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.


About chrissladesbeeblog

I have been keeping bees since 1978 and currently have about a dozen hives. I am a member of the BBKA where for many years I represented Dorset at the Annual Delegates' Meeting. I am the co-author (with Dave MacFawn of of S. Carolina) of "Getting the Best from Your Bees" and am working on a book of my own poems : "Bee People".
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2 Responses to IT’S HARVEST TIME!

  1. nick holmes says:

    umm. you talk about replacing harvested comb. I thought with TBH beekeeping the only way to get the honey out was the comb destructive crush-strain method.

  2. I got 7 pieces of cut comb, one of which has been sold, the rest are on sale. The less pretty comb was pounded with a spatula and placed in the warmer with a temperature sensor in the middle until the temperature reached 102.7F. Then it was put in a mesh bag in my fruit press and squoze until a little over 12lb of honey was recovered, strained and bottled. 2 have been sold already, 1 donated for a fund raising event, 4 taken to the office for sale and the remainder are here. I might take some round to the pub where the landlord has a delicatessen at the end of the bar. The pressed comb might be used in brewing during which yeast can retrieve the honey and put it to good use and allow me to refine the wax for use or sale; or else I might make some flapjack to the recipe I posted here a couple of years ago.
    So, yes, Nick, It does destroy the comb, but there are few things bees enjoy more than drawing wax! If you look at your Varroa floors at any time of year you will some find flakes of fresh wax, even at times, February for example, when there is no income. So it isn’t a waste, but a harvest. Refined wax sells at £1 an ounce or £10 a pound. If you decide to make stuff with it, cosmetics, soap, candles etc (which I don’t) that adds value.
    By placing some of the harvested bars strategically in the brood area, the bees can rear their babies in new cradles, which has to be healthier. The brood pattern has to be seen to be believed! Note that it is the harvested BARS, not comb that I replace. I leave a good footprint of comb to guide them in rebuilding on a line convenient to me.
    Another advantage of using the crushing method is the flavour! It is so much better than using a centrifugal extractor. The room is filled with a gorgeous smell of honey when extracting, but the aroma that you enjoy is composed of essences that are no longer in the honey and won’t return.

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