Friday, 5 June 2015

Backyard Honey - Our first jars

Bee's. There is enough information around for us at present to know that they are in trouble, and we should all be doing our own little bit to give them a helping hand. That may be in the form of growing some plants for them, leaving them little watering holes, simply not swatting them, or giving them a home. So last year we got a Beehive. I didn't know we were getting one so it was quite a surprise when it turned up but I'm really glad its here. It's good for the bee's, it's good for our son to learn about the bee's and we had a great day today making our first ever jars of honey.

It really is quite a simple process (says she who has had nothing to do with the whole exercise) but the timeline pretty much went like this:

* Last summer, the hive arrived.
* Wig contacted the local 'Bee Expert' who gave him a couple of lessons in beekeeping at his Apiary, (for free). As well as advising on Bee Keeping, the Bee Expert is the chap that gets the call when someone finds a swarm in their garden and wants it removed.
* Wig then took our hive to the 'Bee Expert' so that when a swarm got collected, that colony would be put into our hive and they would become our bees.
* We waited and waited for news of a swarm. I chucked some wildflower seeds around and planted some lavender in preparation.

Wildflower area.

* We waited a bit more and decided that the Bee Expert might have forgotten he had our hive...
* Finally, in October we got the call. There were bees in our hive! As it turned out, the Bee Expert had given us some of his bee's, he had not collected any swarms at all during the summer. More proof they are in decline perhaps. In hindsight it worked in our favour that the Bee Expert gave us some of his bees as he knew they were friendly ones (thank goodness). Bees from a swarm could have come from anywhere and we wouldn't have known if they were going to be aggressive or not.
* Wig collected the hive and put it in our garden. I say garden but it actually resembles a prison yard. All concrete no grass.
* The bees then hibernated and did very little throughout winter. We wondered if they would survive.
* When Spring arrived the bees started coming out from the hive. It was great to watch.

Bees and their flowers.

* Wig has been checking on them weekly and this week realised that they have been making honey.

Weekly check of the Bees.

* We then had to hire an extractor from another local Bee Man and extract the honey.

Honey Extractor.

Our 1st five frames of Dutch Quarter Honey.

Removing the wax caps from honeycomb in preparation for the extraction process.

We put the frames in the extractor, turned the handle and the honey flew out into the drum.

Once the honey had dripped to the bottom of the drum we opened the tap at the bottom and poured the contents into a bowl via a fine mesh sieve to get rid of any wax or other debris. We were amazed at how much honey came from 5 frames, we got loads!

This is the wax that we cut from the frames. We think we can make this into something, although we aren't quite sure what to do with it yet.

Finally, we poured the sieved honey into sterilised jars. This is the first four, we completely underestimated how much honey we would get from 5 frames and have to buy 10 more jars in the morning. 

It's been a great experience having a hive. I would recommend it to anyone with an interest in nature and a bit of outside space. It's also good for hay fever sufferers to eat honey made from their local plant life apparently so there a huge amount of reasons to give it a go. And it tastes great too.

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