Saturday, June 26, 2010

Honey!

As we get involved in the routine management of our bees, we almost forget one of the reasons for having them--honey.  So when we opened the hive yesterday to check on the progress they were having in drawing out the comb in the super, we were very surprised, after having checked only last week, to find practically every frame drawn out and filled with white, capped honey.  I put another super on, this time choosing to use the 10 frame initally as the newsletter from Dadant had suggested (done so the bees will draw out more regular comb, later to switch to a 9 frame box) and headed in to start looking at options for extracting.  Should we try to use a centrifugal extractor, use heat, buy equipment, use the equipment at the nature center, etc.  These are things we had only briefly talked about and considered and now we need to make some definite decisions.  Not that it needs to be done immediately--the nice thing about early season honey is we have time.  It will stay in the hive just fine, so no real rush.
So, we went to the catalogs and internet.  Kathy found a vintage, classic crank extractor on ebay for $75 starting price, with no bids.  The photo and description indicated it has a few dings, has some definite rust spots but apparently the crank works ok.  We looked at newer, smaller models at some of the beekeeping supply houses. Dadant has a metal, 2 frame job for about $150.  We also could use the equipment at Indian Creek Nature Center in Cedar Rapids, where we are members and where we took the year-long course in beekeeping.  We also looked at uncapping equipment and thought about ways of getting the bees off the frames.  I found plans for a bee escape I can make called the vortex escape.  Put that under the super, the bees think they are cut off from the rest of the hive and go through the escape but it is very difficult to get back.  In several hours or a day, you can take the super off with few or no bees in it.  Right now we prefer this method to using a chemical.
Later, I remembered that a former colleague of mine, Beth,  and her husband, Jim,  had kept bees years ago.  I called them and Jim has given most of his equipment to his son, who is also in his first year of beekeeping.  They would be happy to let us borrow their old extractor, though Jim gave the caveat "it's a lot of work!"  I think we figured that would be the case having seen the extraction demonstrated at Indian Creek.
So, we're pretty excited with the idea that we indeed will have honey this season, maybe quite a lot actually.  I'll take a better look at the frames next week and we may be doing some extraction in the next several weeks.

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