Friday, August 5, 2011

A Taste of Honey

After some weeks away on various adventures, it was time to check on the bees and see about harvesting a couple of bars of honey!  The weather has been hot, hot, hot in Yakima, and I had some concern that the hive would be full of collapsed comb and angry bees.  But the girls seem to be getting along well and it looks to me that the colony is quite healthy as we move into late summer.

I've been getting a bit more practiced at hive inspections, and this time I was able to put my new inspection stand to use, something I cobbled together from scraps in the garage.  It allows me to put a bar up for inspection and photos, which is handy when working alone.  My new smoker works like a champ, though I try to not overuse it since the girls seem not to like it much.

The colony has expanded mightily since their installation in May.  They have more than tripled in size, and now occupy 16-18 bars and have a very solid brood chamber clustered near the entrance.  I harvested one bar several weeks ago, when I took some junior high students from the church on a hive tour.  I had one student fully outfitted in a suit working in the hive right alongside me, which was fun for me and for him.  The honey is really, really good, and I am glad that top bars allow for the option of cutting out comb as well as the crush-and-strain harvest method.

They had been busy over the last several weeks, constructing several new bars of honey storage, which they are slowly filling up. After checking out their work, I decided to harvest two bars from near the entrance which had been capped for some time.  This is probably the last harvest I will make this year, focusing instead on arranging the colony to survive this winter so that they will have a strong start in the spring.

I brought the honey home to crush and strain, but Tavish was into it before I could even get the buckets set down.  He "yikes it, reewy reewy yikes it."  After straining it overnight, I took the bucket of wax back up to the hive so that the girls can clean out any excess honey.

Meanwhile, Evie and I have started gathering materials for a solar wax melter.  Our plan is to melt the wax, and then use the pure beeswax as a primary ingredient in a line of lip balms that Evie is jazzed about creating.  We went to the Habitat for Humanity Re-store today and picked up a glass window, some metal flashing and some hinges.  A solar melter is basically a box that uses the heat of the sun to bring the wax gently to melting temperature and then sifting it out from any debris it may contain.  The finished result is pure of that will follow, should we succeed!

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