On finding out how the neighborhood tastes.

Checking the Beehive

This past weekend, we found out how the neighborhood tastes...to a bee. I finished my fine beekeeping class series at EcoVersity and started thinking about how to wrap up the beekeeping season on my hives. That meant it was time to deal with honey.

I suited up and got the smoker going. I tried pine needles and pine cones and they worked great as tinder. I brought all kinds of equipment out to the remaining active hive. My quiet hive had hit the road a few weeks ago. I smoked the bees something good and pulled off the hive's roof. I have finally come to terms with my very defensive bees and was ready to deal with an extra ornery bunch that day.

The bars were so stuck together that they required a fair amount of effort to get apart. Oh! but when I did pry them apart and take a look...golden elixir. There was lots of beautiful capped honey in the combs. It was at this moment that I realized I forgot a brush to push bees off the comb. Improvise! Between a leafy branch and my gloved hand and shaking them off (a guaranteed way to rile them up), I got most of the bees off and managed to cut up combs into my largest stock pot. I filled up the pot with about four bars worth of comb. At this point everyone was getting hot and bothered so I put the hive back together, packed up my tools, and toted off my beautiful prize. I had one persistent guard bee chase me across the yard but I shook her when I turned the corner.

I came inside and realized everything was now sticky: suit, veil, smoker, knives, hive tools, gloves, stock pot. I also checked to make sure I had not carried any bees inside only to find, I had. They were eventually released in the front of the house. The trapped bees had gorged themselves on the honey and lazily flew away. So now I had a sticky pot of combs, what next.

What next required every spare jar in the house. We mashed up comb, put several chunks into a strainer and let it drip over a mixing bowl. By evening, we had about a jar and half. The process was messy and going slower as the night went on and the house cooled down. We put a final chunk into the strainer before bed and let it sit over night. The next day, a sunny day, Mr. Husband put the same strainer set-up in a sunny spot outside and by evening we had about eight pints strained and jarred. This was a very informal but useful setup. I have read online about much more sophisticated honey presses and straining system. At some point during this sticky business I yearned for an extractor but classic centrifugal honey extractors do not work with top-bar hives. So this is a process under study, in this household.

The honey is a beautiful dark amber and is tangy, and citrusy, and floral. This is what our neighborhood tastes like. I couldn't stop looking at the jars for several days and only just put the jars away in the pantry yesterday.

I have been looking for recipes for the new treat and so far have used it in waffles this morning, instead of sugar, and in a homemade granola this afternoon. Honey has a higher fructose content than cane sugar so you should use less when cooking or baking with it. With that in mind, I left the brown sugar out of the granola recipe. Instead, I just used 1/4 cup of maple syrup and 1/2 cup of honey. It browned nicely and tastes quite good.

I can't thank the bees enough for all their hard work. I will probably try to harvest about two more bars and then leave them the rest of the bounty for their winter stores. Then I will have the rest of winter to admire their handiwork and enjoy it.

For your cooking pleasure:

Honey tips: cooking, storage, and usage

Olive Oil Granola with Dried Apricots and Pistachios