A few years ago we rescued some bees from a Mennonite family we know. They were a very young couple (in their very early 20’s perhaps). The husband was a farmer taking up beekeeping and the wife was about 21 years old and pregnant with their second child. One day she went outside and found her husband collapsed on the ground and blue. Where she lives it takes 45 minutes for the ambulance to get there, so she called her neighbors for help. One of the neighbors was pulling out his pocket knife to perform a tracheotomy on the young man when he started breathing again and came to. It turned out that he is allergic to bees, although he hadn’t known it, and on this day he had been stung.
Needless to say, his wife was very, very upset. The bees had to go. So we bought the bees, hives and equipment from them for an excellent deal. We haven’t done too much with the bees, but lucky for us God designed them to more or less take care of themselves!
Yesterday we extracted honey! It’s a little late in the season for extracting, but here in Texas we still have several months of warm weather before it gets cold again and we left some honey in the hive to help the bees make it through winter!
By the way, this is not a post about how to extract honey. It’s just the story of what we did. Consider it a “don’t try this at home” post. =) We definitely improvised here and there!
It was 105 degrees here yesterday, so the first thing we did was set the extractor up in the living room. The last time we extracted we did it outside, but it was a lot easier to deal with ooey gooey honey in air conditioning!
Did you know that all the bees in a beehive have different jobs? Here is the picture of the guard bees. Their job is to make sure no intruders get in:
Would you like to peek inside a beehive?
What you see here are called frames. We put a thin piece of wax as a foundation and the bees build it up with hexagon cells. They use those cells to lay eggs or store honey. All that white you see is the cells capped in wax to hold the honey in. Here’s a closer view:
You can see the bees really built up these cells, far past the frames:
Here’s something else that is amazing. Bees actually build those cells at a slight angle. If they built them perpendicular to the foundation the honey would ooze out, so they build them at a slight angle. I tried to capture this in this photo:
All this wax makes the frames stick together, so it was some work to get the frames free! Once we did, we brought them inside where we used a heated electric knife to melt the wax caps off the frames.
Our extractor only holds 4 frames, so we had to repeat this process several times. Eventually enough honey collected for us to drain the honey out of the extractor into a 5 gallon bucket. We strain it through two strainers (one on top of the other) as we drain to remove any imperfections (like dirt or a bee wing or something like that).
With all this honey inside the house, it’s inevitable to have a bee visitor or two. Here was our little visitor: