In Seattle we usually get to harvest honey two or three times a year, after the maple, blackberry, and knotweed blooms. Beekeepers call a nectar source that is sufficient to produce harvestable honey a “flow”. This year the blackberry flow didn’t really happen in the city itself (too much rain at the wrong time), so I decided to just harvest everything at once, creating what is known as a wildflower honey, or a honey with mixed floral sources.
This is a picture of my strongest hive this year. As you can see, it has a total of 8 boxes for the bees. Since the bees overwinter on 3 boxes, that’s up to 5 boxes of honey that I can harvest. What does that mean, you ask? Each box can hold up to 30 lbs of honey, so you are looking at a hive with potentially up to 150 lbs of harvestable honey. One of those boxes was from a different hive, and the top one ended up being completely empty. But still, I was very happy with how this hive performed over the course of the summer, especially considering that three of those boxes were given to the bees as bare foundation which the bees had to turn into comb, requiring a considerable investment of nectar that could have been turned into honey.
.Prior to harvesting, the beekeeper has to decide how he is going to get the bees out of the boxes (supers) that he is going to harvest from. Different methods include fume pads that can be put on top of the hive that drive the bees down through smell, brushing the bees off the frames, or even taking a leaf blower to the boxes once they’re off the hive and blowing all the bees off the frames. I decided to go with what is called an escape screen: A one way maze where the bees can exit the hive, but not get back in. I unfortunately didn’t get a picture, but here’s the item from the seller. All you have to do is put it between what you’re leaving and what you’re taking a day or two before the harvest, and all the bees will be gone when you come back.
Most of that is self explanatory. What might not be so obvious is why I’m sticking the harvested honey supers (boxes) into black plastic bags. The answer is that bees love honey. If the supers were left out in the open, bees would very quickly find them and take all of the honey back to their hive. Since I want to keep the honey, I decided that adding an extra layer of protection is in my best interest.
From here we pack up my Jeep and head off to the harvest party hosted by Krista of seattlebeeworks.com. Unfortunately it’s a little late, so I’ll be finishing the story tomorrow…