MPR At The Honey Harvest

It was time to do some honey harvesting at our three hives. We had a rather large posse going out: Me, Mr. Neil, Non Birding Bill, Lorraine, Kitty, and Euan Kerr from Minnesota Public Radio.

We had so many people coming, that we were short on bee suits. NBB wore long pants, with a red shirt (the color red doesn't bother bees), just a helmet with a net and gloves--go NBB. Euan was there to interview Mr. Neil about his latest book, The Graveyard Book. What a brave man, you're scheduled to do an interview and told, "Hey, why don't don't you come out with us to our hives!" And he comes along in full bee suit to record part of the interview. What a good sport.

And then we put him to work! The honey supers (boxes where bees store excess honey and no brood) are incredibly heavy and you sometimes need two people to take them out. Now, last year, I used something called Bee Quick to get the bees out of the hive. It didn't work as well this year. I suspect that the bottle I purchased last year lost some of its potency because the bees did not vacate the supers quite like they should have. I think we'll just have to get a fresh bottle every year. Here's a video of Mr. Neil and Lorraine trying to shake out the last few bees from the honey super...and notice the irritated bee buzz:

Don't you just love the maniacal Lorraine giggle?

We checked the MimiKo hive first--no honey production--but the bees are so incredibly friendly, did some hand feeding. Next we checked the county-fair-blue-ribbon-winning Kelli hive next--three supers with honey in all (she made both comb honey and regular honey), but not willing to give up the supers, she got a little angry. We were talking about the differences between the two hives. How Mimi doesn't make much excess but she is so, so friendly and how Kelli works hard and made a terrific amount of honey her first year. Mr. Neil told me that the two women who painted the hives have been following their progress on the blog and discussed this as well. Kelli said, "When I painted my hive, I put in the message, 'Be productive.'" To which Mimi replied, "That's funny, I told my hive to 'Be friendly.'"

And that's what the hives are.

Then we checked the combined Kitty/Olga hive (and we actually had the Kitty namesake with us). We warned Kitty and Euan that we needed to be ready for this hive. Someone asked if she's a mean hive. This hive isn't a mean or angry hive, it's just that she's older and doesn't tolerate any shit. There really is no other way to explain it. We had the smoker at the ready, we took off the top lid--bam! Mr. Neil got stung through his sock near the ankle! It's one of those rare areas where a bee could breach the bee suit. Some beekeepers wear boots (Mr. Neil often does) others duct tape the bee suit pants over the shoes to prevent the breach, but we didn't and he got stung very quickly. Kitty/Olga was living up to her hype. We went back to work--bam! Euan got stung--right through the bee suit, a complete breach of the beesuit.

It was at this point we decided to put the fume board on top of the hive and leave it for 20 minutes to a half hour to really let the essential oils do their work--bees do not like the aroma of the Bee Quick and it pushes them deeper into the hive, leaving all the honey supers bee-less and allows es to harvest the honey relatively pain free. Also, leaving the hive for awhile meant Euan could continue his interview, the boys could also treat their stings and the rest of us could get a much needed break and have a snack.

I took a moment to take the Ross Rounds out of their frames--the easiest way to harvest honey if you can talk your bees into making comb honey (instructions for how to extract from Ross Rounds can be found here). It was weird having Euan along. He's a terrifically nice guy, and again, I must say that he was a very good sport to come out to our hives and still keep a genial nature after being stung. But the weird thing is that you hear him all the time on MPR (he's the dude with a hint of a Scottish brogue) and so it kind of felt like we were taking the radio out with us. I made sure that when he went home, that he got some fresh comb honey. We take a lot of people out to the hives and sometimes we just give them the smoker. It keeps them busy and if they get nervous at the hives, they have something to hold on to and most of the time we can work with minimal smoke. Euan went right in there, lifting the heavy supers, taking one for the team and getting stung, all while he was just trying to get an interview. When the interview is up, I'll post a link.

Here's Lorraine's account of the day...oh dear, and a photo of Kitty and I wrestling in the bee suits.

Kitty also has her own perspective here.

And here is a video of the Kelli hive entrance--note the drone hanging out in the front: