Covered in Bees (and Honey)!

I discovered a new interest this past summer: beekeeping! The school where I work has a couple hives, and after helping look after them for several months, yesterday I participated in collecting the honey. The process of harvesting honey from the hives is very, very cool (and we helped ourselves to generous mouthfuls of honey-covered wax while we worked). It’s challenging to keep hives going this far north, but we got about ten pounds of honey for our efforts this year.

My dad took this photo of me checking on the hives back in July – I’m lifting a frame from a box to see what the bees are doing with it. My sassy pose was completely unintentional.
Yesterday afternoon we brought in the frames from one of the supers (the bees weren’t happy about that) and set up our workstation.
A few of the frames contained “uncapped” honey like this – the bees don’t cap off the cells until the honey in them reaches the optimum moisture content. The bees build the cells at an upward angle to prevent uncapped honey from dripping out.
Once the honey reaches its ideal moisture content, it’s essentially nonperishable, and the bees cap it off to save it. Our first job was scraping off the wax caps so the honey could come out.
Once that was done, we popped the frames in the centrifuge to remove the honey. The empty comb can be put back in the hives next season, saving the bees the work of building new cells from scratch (which hopefully results in more honey production!).
Yum! This is still full of bits of wax and the occasional dead bee body part, so it needs to be filtered before being jarred. We’ll do that next week.

The title of this post comes from an Eddie Izzard routine – “My father was a beekeeper, and his father was a beekeeper, and I want to follow in their footsteps. And their footsteps were like this: ‘aahhhhhhh! I’m covered in bees!'” You can watch it on YouTube here, but be warned that it includes some profanity and a dude wearing women’s clothing, if that sort of thing offends you.

Do any of you have beekeeping experience? Do you find it as incredibly fun as I do?

8 replies on “Covered in Bees (and Honey)!”

We kept bees when we lived in Seattle. The hives were on the garage roof so that the bees would fly out high and were less likely to bother folks on the ground nearby. We harvested honey using a centrifuge also. The challenge was that the bees outside got the scent of the honey and tried to get into the kitchen where we were processing the honey. It was some hours after we finished before they lost interest. It was fun though.

Yeah, we carefully brushed all the bees off our frames and then took them far away from the hives to process them. Silly bees. I’m pretty sure one was trying to sting me through my glove, although I couldn’t feel it.

Fifty years ago, my daddy had bee hives on our farm. He smoked the bees, lifted the frames and my job was to brush any bees on the frames off with a peach tree limb. It always had to be a peach tree limb . . .don’t ask me why. I then took the frames to my mother (in the kitchen. . in the house) and she cut the comb from the frames. There was this sticky little path from outside to the kitchen. Mother would squeeze the honey out of the comb and give us the comb to eat on. She then put the honey in jars. At least one jar of honey would end up having a bee in it. When we would eat the honey, my daddy would always say “well the bees have been in the alfalfa or the bees have been in the roses.” Great memories.

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