The Beekeepers are Busy as Bees: Part 2—The Honey

By Cliff York, Michael Kelly, and Pete Lund

Rule number one for moving hive honey to bottled honey is to separate the bees from the honey. Although they are great workers, better than beavers, the character of bees is tarnished by their obsessive propensity to steal unguarded honey. You don't want them around when you are working to organize and fetch the honey.

Using an ammonia-like smelly substance(which the bees hate) on a temporary inner ceiling at the top of the hive, we "encourage" or herd the bees to vacate the premises by diving farther down inside the hive as we stink up the place above them. We can then work from the top down and remove each "super," or story, of the hive, to the extent it is free of bees.

To get to the honey, we have to cut off, with a large heated knife, the wax covers the bees make for every honey-filled cell. The frames, together with their honey, are then moved to a crude centrifuge, in bee jargon an "extractor," and honey is literally spun out of the uncapped combs, where it oozes down the sides of the centrifuge and flows out of agate at the bottom. Waiting there is series of sieves that strain out bee parts, bits of wax, and miscellaneous crud that might be floating around in the honey. The final step is to fill the waiting jars with the honey emerging from the gate and sieves.

The woodshop was our normal bee-free location for putting the extractor (hand powered by us) to work and fill jars, but we had no access to it until the weekend of July25. Broadmead Administration arranged to deliver our six stored supers of honey to a garage in the maintenance storage area below Lake Maybe. Bill Breakey, a recovering beekeeper, kindly pitched in for part of the weekend, and we filled over 200 of our usual8-ounce jars and then brought in our first-rate jar-labeling team (Gwyn Sirota and Gay Block), who quickly put on the labels and polished the completed jars of honey.

Thanks to a recent gift from Cliff's daughter, we've added a new hive to the lineup, and we are now tending six hives near the staff parking lot. But we have reached a time of year when nectar becomes relatively sparse. We don't expect to be harvesting much, if any, honey during the rest of the year. The bees need what honey stores they've accumulated(and that we haven't stolen) to prepare for surviving the winter.

Honey keeps. So we have plenty of time to figure out ways the BRA can sell the honey.

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