Sunday was honey harvest day. I (Tina) suited up in a white shirt with bee gloves and bee hat and tucked my jeans tightly into my socks. I lit the straw and wood in the smoker and squeezed the the billow methodically, blowing smoke into the hive to interrupt the colony's defensive response by masking the bees' alarm pheromones.
We didn't know quite what to expect when we opened the hive. For a year now, we've let the bees thrive with little more than maintenance, making minor hive repairs and such.
Mackey did the hard work of separating the supers from one another. Bees produce polypropyl which is akin to super glue. It seals any cracks between the frames, the supers and the hive. Once she disengaged the frames from the supers they were quickly put into plastic tubs to take indoors for processing.
When the bees were buzzing near us, two things came to mind: the movie Fried Green Tomatoes and the lovely woman who stood in the middle of a swarm of bees untouched by any violent stings. And then the lesson of being calm in uncomfortable situations.
Inside the house, we used a heat knife to uncap the honey cells sealed by a fine layer of beeswax on each frame. Once four frames were uncapped, we place them into a hand-crank centrifuge extractor where honey spins out of the comb cells and into the barrel. While I cranked, Mackey prepped more frames. We talked about liquid sunshine, the coming winter days, and how good this honey will taste on cold mornings. As the residual wax and honey went into a pan, we couldn't resist spooning the drippings to chew on the delicious sweetness.
Exhausted after hours of honey extraction, we counted twenty two quarts of honey - from one hive - and that doesn't count the forty pound super full of honey we left on the hive to feed the bees through the winter!