Saturday, September 01, 2007

Bee Love

Yesterday we helped my in-laws extract honey from the two hives they keep. This was our first experience. Before I go any further I must state that my grandfather is violently and deathly allergic to bees. This affects me because I have never been stung and have no desire to find out if I take after my grandfather in this respect. I even had a dream a few nights before that one of the nasty little insects stung me and we had to race to the hospital before I died. That being said, I wished to have been decked out in a bee suit all day, as modelled by my brother-in-law. When we got there the suits were taken. Dang.
The bees generally leave you alone if you leave them alone. Stealing their honey is not leaving them alone. They were mad. Eric and I watched from the garage as brother and father-in-law removed sections of the hive.

The process went about like this: Hive sections are brought into the garage for honey extraction. I run and hide in the house while the last few bees are shooed out by Eric and mother-in-law. I open the door a millimeter and ask if it's safe to come in. I go back into the garage and try to be helpful, but stand around because the work was done while I was hiding. I run back into the house and hide again when we find a few more stowaway bees still clinging to the frames. About this time more sections of the hive come in and I just stay in the house to save myself the trouble of running in and out.

I was interested in getting pictures of the whole thing. Eric is much more willing to hang around the bees, so he took pictures of the outside for me.
Brother and father-in-law collecting the frames from the hive.
See all that brown stuff on the side of the hive? That's bees! Both pictures deserve to be in there because a dear price was paid for them.
My sweet darling was stung on the back of his head while trying to take the pictures I wanted. The picture of the stinger doesn't do justice to how much pain it caused. I felt really bad and almost cried until he told me not to. I picked the stinger out of his hair, instead. He says he did a little dance called the Crouch, Hop, Swat just before he was stung, but I was too concerned to notice it. My only comfort is that the vile insect had no choice but to die after stinging my husband. Rotten insect. I like the honey it made, though.

After all the bees were out of the garage we began the extraction process.
The frames are filled with honeycomb and many of the cells are capped. These caps must be removed. To do that one must use an electric knife that heats up and allows you to shear off the caps. The frames are then put in a big metal barrel with a crank at the top. The crank is turned for 5 minutes and the frames inside spin. Centripetal force moves the honey to the side of the barrel. When there is enough honey in the bottom that the wheel becomes difficult to move, the honey must be emptied through a hole at the bottom.
It goes through a strainer to get all the excess wax and bee guts (delicious, huh?) out before it's put in a container. Then you put more frames in and start the process again. In the end we came away with about 120 lbs. of honey.
In the end Eric was the only one stung. We did not find out if I was allergic. I had my first chance to eat honey right from the comb and it was good. So, the next time you pick up a bear of honey you'll have an idea of what a process it is to collect it. Just make sure you have a good bee suit.

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