My husband Kelly got to work in the very early spring of 2015 researching, and building bee frames and boxes. Every night he would fill me in on how incredible bee's are, and the complexities of the creation of honey. It is quite astounding to say the least! For instance, did you know that when a hive needs a queen they will produce about 5 of them, and the first one to hatch will go and kill off the remaining queens? Also, the female bee's do all of the foraging, guarding of the hive, caring for the eggs, and feedin and caring for the queen. The male bee's, (drones ) only purpose is to provide the queen with sperm, and after that they die! Another facinating fact: it takes approx 2 million flowers to make 1 pound of honey, and bacteria cannot grow in honey... INCREDIBLE!
In May Kelly travelled to Scandia, Alberta to pick up our Italian Bee's from New Zealand. They came in 2 shoebox sized containers (with approx 10,000 bee's per box) and 2 Queens, each in their own little seperate box. We placed the bee's in their hives, added the queens, and fed them sugar water until things began to bloom.
We have 2 hives on our property and as of 3 1/2 weeks ago, we are now proud owners of 12 litres of honey! One of the interesting moments of our honey harvest was when we seperated our honey. One hive produced a very dark, molasses coloured honey, and the other hive produced a very light honey. Our hives are not very far apart, approx 500 meteres, but each hive must have collected different types of pollen in different areas.
Another interesting discovery we made is that one hive is very calm and one is a bit ornary. You can lift the lid and look at the frames on the quiet hive and the bee's just keep working and are very calm, no bee suit needed. Where as the other hive gets a bit aggressive when you go poking around in their home. So the smoker comes out and the bee suit goes on!
Our only concern at the moment is that bears (black and grizzly) are known to come looking for the honey in the fall. Being that we live in the Foothills of the Rocky Mountains, the bears do come into our area. So far, there has been no sign of them, and we are hoping that we will not come upon destroyed hives one day.
The harvesting of honey has been more of a simple process than we had originally thought. The full frames are removed from the hives, and the capping is taken off with a hot sharp knife. Then the frames are put into an extractor (see image below) and you spin the frames and the honey is released. The honey is then strained from the bottom of the extractor through a screen into glass jars, and voila you have honey! I must say that on the first extraction at 9pm at night there was alot of honey going into our tummies instead of the jars, so it took a few hours for our blood sugar levels to balance out so that we could fall asleep... no complaints...
Just like pulling carrots from your own garden, eating honey from your own hive is a very fulfilling experience! I can remember standing over one of the hives this summer and watching the bee's carry pollen in through the little entrance. I felt like I was 10 years old again, filled with wonder and amazement.....
Until next time... adios..
Photo's: Our son Isaiah taking out frames from the hive to extract delicious honey.
Below: Our 4 frame honey extractor. Kelly joyfully filling one of our first jars of honey!