I knew the time had come to reap the rewards of my very first honey harvest. The bees in the big, yellow mother hive had filled a shallow super with honey over a month ago, but with my busy life and some laziness thrown in, I decided to just let it set. But after checking during a routine inspection, and seeing that my bees were filling up the frames in the brood box with honey too, I knew it was time to take it off. So with minimal smoke and a hearty shake method, I got the bees off every single frame in the shallow...and I have to admit they didn't give me a hard time like I thought they would. As many of you know, when you mess around with honey frames, you'll discover the real disposition of your bees. But I have to admit that mine were pretty cool during the process even though I was 'robbing' them as the old timers call it!
Let me assure you now that my next purchase will be an extractor and bottling kit. But to get me through this first time, I decided to use the "crush and strain" method with goods I have around the house. Fun? Yes, but a mess. I was lucky to have a few things on hand like this Pyrex strainer to keep the comb from mixing in with the honey I scraped using a cappings scratcher. As you can tell, the honey poured through the screen and into a brand new and thoroughly cleaned five gallon bucket. After scraping as much honey off the frames as I could, I sat them aside so they could ooze what honey was left on them into the sink. And later on I'll put the frames back in the shallow super and near the hives so the bees can clean off what honey is left.
Check out this beautiful, liquid gold! After the honey leaked through the Pyrex strainer, it still had tiny bits of wax and comb in it. So I filtered it again through extra fine cloth to get all the small bits, and the finished product is what you're looking at now. The only reason it looked somewhat cloudy here is because of all the fine air bubbles in it. But before bottling it, I let it rest for a little bit to get the bubbles out while I washed and sterilized the jars and lids si I could bottle it.
It still had some bubbles in it, but as the night progressed on, it cleared up a lot. These are just a few jars from the one super I harvested. I had two full quart bottles and a bunch of the smaller bottles to give to the neighbors and friends. I plan to give the smaller, flatter, 4-ounce bottles to all the adjoining neighbors since they've been really good and adapted to my mini backyard apiary. I promised them that I would give them some of my very first crop, and I'm a man of my word. I hate to tell them, but I'm keeping the quart bottles though! I deserve a little reward. Right?
Isn't it beautiful? Here you can see that the amber color really shows through as the air bubbles settle to the top after bottling. And as you can see, the smaller bottles make it seem lighter colored while the quart jars make it appear darker. Speaking of bottling, maybe by the time I harvest my next batch, I'll have my own personalized labels. A friend of mine that works with me at the television station (he's a graphic artist) is designing a "Mark's Bees" logo for me to use on my website and on my honey too. That should really make it look sharp!
In case you can't tell, I'm pretty darn proud. And I admit it has been a long and winding road. The bees in the mother hive were on the brink of dying when they arrived last year, but with a lot of determination, they made it. Then they survived the harshest winter we've had in years and rebounded this spring. Now they're rewarding me for helping them through it all with the sweet product of their own toils. It really isn't necessary...I'm just having a blast being a beekeeper, but what the heck, I'll accept it with pride. And when I give some away and people thank me, I'll tell them, please don't thank me -- thank the bees!