sept. 29, 2016

See, http://tinyurl.com/h4kou4g

 

NEWLY RELEASED! This, the second cozy mystery in the Henny Penny Farmette series, is garnering great reviews from readers and industry publications.

 

 

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Honeybee Hive Pests Include Real Vampires

Author: Meera, October 25, 2014
Massive swarm captured in a hive box with ten frames

A super or hive box with ten frames

 

 

 

Every beekeeper wants to keep his or her hives healthy. Staying on top of your bee’s health means early detection and treatment of pests in the hive such as Varroa mites, trachea mites, hive beetles, and wax moths.

 

 

Varroa mites–these small reddish brown pests are akin to tiny vampires, feasting on your bees’ blood. Non-medicinal approaches to treating for these mites include introducing a screened bottom board. Mites fall through and cannot re-enter the hive to reattach to the bees. Also a powdered sugar dusting of your hives’ top bars can dislodge mites.

 

 

Tracheal mites–these pests are more difficult to detect. My beekeeper neighbor showed me infant baby bees with partial wings and said he believed it was the work of tracheal mites. To rid your hives of these pests, you’ll need to use menthol crystals and grease patties.

 

 

Hive beetles–if you see an insect with a hard, small black shell in corners and dark places within the hive, you may have hive beetles. They devour bee brood, honey, wax, and pollen. Treat the soil in front of the hive and inside the hive, you can try hive beetle traps or treat chemically. The infected honey will be rejected by the bees and should be considered unfit for human consumption as well.

 

 

Wax moths–these nasty little creatures can been seen in honeycomb and leave a silky trail over your hive’s hanging frames. If you see evidence that they’ve tunnel into the wood, know that you’ve had the infestation for a while. Wax moths will weaken a colony.  Treat the infected hives with moth crystals formulated to eliminate wax moths in the hive.

 

Hives that are frequently checked their beekeepers stand the best chance for having healthy colonies of bees.

 

 

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Harvesting Honey the Old-Fashioned Way

Author: Meera, July 29, 2014

 

Frames of honey, fresh from the hives

Frames of honey, fresh from the hives

 

 

Last weekend, my beekeeper neighbor and I harvested three frames of honey from my hives. I took the frames into my house and, with a hot knife, cut open the wax cells to permit the honey to drain.

 

 

Opening the capped cells is easily accomplished with a hot knife

Opening the capped cells is easily accomplished with a hot knife

 

 

I drained off one-half gallon of honey from two frames.

 

 

I drain two frames at a time in a five-gallon bucket

Two frames drain simultaneously in a five-gallon bucket; another option is to use large, flat plastic tubs

 

 

I wrapped the extra frame in foil and froze it until I am ready to drain that frame as well. Then, I will let it thaw for 24 hours before draining off the honey.

 

 

Once all the honey is out of the frames, I take the frames outside and hang them in the tree near the hives. The honeybees will do the cleanup, foraging all the honey and leaving only clean wax that I can melt for candle- or soap-making projects.

 

 

A single frame of wax and residual honey is hung in a tree so as not to attract ants

A frame of wax and residual honey is hung in a tree so the bees can clean it, hopefully before the ants find it

 

 

Draining honey from frames is a lengthy process and I have to do it twice: once to remove the honey and the second time to strain out any tiny particles of wax, before bottling it.

 

 

 

Last time, I took 20 frames and my neighbor, who was harvesting too, ran those 20 frames through his motorized extractor in his honey room.

 

 

Extractors are a modern convenience that saves untold hours extracting honey. But until I begin to sell my honey and other farm products, I won’t be able to afford such an energy-efficient tool.

 

 

I’ve discovered that beekeeping can be quite the expensive hobby.  There are uncapping tubs, melters, comb cutting pans, heated knives, thermal plastic shrink bands for jars, uncapping needle rollers, and myriad other items used in honey extraction.

 

 

The tree near the hives now holds two frames and a cheesecloth of wax/honey

The tree near the hives holds two frames and a strainer of wax/honey from the uncapping  of the cells that I also drained

 

 

Radial extractors can save time and preserves the honeycomb. The frames are placed between the guides of the stainless steel tank and the reel spins. The centrifugal force created throws honey against the sides of the tank. Honey is drained off through spigot. For now, the old-fashioned way works fine, too.

 

 

Golden honey draining from a frameinto a glass dish

Golden honey draining from a frame
into a glass dish

 

 

 

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Food for Bee Babies

Author: Meera, January 11, 2013
Beleaguered honeybees can have a difficult time making it through winter

Beleaguered honeybees can have a difficult time making it through winter

 

 

 

The bee suit I’ve worn this morning smells like smoke from the smoker. My neighbor opened his hives today to check on the status of the bees and I was happy to help. I learn something new every time I work with him. We’ve had freezing nights with the temps hovering below 30 degrees Fahrenheit, not good for bees.

 

 

Upon opening the first hive, we could see the bees were docile. After all, it is winter. The bees must work hard to keep heat in the hive and they aren’t expecting us to be intruding into their world. In fact, my neighbor didn’t bother with putting on either the beekeeper suit or the elbow-length leather gloves. He loves his bees and has no fear of being stung.

 

 

Our work today was putting into each super a patty of brood building food (mainly high fructose corn syrup, soy flour, and other nutrients) as a substitute for pollen, especially necessary to feeding bees. Beekeepers often feed their bees in late winter or early spring since there is little pollen to be scavenged from flowers. Flower and blossom pollen comes later in the spring.

 

 

 

Queen house on the honeycomb surrounded by babies

Queen bee house on honeycomb–photo courtesy of Carlos Carvajal

 

 

We must do all we can to help the beleaguered little honeybees. We have even covered their hives with blankets, reducing the necessary labor of the worker bees in keeping the hive humming and warm.

 

 

So I don’t mind smelling a little like smoke for a while to help the bees, and I’m hoping the bees won’t mind that I took one little frame of honey from their hive to my kitchen.

 

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