Thursday, July 14, 2011

Honey Harvest

So.  Honey harvest.  Let's get to it.

the robbing commences
Since we're all starting at different places in learning about bees, let's start at the beginning.  Honey is the dehydrated nectar of flowers. As bees forage, they store it in their honey stomachs to transport back to the hive, and as they regurgitate it into the honeycomb, they value-add some enzymes that help preserve it. Then they beat their little wings to circulate air and encourage evaporation in the nectar, thus slowly reducing the water content. Nectar is roughly 80% water; honey is roughly18%.  That's a lot of little wing beats. And it is important to wait til the nectar is truly honey, because the additional water could cause it to ferment/spoil. But fortunately, it doesn't take much figuring to determine if its right.  Bees won't cap honey til its correct, so if you wait til the comb in a frame is capped, and you know that you have honey.

capped honey!
So, here we are in the hives, searching for frames of capped honey.  Let's be clear that a frame of capped honey is a beautiful sight. The wax is buttery and opaque, hinting at the wealth beneath. 

wax cappingsIt is also heavy--an early indication when you reach for a frame that its full of the good stuff.  The first thing to do is get the bees off the frame.  As a general rule, there are usually fewer bees on capped honey to begin with because they aren't using that frame (if it is capped, they aren't eating it, and otherwise, they are tending to the frames with brood).  But there will always be some bees, and there are a variety of ways to remove them.  For brevity's sake we'll skim over the others and just note that we use the old fashion brush (see picture above).  Admittedly, they hate it. But you are robbing them after all, so you've kinda already accepted a certain imbalance of justice.

Once you've gathered all your frames, you contain your excitement and move inside (don't want to tempt the bees by extracting near them).  Be sure that you have thoroughly cleaned your workspace and all tools and equipment.

The next step is to cut the wax cappings from the comb.  The cappings are literally wax that bees cover ripe honey with to contain and protect it, designating it as storage.  This is really the only wax that should be used for cosmetics (and is what we use for our lip balms & salves), because it is by nature clean and fresh.

Once you've cut away the cappings, take a moment to stop and admire the unique color of whatever-season honey you're extracting.  Hold it against the light, squint, smile, whatever.  Just notice it.  Then, place it your extractor.

homemade extractor

Our extractor is a little different, just like our bee suits are different (costumes we call them), because it is homemade.  Such are the perks of having a carpenter/tinkerer/seamster on your team.  Our extractor works the way commercial ones do, for the most part.  That is, it spins the frames--which are placed like spokes in a wheel--utilizing centrifugal force to push the honey out of the comb.  The honey flies out, hits the side of the extractor, and collects at its base, where you have a spigot for easy release.  As you pour the honey from the extractor to your storage container, you filter out
any wax
or other remnants.

And that, my friends, is all.  Pure, raw, filtered honey.  And it is soooo good!

After we harvested some honey from each of our city and country hives, we compared them.  Woo hoo! Just like last year, we were super impressed with how bright, citrusy, floral, and generally fun the city honey was.  Whatever you are doing, neighbor friends, please keep it up!

If you are interested in trying some of our honey, we are finally ready for sale!  We sold some of our honey and lip balm at the Gear Up for Good event last week and had a great time, hanging out with our good friends (and family) at Al's, Broke Spoke, and more.  We will also be selling honey at the East End Community Market on Saturday mornings from 9am-2pm.  That market (on 3rd Street and Midland Ave), opened last week, but we won't arrive there til next week (July 23rd).  Alternatively, you can always email us at and we'll work something out.

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Gear Up for Good: Life on the North End

Whew, it has been a busy month!  We promise we'll describe the process of the honey harvest soon, but in the meantime, we are preparing for an event that we're pretty excited about...and is time sensitive (as in, tomorrow).  So, we'll talk about that for a minute.

As proud members of the dynamic North Side community, we'll be participating in the upcoming Gearing Up for Good: Life on the North End, which is a Debra's Social $timulus event. What that means is this Friday evening (July 8th, 5:30-9pm), we'll be hanging out on 6th Street and Limestone with our buddies at Broke Spoke Community Bike Shop, Al's Bar, Bullhorn, Homegrown Press, SideCar, Supreme Service, Sprocket Jockeys, etc., to celebrate the cool stuff going on in our neck of the woods.  Food, music, and great company are free.

We'll also be selling our spring honey crop (so you can see what Lexington really tastes like) and giving tours of the apiary (via a brief ride from the Sprocket Jockeys or a 4-block walk).  Debra Hensley's done a lot of amazing work pulling this event together and we'd like to offer a big thanks to her and Melissa Watt (who filmed these videos).  They both came by the apiary last month to video the two of us in our native habitat (below).

In other neighborhood news, we are also proud members of the East End community and will be participating in the East End Community Farmers Market at the corner of Third Street and Midland Ave (at the brick Community Ventures Corporation pavilion).  Though we won't be starting our run there until July 23rd, it is celebrating its Grand Opening this Saturday, July 9th (9am-2pm this and every week).  Check it out!

If you are unable to make either location, but are interested in some urban honey, shoot us an email at and we'll see what we can do.