Yesterday, as the bees were flying well and bringing in sustenance I took a crop of surplus honey from my top bar hive on my friend Pat’s permacultural holding; ‘Ourganics’ at Litton Cheney. One of the advantages of the TBH is the simplicity of harvesting, although an extra pair of hands was useful.
As usual with the TBH, I didn’t have the smoker with me, although I did have a sprayer of ‘liquid soap’ with which I misted the entrance. Come to think of it, I haven’t lit a smoker since last August! Working from the rear of the hive, bars were removed one at a time. Those with honey worth harvesting had adhering bees brushed from them to the front of the hive. The comb was then lowered into a supermarket plastic bag and separated from the bar using a Swiss Army hive tool, leaving a good footprint on the bar to encourage fresh comb to be drawn on the right lines.
Bars and comb were examined but not harvested when there was fresh stores, but any empty comb that was dark through having been bred in was removed as bees so much prefer to rear their babies in fresh comb. I didn’t go through the brood nest as the temperature was barely 57F, at which they start to cluster and shiver, but did notice brood in all stages, including eggs in some drone comb.
Having learnt the hard way last year, I didn’t replace the harvested bars, in the same order, but, as far as possible, alternated them with larger combs. This is to encourage the bees to draw their comb in straight lines as it makes life difficult if they cross between bars.
I noticed that one of the combs at the rear had a chunk missing from it. This is the one that Irish Honey Queen, Vanessa Drew, sampled back in the winter and pronounced it to be the best honey she had ever tasted!
I also took a super of honey from Pat’s WBC that had been moused. Luckily the mice couldn’t get through the queen excluder and, luckier for Pat, my bees hadn’t robbed it out! It looks good and Pat will soon be scraping the combs to get her harvest. I have just printed out for her my recipe for honey and wax flapjack (posted on this blog on 3rd April 2011) that she might like to play with. I see that it requires the use of a microwave, which Pat, living as she does ‘off grid’ doesn’t have; but she’s a clever lady and will be able to improvise, I’m sure.