Covered in Bees!

After work yesterday, I checked the weather and discovered it was still well above 60 degrees Fahrenheit. So, I rushed to my mother’s house and got geared up to go into my hive for the first time since last June. I had no idea what to expect, and I was going in alone. In the past, I’ve been the only person working on the hive, but have always had a remote helper to hand me tools from the patio, or take photos. This time no one was even home. I was pretty anxious, but deeply determined to go into my hive.

It was hard. I have an anxiety disorder and recently cut back on my medications in an effort to learn to cope without dampening all of my emotions. This was one hell of a test of those coping skills to be sure, and I’m very proud of myself for how well I did given the circumstances.

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My original plan was to remove at least two frames of honey if they were doing well, replace those frames with empties, and add a queen excluder and honey super. I didn’t quite manage it, but I did fairly well I think, given my relative inexperience. Sadly, I crushed a far more bees than I would really like, and I’m still a little panicked that I could have possibly killed my queen. It’s very unlikely, but fear isn’t always rational and I’m so invested in this give that I think I would be devastated if I was responsible for its collapse.

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The reason I wasn’t able to complete my mission is that I got stung, which spiked my adrenaline. At first that adrenaline was a much needed kick in the pants, and I pulled the frames I intended to remove and replaced them with blank ones. Unfortunately the adrenaline crash that followed, hit me hard. I got shaky and nauseous to the point that I had a hard time even putting the excluder on, and putting on the next box was just impossible. I decided the best thing I could do was to close everything up and wait until Friday to place the new box.

I’m glad I did too because my body was so overwhelmed by the chemical rush that I fell asleep on the couch right after getting my suit off, leaving my two precious frames of honey outdoors! Later, I went out to retrieve them and found them covered I bees, desperately trying to retrieve any honey they could despite it being after dark. One of the frames which had only been filled and capped on one side was light enough that I was able to bring in by myself. The other had to wait until my mother got home so I would have a second pair of hands to handle the heavy frame while I brushed all the bees off.

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Now I have them uncapped on one side each, draining slowly into a big steel tray. I considered cutting out all the comb and crushing it to get my honey faster, but I just couldn’t bring myself to destroy all the hard work my bees put into building the comb. I’m hoping it will be drained by tomorrow so I can give my bees those frames right back… And because I want my honey!!

Now, I may be writing a very dry post about what I did, but I’m actually giddy at the prospect of having my own honey finally. These bees have had it all to themselves for a full year! I’m ready to get something back on my investment here and with the rate at which me and mine all suck down honey, I’m hoping for some really great harvests this year!

I just hope my new roommates don’t mind it too much. I just moved into a new house two cities over and I don’t actually want to drive my roommates nuts.

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Hey there, Honey!

A couple days ago, I joined my friend Kitty Sharkey in extracting her honey. Last winter she lost her bees but was able to save the frames of honey in her freezer. If you’ve ever stored honey, you’ve probably noticed that it crystallizes if it gets cold. Interestingly though, it only does that between 40-32 degrees Fahrenheit. Below freezing however, the water crystalizes and leaves the sugar in suspension and when thawed it returns to its liquid golden state. That’s what Kitty did with her frames to store them for a time when extracting the honey was actually a possibility.

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One of the perks of my job at the Biofuel Oasis and Urban Farm Store is that I have access to the equipment needed to extract the honey from the comb, so I offered to help her out.

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Together, we uncapped the comb and used the extractor to spin out the liquid gold. The honey runs through a filter to remove all the stray wax, leaving only pure raw honey in the bucket.

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Unfortunately my recent back injury made me unable to finish the project with her and she was up til the wee hours of the morning before she was done, but overall, the haul was around 45lbs from about 20 frames. Not bad for a lost hive.

Of corse this called for celebration so we dipped glasses under the stream of unfiltered honey and filled up with bourbon. Cheers!

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