I love writing. And, I truly enjoy spending time at the computer and letting my thoughts flow freely about an interest or subject I am crazy about. My toddler, Beckett, is right at the top of the list of “love to write about” and my hubby and the dog, Tucker, are a close second. But, sliding into third place are the honeybees.
These ladies are a passion of mine and talking about them gets my heart a racin’. It is pleasing to me to share my experiences, even if they have leaned towards negative this year, and I value the importance of the honeybee and the vital role they play in our environment and our food system. But, I’ll be honest – it’s the honey that really gets me excited. I look forward to the harvest. I anticipate the experience. And, I fully admit that I enjoy the consumption, too.
This year the honeybee season took an ugly turn at the beginning of August (see posting titled: A breaking heart) and I was left empty hearted. As my concern and my tendency for self-preservation took over, I was happy to be able to just put one foot in front of the other. I didn’t know where we were headed or what the future held when it came to my bees’ welfare. Honey and the possibility of a harvest had dropped to somewhere between “never gonna happen” and “when Beckett starts following directions”.
Well, at the encouragement and blessing of two of my biggest honeybee fans (my husband, Jacob, and my father, Bruce) I decided to give it a whirl. I made the decision to meet my hives with an open-mind and clean slate and work to extract the honey. The date was set and the extractor was on reserve. We planned for a weekend in mid-October for two reasons; one, our schedules are finally getting a little more manageable as we move into fall and two, the bees are preparing for winter and the hive populations are beginning to reach less intimidating numbers.
As October 16th came closer the butterflies in my tummy began flying at full speed. I was downright scared. But, with my two helpers at my side and Beckett home safe with Grandma – we did it. We pulled 72 jars of delicious, sweet golden Blackberry honey. It was magical. It was SO much better than
expected anticipated worried about. It went smooth. It went well. And, most importantly – it’s done.
Here’s the story…
The weather on Sunday, October 16th was textbook honey-extracting perfect. A very slight cloud cover and not a single breeze in the air. The plan was to have me working the hive and my dad would be the runner between the hive and awaiting truck where Jacob was at the ready with a blanket and towels to hold and cover the hive frames. We had a total of 40 frames to work – 20 in each hive. I was set to open the hive and while moving at a fast, but careful, pace, brush each frame clean of bees and hand it off to my dad. Bruce was in charge of continuing to clean the frame of any bees lingering for a last minute glug of honey or a straggler I had missed. Jacob was stationed about 20 yards away, at the truck with the tailgate down and was in charge of keeping the frames covered and free of any honey bees.
So, we moved through the hive on the left (a.k.a. the “nice” hive). One super was jam-packed full of 40+ pounds of honey. The other super was empty-ish and not worth disturbing the bees’ peace for a couple jars’ worth of honey. And, the last super was the storage pantry for the honey needed to get the bees through winter – not for our taking.
One hive down. Ten full frames of honey. Not a sting in sight.
Now to the “less-than-nice” hive – the right one.
I opened the top and the bees were okay. But, then the vibe started to ripple. I panicked and walked away. I told my dad and Jacob that I wasn’t doing it. I wasn’t going to be stung again three dozen times. And, that’s when my dad stepped in. He said he’d do it. And, he did. He moved through those ten top frames without a single sting. I had jumped the gun, thrown the whole “clean-slate” idea out the window and assumed the worst. A complete and utter beekeeping novice had been able to work the hive.
Well, then the vibe I had imagined actually started. The bees began pelting, the stinging started and their attitudes transformed into defensive ugliness. The hive was closed up. The second honey laden super was bid farewell. My dad’s single sting was nursed. And, we loaded back into the truck to take our bounty home.
We had honey. We had lots of honey- over seventy pounds of it. So, in a year of tested patience and completely unpredictable curveballs everything turned out okay. More than okay. I’m still not sure what next year holds and how to handle the unfriendly hive, but I have been able to move out of the season and into fall feeling a little less empty, a little less overwhelmed and a whole lot better about the welfare of my hives for winter.
This posting has quickly surpassed 900 words and I hate to see my readers dozing off or losing interest because they can no longer keep their eyes open. But, there is SO MUCH MORE to this story. WE HAVE HONEY! And, the whole process after getting home with the full frames is really the coolest part. It’s messy. It’s delicious. It’s time-consuming. It’s honey time! Go grab a drink. Take a potty break. Stretch your legs. And, head right on back here to read the rest of the story. Oh, and don’t forget – figure out how to get your hot little hands on some of that dee-licious blackberry honey! To be continued in posting titled – “Sweet, finger-lickin’ good honey! It’s time to extract!“.