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The People’s Garden First Honey Harvest: Part 2

Posted by Wayne Bogovich, NRCS National Agricultural Engineer and USDA People’s Garden Apiary Co-Beekeeper in Conservation Initiatives
Feb 21, 2017

This story has three parts. Read Part 1 here. Stay tuned for Part 3 later.

The hive is basically a stack of wooden boxes. Within each box a series of frames rest vertically. Each frame is about an inch thick and has built-in cells. The cells are where the bees place the nectar they’ve taken from flowers while foraging. As the water evaporates from the nectar, it becomes thicker, turning into honey. When the bees cap the full cells with wax, the frames are ready for us to harvest. (The bees flying in and out of the rooftop hive use an entrance in the side of the bottom-most box, so we’re able to remove frames from the top without stopping the work of the hive.)

After we hand-pumped smoke into the hive to confuse the guard bees so they wouldn’t send out a stress hormone that would alert the rest of the hive to attack us, we started checking the frames to see how full they were. I was very happy to see they almost all seemed to be full with beautiful, amber-colored honey. These are some happy bees!

Sarah Graddy, of NRCS, and Patricia Barrett, of FSA, transporting capped frames to the extractor.
Sarah Graddy, of NRCS, and Patricia Barrett, of FSA, transporting capped frames to the extractor.

Nathan and Andy had brought a portable extractor, which is basically a large stainless steel drum with a centrifuge crank. (That was fun to bring up to the roof, let me tell you!) The plan was that, after I removed full frames from the hive and replaced them with empty frames for the bees to fill, our volunteers would run them over to the extractor, on the other side of the roof, where Nathan and Andy would supervise the honey extraction efforts.

Nathan Rice and Andy Ulsamer, of ARS, extracting honey.
Nathan Rice and Andy Ulsamer, of ARS, extracting honey.

We had placed the extractor on the other side of the roof because the hive’s scout bees are always looking for new nectar sources. If they had come across the extractor, where we were busily spinning the honey out of the manmade honeycombs, they would have thought they had come across the mother lode. After we had been extracting honey for a while, they did find the barrel and began to investigate in higher numbers. That’s when we erected a small tent around the extractor to protect the honey and, more importantly, the human workers. (We didn’t start out with the tent up because it’s hot and cramped.)

The tent around the extractor.
The tent around the extractor.

For the latest updates, follow the People’s Garden, NRCS and ARS on Twitter.

(To be continued later…)

Category/Topic: Conservation Initiatives

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tom doyle
Jan 22, 2016

Could you please tell me where I can a similar tent for honey extraction. Kind Regards Tom Doyle

Sep 28, 2016

We had bees many years ago and I was too intimidated by them to fully appreciate them. This post makes me want to become a bee-keeper in my old age.

I had an adopted gramma many years ago who used bees to treat her arthritis (recommended by a medical doctor at the time!). She would sit outside the hive and wait for a bee to land on her, slap it so it would sting her and, thus, receive whatever it was that greatly reduced the pain of her arthritis. I believe she did this twice a week.

Her husband told her she could only slap a bee on its way out of the hive. One coming IN would have its little pollen sacks filled and (heaven forbid) she should kill THAT bee!).