The only reason I have so much honey this year is because I did my bees a dis-service.
They were a mean hive. I admit, I wanted to break them. I was thinking like a human, not a bee. So I took their queen away and made them start from scratch, right at the moment of the honey flow. It knocked them back alright….but only the baby brood, which disappeared altogether.
The queen that replaced the one I stole away was either infertile or poorly mated. When I checked on her progress, all I found was wall to wall honey and a few drone eggs. The imposter queen was merrily pretending she was royalty—but sorely lacking. The girls were still mean. They seemed happy to tolerate a “less than” queen rather than have no queen at all. Desperate to survive, but a little misguided in their efforts, they had put away enough honey to feed the entire ‘hood. Ferociously they guarded their massive storehouses. Sadly there was no future generation on the horizon. They were doomed.
So, I took out the lackluster queen and gave them a freshly mated, mite resistant, weather resilient queen— recently emigrated from Canada. I have yet to see if she “took”. Meanwhile the girls have been busy gathering nectar and pollen beyond belief.
This year will go down in history (or her-story, as the case may be) as the biggest honey flow in my short 8 year beekeeping career. I’ve always heard that it’s possible, but it never happened to me.
And processing honey is hard work. Terribly hard work.
First one must wrest the comb away from the girls who stick to the comb like….well…honey. Then, when one shoos enough of them away in order to whisk the dead weight of elixir to the car, there will still be stragglers buzzing around. They are insistently waiting for even a glimpse of skin so they can take revenge for this honey heist.
At home, the honey must be crushed by hand through a large stainless steel colander into a bucket.
Meanwhile, if not completely sealed, ants and bees will swarm into the bucket causing drowning by honey. Not a bad way to die.
This potion will sit in the sun for days while the solar wax and honey separator does its good work.
Finally, the thick, viscuous honey will be strained at least twice through cheesecloth into jars. A messy proposition. The kitchen becomes a magnet for every insect known to humankind if not cleaned immediately and properly.
This year I am left with about 2 gallons of honey. I am amazed. Lest we take this for granted, remember that honeybees make only about 1/12th of a teaspoon of honey in their short 45 day lifespan. Two gallons is a breathtaking amount of bees.
I will be looking for venues to sell my sweet, organic elixir. $10 a pint.