Saturday, March 27, 2010

Our second honey harvest

We took advantage of a rare fine day this week to harvest honey from our remaining hives.

Looking left to right in the photo ABOVE we have hives 1-4. Numbering hives and keeping good records of hive health and vitality and harvest is important.

Hive 1 showed a lot of activity, the bees were fiesty, very active and noisy. We harvested four frames from that hive and extracted probably around eight kgs of honey.

While we had the hives open we checked the small hive beetle traps and topped them up with Diatemaceous Earth. We saw a few beetles but the traps seem to be keeping them in check. We also cleaned up the hives as best we could removing built up wax on the tops of frames using a new paint scraper bought for the job.

You can see the hive activity in the image below and you can see the black trap between the frames to the right of the box.

We also took four frames from Hive 2, which in contrast was quiet, happy and cooperative, but still very strong with loaded frames heavy with honey. You need to be pretty fit and strong to keep bees, it's heavy work. We harvest probably 12kgs of honey from those four frames. Giving us a total of 20.5kg from one harvest of two hives.

ABOVE - here is our capping set up - frames are rested on the wooden bar across the top (as you can see in the photo BELOW) - and using a hot knife, the caps are removed to allow the honey to flow.

You can also see in the image BELOW that almost all of that frame is capped. Any frame with three quarters or more of the cells capped can be taken for harvesting. You can also see how the frame rests on a screw on that wooden board allowing you to keep it in place using just a couple of fingers while you use the hot knife to take those caps off.

We are only taking four frames from each because we don't want to strip the hive of honey - its the bees' food - and we need to keep the frames in even numbers as our extractor BELOW needs two frames at a time to work.

The extractor worked really well, but doing it by hand is hard work.

Today we went to our first meeting of the Sunshine Coast Beekeepers Association - which is a really well attended vibrant group by the way - and we saw one of these extractors set up with a motor - great idea!

And here is our bounty - 20.5kg of honey settling for a few days before bottling up.

We will endevour to set up a regular maintainence program for our hives and keep an eye on them.

The Novice Beekeeper

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Honey Harvest

We managed to find some fine weather between torrential rain and cyclones to harvest the honey from one of our hives. We took four frames from the hive and brought them to our honey house to extract the golden honey.

It was wonderful to be able to see our own home grown honey coming off the frames and into the extractor.

We then packaged it all up in shiny glass jars, added some labels and we're ready for our first local markets.

When we get another opportunity, we'll get out there and do the rest of the hives, but in the meantime we have our own honey in the kitchen and plenty to give as gifts to friends to celebrate our first batch.

The Novice Beekeeper

Saturday, March 13, 2010

A poem or two while we wait for the rain to stop...

The Bee Meeting by Sylvia Plath

Who are these people at the bridge to meet me? They are the
The rector, the midwife, the sexton, the agent for bees.
In my sleeveless summery dress I have no protection,
And they are all gloved and covered, why did nobody tell me?
They are smiling and taking out veils tacked to ancient hats.

I am nude as a chicken neck, does nobody love me?
Yes, here is the secretary of bees with her white shop smock,
Buttoning the cuffs at my wrists and the slit from my neck to my knees.
Now I am milkweed silk, the bees will not notice.
Thev will not smell my fear, my fear, my fear.

Which is the rector now, is it that man in black?
Which is the midwife, is that her blue coat?
Everybody is nodding a square black head, they are knights in visors,
Breastplates of cheesecloth knotted under the armpits.
Their smiles and their voices are changing. I am led through a beanfield.

Strips of tinfoil winking like people,
Feather dusters fanning their hands in a sea of bean flowers,
Creamy bean flowers with black eyes and leaves like bored hearts.
Is it blood clots the tendrils are dragging up that string?
No, no, it is scarlet flowers that will one day be edible.

Now they are giving me a fashionable white straw Italian hat
And a black veil that molds to my face, they are making me one of them.
They are leading me to the shorn grove, the circle of hives.
Is it the hawthorn that smells so sick?
The barren body of hawthorn, etherizing its children.

Is it some operation that is taking place?
It is the surgeon my neighbors are waiting for,
This apparition in a green helmet,
Shining gloves and white suit.
Is it the butcher, the grocer, the postman, someone I know?

I cannot run, I am rooted, and the gorse hurts me
With its yellow purses, its spiky armory.
I could not run without having to run forever.
The white hive is snug as a virgin,
Sealing off her brood cells, her honey, and quietly humming.

Smoke rolls and scarves in the grove.
The mind of the hive thinks this is the end of everything.
Here they come, the outriders, on their hysterical elastics.
If I stand very still, they will think I am cow-parsley,
A gullible head untouched by their animosity,

Not even nodding, a personage in a hedgerow.
The villagers open the chambers, they are hunting the queen.
Is she hiding, is she eating honey? She is very clever.
She is old, old, old, she must live another year, and she knows it.
While in their fingerjoint cells the new virgins

Dream of a duel they will win inevitably,
A curtain of wax dividing them from the bride flight,
The upflight of the murderess into a heaven that loves her.
The villagers are moving the virgins, there will be no killing.
The old queen does not show herself, is she so ungrateful?

I am exhausted, I am exhausted -
Pillar of white in a blackout of knives.
I am the magician's girl who does not flinch.
The villagers are untying their disguises, they are shaking hands.
Whose is that long white box in the grove, what have they accomplished,
why am I cold.


The Arrival of the Bee Box by Sylvia Plath

I ordered this, clean wood box
Square as a chair and almost too heavy to lift.
I would say it was the coffin of a midget
Or a square baby
Were there not such a din in it.

The box is locked, it is dangerous.
I have to live with it overnight
And I can't keep away from it.
There are no windows, so I can't see what is in there.
There is only a little grid, no exit.

I put my eye to the grid.
It is dark, dark,
With the swarmy feeling of African hands
Minute and shrunk for export,
Black on black, angrily clambering.

How can I let them out?
It is the noise that appalls me most of all,
The unintelligible syllables.
It is like a Roman mob,
Small, taken one by one, but my god, together!

I lay my ear to furious Latin.
I am not a Caesar.
I have simply ordered a box of maniacs.
They can be sent back.
They can die, I need feed them nothing, I am the owner.

I wonder how hungry they are.
I wonder if they would forget me
If I just undid the locks and stood back and turned into a tree.
There is the laburnum, its blond colonnades,
And the petticoats of the cherry.

They might ignore me immediately
In my moon suit and funeral veil.
I am no source of honey
So why should they turn on me?
Tomorrow I will be sweet God, I will set them free.

The box is only temporary.

The Apprentice Beekeeper