beekeeping

Honey harvest 2017

honey harvest 2017 - jar of honey

We have harvested our honey for the year and am grateful for the bounty that nature has provided. I will not say I am a successful beekeeper until I can winter a hive, but things are looking good for the time being. Certainly, there have been some bumps… or stings, on the road, but harvesting honey from my own beehive is the kind of bucket list experience that I really am getting a kick out of.

The ups and downs of expected honey

I went into the year not expecting to get any honey. My thought was that the first year would completely be a building year for the hive. Just in the past month or two, however, I began to think otherwise. I saw the rate at which they were producing honey and added a second super on top of the already existing super (supers are the boxes where you actually get the honey from). Things were looking good.

I even made the bold prediction that I may harvest between 30 and 60 lbs of honey this year. The way those girls were getting to work, I thought it could happen. Well, as soon as I put that second super on, they slowed way down. They barely produced comb and were not adding anything to the second super I added. They did, however,  manage to fill up most (not all) of the one super with honey.

Expectations vs reality

I ended up with 14 pints of honey. That roughly translates to 21 lbs of the gold stuff. So, my actual production did fall within the expectations of what I was going to produce at the beginning of the year. It did not, however, fall in line with my wide-eyed mid-Summer optimism thoughts.

 

But really, though, that is absolutely fine. What the hell am I going to do with 21 lbs of honey anyways? I could try and do a batch of mead, but I think I am going to let that alone for this year… I am having trouble enough finding time to brew beer. We will probably give a little bit away and then probably up my honey cooking game.

The actual harvest… sort of a debacle and a painful learning experience

I learned some thaaangs. First, double check your equipment. Second, the bees get pissed in the fall when you are trying to rob them of their honey.

Not having a good understanding of these things caused me some stings (one in the face) and a few scary moments. After I had pulled all the frames from my super (which includes brushing off and agitating several thousand bees), I went back to put the cover on. Using a brush, I started swiping the already agitated bees away so I didn’t crush the little gals. Ohhh… they didn’t want any of that. Straight from the hive to my face…. Mach 3 bee attack. I had my equipment on, though, so it was all AOK. Or was it?

There is a zipper right under the hood and I had not zipped it all the way. They found that hole. Before you know it, I had several bees INSIDE my mask. That was freaky and probably dangerous.

So I got as far away from the hive as possible, but many were still following me. I was trying to smoosh the ones inside my mask, but wasn’t getting them. I removed my outfit. Also probably a terrible move (I never claimed to be the brightest man), but I needed to get away!

Fortunately, it worked. There were some other shenanigans that went on, but that was, by far, the scariest. My friend, who owns the land my hive is on, said it almost reminded him of a cartoon when bees chase people. There is more to it and there is actually some video I might be able to share if I can get a hold of it.

So, I lived and there were some valuable lessons to be had. And it is funny, in retrospect. Beehive war stories. I may have some more pictures to share on the way.

honey extractor

Next year

MORE HIVES. I really enjoyed doing it this year and hope that I can help these little ladies survive the harsh North Dakota winter. My hope is to have a few more hives next year. It really has been a cool experience and it is sort of neat to participate in being part of the solution of the bee collapse problem.

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4 Comments

  • Reply
    Sandy
    September 23, 2017 at 12:47 am

    Wow! That’s quite a scary moment! Bees in your mask?!!! It’s so cool that you are a beekeeper! Congrats on the 21 pounds of gold!

    • Reply
      Ben
      September 25, 2017 at 7:21 am

      Thanks, Sandy! it was a little terrifying… war story, I guess?

  • Reply
    Meredith - Steele House Kitchen
    October 13, 2017 at 9:56 am

    I’ve always wanted hives but don’t have the room. Congrats on the harvest and sorry for the bee chase!

    • Reply
      Ben
      October 13, 2017 at 10:23 am

      lol… I look at it as a war story and lesson learned. It certainly could have turned out MUCH worse. That incident also sort of pushed me to get an epipen. My hive is about 30 minutes out of town on a friend’s organic apple orchard. Super awesome location unless my body decides to be allergic to bees. 30 minutes to ER might be bad news.

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