A Great ‘Bad’ Honey Harvest
I had a bad honey harvest this year. And, boy, is it good.
I say it's "bad" because I had expected to have nearly 10x more honey to harvest by now. My bees really disappointed me on the volume side of things this year.
But, I did still manage to get about 17 lbs of honey from a few frames. That's about as much as I got from my hive last year before its untimely demise (read here to learn about the dangers of locating your bees too close to a creek during the rainy season).
And the quality of this year's harvest is spectacular.
Rich, dark, smooth, sweet and mild. Everything good honey should be.
Even though describing taste is hard, here's a picture of the first jar we filled yesterday. I think it does a good job of visually conveying the purity of the flavor:
We spent the day putting the honey in jars, most of them small 55ml ones, which are good for sharing with neighbors and friends. As I've mentioned before, honey is an excellent 'social currency' – so we want to be sure to have a decent stockpile:
If raising bees and harvesting your own honey is something you've never done but find appealing, know that anyone, anywhere can do this. Consider reading the summary for bee virgins I put together last year after my first season of beekeeping.
For you experienced beekeepers: since I only had a few deep frames (and none completely filled out), I didn't use an extractor. Instead, I used the crush and strain method. It was a lot messier (we're still cleaning up the kitchen), but worked out fine.
I have 3 hives this year (all new), versus just one last. And my frames this year are all deeps. I had a heck of a time coaxing my bees to come up out of the brood boxes and draw comb in the honey supers. I wasted about a month and a half waiting for them to do it on their own before intervening, which is why this year's harvest was so meager vs my expectations. I won't make that same mistake next year.
I'm really looking forward to 2014. It will be the first year I'll start off with mature hives (assuming mine overwinter successfully), and so there's a good chance my first honey harvest will be in April(!) when the apple orchards around here blossom. I should get 2 full harvests next year, and possibly 3, if lucky. With 3 deep hives, that could/should translate into hundreds of pounds of honey. Very exciting.
If I end up with that much, I'll have to put my girls to work at the Sunday farmers market. And, of course, I'll be happy to share with any PP.com members interested in a sample!
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The honey looks good. My honey is much darker in the later season, but I live in Maine. I fill 8 ounce bottles to share with my neighbors and friends.
This is my second year and I got 6 gallons out of my two hives. Both hives are strong and should survive the winter. One that was a bit weak I fed a bunch of candy and left a few frames in a honey super. My base hive consists of two deep supers and when I collect honey I use honey supers which are a bit less deep and weigh considerably less when you remove them from the hive.
I had trouble getting my bees into my second honey super this summer but that was because they were not producing any honey it was hot and wet at that time. The bees just wanted to eat what they had stored not collect any new stuff. Once the weather cooled the bees got busy and collected a bunch of honey. We had two or three very wet weeks and a week and a half of very hot weather.
Both my hives weigh over a hundred pounds so they should survive the winter in southern Maine.
In many locations you need a license to sell honey so check your state laws.
You mentioned that you "had a heck of a time coaxing my bees to come up out of the brood boxes and draw comb in the honey supers. I wasted about a month and a half waiting for them to do it on their own before intervening…"
What did you do to intervene? I have the same problem. I put baggie feeders on top of the honey supers, which brings the bees out of the brood boxes, but I haven't been successful in getting them to draw comb when I'd like them to.
I am not a landowner, but I think I could install some hives somewhere on the extensive property of the school where I work. I live at 1350 meters (4400 feet), give or take, and I have seen a few hives in town, so I guess that the altitude is OK. (My climate band is European temperate, alpine, aka humid continental)
It's high time for me to start taking more practical action for resiliency, and beekeeping seems like one viable possibility.
If you get the chance, by all means check out "More than Honey," a recent Swiss documentary on the plight of the honeybee. Some of the most delightful characters are Swiss beekeepers (up in the Alps, from the look of the landscape). I saw it less than a week ago and recommend it. One of the beekeepers in the movie sells dark, locally adapted queens, and you might want to explore this possibility. I wish I could remember more details for you, but all I can recall is that the name of the queen breeder was "Singer," I think.
Congratulations. I was glad to see your article and success. I have not posted for a long time, so here are some rambling thoughts… I had a very good honey year too… made labels and took jars to a tourist cafe to sell some, since I had so much! I also tried using the honey in breadmaking, and it resulted in fabulous bread! I have been posting about the bees and honey on this page… http://aufrance.com/music/newsletter.htm …scroll down and find the labels if you need ideas, plus you'll also see some interesting history about beekeeping out west. The best thing that happened this year was when my husband bought me a full coverage fully vented beekeeper suit. The mesh material allows for cool comfort and calm no-stress working with the bees. But also, I think adding a queen excluder above the bottom box made the bees more calm, since my visits are no longer seen as a direct threat to their brood. So, next is winterization with 1 inch foam board and aluminized bubble wrap over the hive… will try heat tape abound the Boardman feeder this year too. By the way, we have had several bears around here this fall, but none into my bees since the electric fence is still doing its job. Enjoy your beekeeping!