Bee Update!

Since it's officially a very happy spring here in Seattle (we're in the 60s and sunny today!), I thought it was just the right time for an update on how our bees are doing. We (by which I mean, my husband Kyle - I'm just the official picture snapper) did a hive check a few weeks ago... Bee hive check...and our bees appear to be super happy and healthy! Because we didn't do a big honey harvest last year (they swarmed last year and we wanted them to have as little stress as possible during the winter), there's still a whole lot of it left over from last year - all of the dark stuff in this picture is pure honey!

Man in bee suit holding frame of honeyWe decided we could take just a little for ourselves, so we extracted a frame's worth with our super professional technique of using the bee scraper to scoop what was on the frame into a strainer.

Frame of honey being extracted by handPro tip: anything you use in the honey extracting process will then be unusable for anything else, so if you're considering this, I'd recommend picking up some old secondhand stuff. Learn from our mistake!

When we started extracting it, we saw that the honey had been in there long enough to turn super dark!

Very dark honey being extractedLook at the difference between that and the very first extraction we did early last year:

Very light "new" honeyYou would think they came from two different hives, but it's just the difference between "new" honey, and honey that's been stored for a while. It also has a lot to do with what the bees have been eating. I'm so curious about what went into our honey, but it will have to remain a mystery!

After the extraction, we decided to try refining our wax for the first time. I really thought it was going to be easy, despite the number of things we'd read that assured us it was not. I'm sad to report that we were wrong and everyone else was right...this is a really involved process. We decided to go with a method we'd read about where you put all the wax in old socks (which act as a filter) and then put them in a slow cooker with water for several hours.

Extracting wax in socks in a crock potThe idea is that the wax will melt out of the socks and rise to the top of the crock pot, and then once you turn off the heat, it will harden at the top and be easy to pick out. I'd classify this as mostly successful, but Kyle had to fashion a little tool that would hold the sock down - we found that without some pressure, most of the wax didn't come out of the socks. The amount in the pot is about six frames worth, and this is the amount of wax we got at the end:

orange beeswax after being refinedI finally understand why beeswax candles are so expensive! This is a whole lot of work for not much wax. You can see that ours has an orange color to it; this is because we were using some older wax, and wax that had been part of brood comb (where the baby bees hatch). The wax from these sources is darker, and turns out finished product that is orange or golden in color rather than the pale, nearly white stuff we're used to seeing. It was fun to see how it came out though, and we have a nice little brick of wax to do something with (we can't agree on what yet!).

And, lest you think it's all smooth sailing, I'd like to remind everyone that safety gear (like that lovely bee suit up at the beginning) is really important when dealing with bees. If you forget it, you may end up looking like this...

Man having allergic reaction of eye from bee sting...when one of those lovely ladies gets annoyed at you and stings you in the eyebrow! For the record, he's fine now - a couple of days of medications and he was all better, but take this as a warning and always wear your gear!