Nearly extraction time. A while ago, I saw a neat movie, the secret life of bees, which taught me a lot about the falsely superior attitudes of white alcoholic men in the 1950’s, and the sisterhood among women of all races and classes – but not much about bees, other that not to swat them. Even the swatting bees mantra seems to be metaphorical. Still, it was a really enjoyable movie, and I am even tempted to read the book some day. The point of this, is the extractor. There was a 44 gallon drum with cages for honey frames, and a handle and gears to spin the honey out by centrifuge. I’ve been using one of those – possibly a 1940’s model or earlier, that used to be Dads. My friend has two hives, and had five supers to extract, which all went well. My shed seems to be fairly bee proof, though one of the imports stung my finger, and crawled up my friends leg before stinging him on the (thankfully) outside of his thigh.
First up in the process of extracting the honey, is getting the bees out of the honey supers on the hive. The little operators (like me) put on an escape board on, where the bees can find a way out, but not back in. D calls it a skateboard. That brings forth some cool mental pictures. The bigger operators just use a thing like a leaf blower to blow them all out, with bees everywhere. Messy. Anyway, D helped me put the escape board on to the hive, and remove the queen excluder. It involves lifting each honey super off, one at a time, and then the escape board goes on, and then the supers go back on again.
I had quite an exciting time – a bee got in my bonnet, and stung my neck before I could get him out. Then a bee got into Beloved’s hair, and the fun began. She has a deep seated fear of bees in her hair, dating back to a bad experience from her childhood. My Beloved really lost the plot, and was running around the back yard screaming and smacking her head, before whipping her top off (in case they were in her top) and running around topless and screaming some more. As she was the photographer of the day, and children may be watching, no photos of the incident will be posted. After a time, I managed to intercept beloved, and remove the offending bee, no stings. Putting the hive back together was uneventful after that.
Unfortunately, the bucket left under the extractor to catch the last drips also caught a large rat, which was completely dead. What a sweet way to go. It has now gone the way of the garden, buried in a shallow grave. I don’t think I will be using that honey – although, if I give you some honey, and you are not certain I actually like you…..
Another task is melting the cappings. There was about one marg container per super, though there was some very old wax in our friends hive, so lots of grot. I expect my brand new supers will give a lovely clean wax, this year at least. The wax can be traded in against new foundation for the frames, or used in candles, skin products, and other cool stuff.
I have pegged in next Sunday as extraction day – feel free to come and help. There are few things as delicious as a finger full of honey straight from the extractor.