Mini Honey Harvest

Well, it's official, Mr. Neil took one for the team...

...and got stung on the neck. The going pool was that all the helpers with the hive had to give the stingee $10 each, so for his pain he got some payola. He was walking near the Olga hive sans bee suit, so it was kind of his own fault. Good news though: no allergic reaction and he is still alive, well, and underfoot.

We went out to check the status of the Kitty hive, to see that the new queen was laying eggs, and boy howdy had she gone to town! If you look in the above cells, you will see minute grains of rice--those are fresh eggs, laid sometime within the last three days. We even found larvae and some brood being capped. Overall, worker numbers are low, but the honey supply for the hive is rich and I think it's still very possible to recover enough to survive the winter.

There is still some brood left that hasn't hatched yet that was transferred from Olga to Kitty, so even while we're are waiting the three weeks for the new eggs to emerge into workers, fresh workers will still be on hand to keep the hive running. Once the new eggs emerge into workers though, watch out!

Here's a new worker just chewing her way out to join the crowd. I'm glad I added in these frames from Olga, when bees first emerge, they are "nurse bees" that are to tend to eggs and larvae, keeping them fed and helping them grow. It's the older workers who are the foragers that look for pollen and nectar. This worker will tend all the eggs and larvae from the new queen--an important bridge in our hive's survival.

We checked the Olga hive and found one frame of harvestable honey--it was capped, when bees cap the honey, that means it's ready for storage and more importantly, ready for human consumption! This was a frame I stuck in one of the brood boxes, below the queen excluder as an experiment. It was a completely blank frame with no foundation and the bees built on it all over on their own. They filled it and capped it... but they haven't really done any comb building above the queen excluder. I've read different theories on the queen excluder. The idea is that the smaller workers can easily pass through the excluder to build comb, but the larger queen cannot get through. This makes the workers fill up all the comb with surplus honey and insures that no eggs and larvae are mixed with your honey for human consumption. Some beekeepers say that bees are reluctant to pass through the excluder and it slows honey production. They say that the third brood box is so full of stored honey that the queen won't go past it into the supers. Since we haven't had luck using the queen excluder and our honey supers are going empty, we took it off today to see what would happen. Hopefully, this time next week I can report that the girls are drawing out comb in the honey supers.

In the meantime, we decided to take advantage of the experimental frame that got filled in the brood box and harvest the honey! H-O-L-Y C-O-W was it an unbelievable taste--it's so light and delicate and yet, so full of nectary goodness. We each took a chunk of the comb loaded with the lightly colored honey. When my teeth pushed through the wax, a wave of honey surged over my tongue, covered the roof of my mouth, and flooded around my teeth. The flavors seemed to shift from minty, to peppery, to unbelievably sweet, but always fragrant. After I had swallowed several chunks, my breath smelled like a field of flowers.

Since this was in a brood box, the queen had laid a few drone cells in the center of the frame--they were easily cut out. You can see two drones in the above photo--the two cells with dark objects filling them. Mr. Neil said that in Italy, people will sell the larvae with the honey--perhaps for aphrodisiac purposes...not really what I'm looking for, so we just tossed them out. I had to laugh, when I was taking this photo, I was holding the hunk of comb to the window for the light, and just kept my finger on the camera button to take several photos in a row. About photo six...

...Cabal came over to to sniff the comb! Crazy dog. He didn't eat it, but the sudden nose surprised and tickled me.

So, we have our first mini harvest of the Gaiman-Stiteler honey (Non Birding Bill calls it Stamen Honey) from the Olga hive.

We ended up getting seven suet cake sized packs of comb honey. There were four of us and we ended up eating at least one full box. Which seemed like a good idea at the time--we were swept up in the excitement of the first harvest--Mr. Neil and I both assumed that we would get no honey either because it was our first year or some freak accident would happen (like, oh, I don't know, a swarm, killing off the queen, or the queen flying away) and yet despite all that we got a little honey, and there's still hope on the horizon for more to come this year.

We were down right gluttonous sampling Olga's wares, it was intoxicating--almost like tasting all the plants within five miles all at once in a sugary burst. But then the insulin goes a little haywire and you find that eating half jar's worth of honey is probably not the best idea you've ever had in your whole life--up there with eating a whole tube of chocolate cookie dough, but boy was it fun at the time.