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I Use Bees!
cap, captain miss america

Hive #1 has been getting pretty full up with honey, so my mom and I went in and took out a few frames this weekend.

This is what the hive looks like on the inside.

Each box is full of frames where the bees build honeycomb, and then either they fill the comb with honey (or pollen, sometimes), or the queen bee lays eggs inside the comb and then there are new baby bees!

Here are some of the tools we use when we take the frames from the hive.

You use this to grab the frame out of the hive:

Now, bees are actually quite friendly. They land on me all the time and I’ve never been stung. But they do get a little bit annoyed when you take out honey or otherwise disrupt the hive, and the best way to get them to calm down is to put a little smoke in the hive.

With this!

It always reminds me a little of the Tin Man.

Anyway, here’s what a full frame of honey looks like:

When bees are done putting honey into comb, they cap it up, like this is, and that’s how you know it’s full.

So then the first thing you need to do is cut the caps off:

Then, you put all the frames in a honey extractor:

An extractor is basically a big metal tub, sort of like an old fashioned ice cream maker, and it has a crank which you use to spin the frames really really really fast:

And by the power of centripetal force, the honey all spins out!

The extractor has a spigot on the bottom, which you use to collect the honey into a bucket:

Or what you will. Theoretically you could collect it into a hat, or straight into your mouth.

Now, the cool thing is, you can give the empty frames right back to the bees, and they will just go fill them right back up!

Meanwhile, the honey has little bits of max and bee dirt in it, so it gets strained:

That’s the honey being poured through the strainer. We pour it through three different meshes before it’s ready.

You can tell it’s ready when it’s clarified, and when your hands are completely sticky:

We only took out four frames out of forty in our hive, and we got six POUNDS of honey. Eeee, so exciting. It’s really cool, because this honey tastes completely different from the honey we collected last fall. That honey is really rich and dark and mostly goldenrod. This honey is really light and clear and tastes like chamomile and strawberries. They’re both amazing, but in different ways.

Mirrored from Antagonia.net.

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No, the bees like to try to hang onto their frames but mostly you can smoke them off, and if that doesn't work you can just gently brush them off the frame. Then you run away and put them in the stable. (that's what we do, anyway!) The bees will try to get to their honey and when we are extracting, some of them will hang around outside the door to the stable being all, "hey, what are you doing with our honey?" but it is pretty easy to keep them away so none of them get hurt.

Thanks! It is sort of awesome to do.

I have a couple of stupid questions that you may have already answered and I apologize if you have elsewhere. Feel free to just give me links or tell me to shove off.

How long is a jar of honey good for, or what's its shelf life?

Do you have to seal the jars like a canning process to sell it or can you just put a lable on it and call it done?

If a hive has all full combs of honey (they haven't been emptied by the keeper) do the bees start a nest or whatever elsewhere? And how often do you have to empty the combs?

I realize I could google/wiki most of this but I am curious to hear about someone I kind of know doing this and how your ways of doing it might differ from what the 'books' say to do.

One last and then I promise to STFU. Is there any way to protect your hives from the hive collapse thing that has everyone so worried? (thinking good thoughts for healthy bees for you!)

Thank you kindly for your information, one way or another.

Oh, no problem! I've never answered questions about bees.

1) Barring something weird, you can keep honey for pretty much ever. It's basically liquid sugar. It rarely goes bad, but it can crystallize, and you can either use it crystallized or reconstitute it.

2) We don't sell our honey, so I don't know what the law is, but it probably varies from place to place. We use airtight bottles that self-seal when you put the lids on.

3) You pretty much empty the combs when they're full. Last year, we only did it once but I suspect we will have to do it three times this year, at this rate. If a hive gets too full, you can add another box to it. Bees will keep on producing honey and more bees as long as they have space. But a hive can get too big either for the space in it or to be supported by one queen, and then they can swarm, yes. Which is when they leave and try to find a new place to live.

4) Colony collapse is a weird thing and no one knows exactly what causes it. What it actually IS is that bees swarm and fly too far without creating a new hive, and die. One thing that can prevent this is making sure your hives are bees that have been established locally, so they're comfortable in their environs. It also seems like CCD is related to stress, so making sure bees have everything they need, and you give them bee medicine to prevent sickness, and things like that, can help prevent it.

I'm still new at this so I don't know everything and I'm still learning. emo_snal does it professionally, he is the one to talk to if you want less-than-half-assed answers.

The honey collecting process is FASCINATING. I can't remember, why do bees make honey in the first place? Also, HOW COOL IS IT that the honey has different flavors from season to season?

Bees make honey to eat it! It is what they eat! And yes, the part where it tastes like what they make it out of is FREAKING AWESOME.

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OMG it is so good.

Once you figure out the living sitch, I will totally send you some! I am amassing a little collection of stuffs I want to mail you! I just don't want to send you more crap you just have to move somewhere else again!

That is so cool! And I love that the honey is different flavors in different seasons; I had no idea it worked like that!

Honey comes in different varieties based on what kind of flowers the bees are collecting nectar from. It's kind of totally awesome. That's why when you go to the grocery store, you'll see that most American honey is either clover or orange blossom (or generic "wildflower" but you'll see other varieties such as tupelo, acacia, lavender or chestnut, all with different colors. Lavender is one of my favorites.


Dude! That is the most freaking awesome and fascinating thing ever! I love it! And I don't even like honey, though I love the look of it and the collection of it :D So magical!

Honey is super incredible stuff, especially when you actually get to watch the bees hard at work making it. It is like magic, there are these little fuzzy magicians in our yard!

Ok, that's the coolest thing I've ever seen. If I weren't a chicken of getting stung (and also don't have a yard yet, and don't know what our local laws about it are) I'd totally want to keep bees. I love local honey, and always pout when we end up buying branded stuff at the store.

Aw! Honeybees are super friendly and rarely, rarely sting. I've only had my own bees for a year, but I've been around bees my whole life and I've never been stung. I don't even usually put on the bee suit you're supposed to wear because the bees and I just get along very well. Wasps sting, and hornets sting, but honeybees are very gentle and you can even pick them up with your hands if you're friendly enough to them.

And yeah, I am so pleased I don't need to buy honey anymore.

Awesome! With that much honey I could make baklava every day for a year and still have some left over!

Oooh! And this is only four frames! That's not even half a box of comb!

holy jeebus that is a ton of honey. o.o

will you try noshing on the comb too?

No, because the bees need to build new comb from scratch if we take it, and if we don't, they can re-use it. So they get to keep their comb!

This is so awesome! I want to experience this one day. Maybe from the other side of a large window, as I'm sort of afraid of bees, but the process looks so cool!

Bees are excellent and not scary at all in person. I can actually pick them up individually in my hand and they are very friendly and docile. They only get a little pissy when you take the honey, so then I smoke them.

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