Beemused: A Blog

We Has Got Hunny! Part Deux: Cutting the honeycomb

26th December 2007

We Has Got Hunny! Part Deux: Cutting the honeycomb

We’ve been putting off cutting the comb out of the harvested frames of honey and putting it into the small boxes we’d gotten for it (suitable for gifting etc.). I’m not really sure why,m except that other things always seemed to get in the way! Anyway, it turned out to be quite straightforward.

We now have 20 small boxed of raw, in-comb honey, from 2 of the most full shallow frames. (The rest of the frames in that box of harvested frames are not as complete; we’ll be extracting the honey from those and making mead with it.) It worked out quite nicely! I’m glad we got the special boxes for the cut comb from a beekeeping outfit, since the comb divided perfectly into 10 boxes per frame.

I was very low-tech about it. I put the frames on a large cookie sheet to contain the drips, and used a sharp paring knife to cut around the comb, then divide it into 10 pieces. I put each piece in a box with a simple spatula- I used a silicon one because I thought it’d be more gentle, but might use a very thin steel one next time.

The only hard part is that everything got gummed up with honey! On the one hand, waiting until winter to do this was good, since the honey is a lot thicker now than it is when it’s warmer, so it drips less. On the other hand, though, it does coat the knife and spatula pretty thoroughly! and then the pieces of comb want to stick to them… Still, it was a bit fussy work, but not really hard, and it didn’t take as long as I feared it would.

After the holiday rush is over, I’ll cut up a bunch more frames and do the same thing with them. These 20 are pretty much just for seasonal gifts. We can’t really sell them; I’m sure our kitchen would not be an acceptable processing area for commercial honey (the rules are quite strict), plus there’s considerable variation in how much comb is in each box. I just eyeballed the cutting, and there’s bigger and smaller pieces. Plus the bees built deeper and shallower comb in some places!

-Amanda

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21st December 2007

Winter notes: How are the bees doing?

Answer: it’s really hard to say.

It’s been very cold and snowy here, so we’re glad Justin put on the hive wrap when he did! He’s also made a point of brushing snow away from the hive entrances, so they have some fresh air. Some days there have been a number of bee bodies outside the hives; we’re hoping that it’s just the expected die-off of elderly bees, and not a serious problem. It’s been far, far too cold to even think about looking in the hives to see!

Supposedly on Sunday it’s supposed to get up to 50F here, although rain is predicted. Perhaps we will see a girl or more on “cleansing flights” then, if the rain’s not too bad.

I take comfort in knowing we’ve done all we know to do to help them make it through the winter. I just hope it’s enough!

…And come January, we need to think about plans for next year: whether to do another hive or 2; if so, what kind (I’d like to try a top-bar), and where we would put them. This not knowing whether our 3 current hives will make it..! For that reason alone, I’m thinking we ought to plan on getting another package; if one of our girls dies, we can use it there, and if not, we can add a fourth hive.

-Amanda

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4th December 2007

Tucking the girls in: We wrap the hives for winter

Justin braved the cold and the wind today to put the hive wrap on our hives. Brrr! It’s not that cold yet (at least, for someone who grew up in Minnesota), but the wind’s been fierce and we’ve been worrying about the girls. The hive wrap will help in several ways: it is another layer between the bees and the weather; it’s solid so it will help keep the wind and drafts from affecting the inside of the hive; and it’s black, to maximize solar gain when the sun’s out.

Justin said that while he was installing it, he saw a couple of bees “escorting” an older, failing bee out of the hive. It was apparently struggling ineffectively, reminding him of the “I’m not dead yet!” sketch in “Monty Python and the Holy Grail.” Unfortunately, the bees were as unsentimental as the characters in the sketch, and the poor old girl was shoved out to freeze. Bees are not sentimental. But… awww.

-Amanda

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