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Beekeeping in May

Beekeeping in May

By mid-May the fields of yellow oil seed rape have just about finished flowering.  This means it is time for the first honey extraction of the year.

Honey produced form oil seed rape crystallises very quickly and needs to be extracted before sets solid in the comb. It is also important to make sure the honey is ripe before it is taken off the hive.  If it has too much moisture content the honey can ferment.  Oil seed rape honey can be ripe before the bees have capped it.  To check if the honey is ready the beekeeper gives the frame a shake to see if any nectar falls out.  If nothing splatters out of the comb then the indications are that the honey is ready.

The next step is to clear the supers (boxes) of bees before you take them away.  There are several methods that can be used to achieve this including physically brushing the bees from each comb before transferring  to another box, one way bee escapes, fume boards and even leaf blowers.   There are always a few bees that are determined to travel with you when you remove honey supers.  Anyone watching me drive home from my apiary will notice that every so often I stop to let a few more bees out of the car!

Then comes the messy bit.

Kitchens and extraction rooms are scrubbed to within an inch of their life.  Equipment, buckets and jars are sterilised and copious amounts of protective, disposable plastic sheeting placed strategically around the extraction room.  The beekeeper dons a very fetching apron, disposable gloves and hair net before making a start.   Wax cappings are sliced from the honey comb before the frames are placed into an extractor.  The trick is to transfer the frame from the uncapping tray to the extractor without spilling any honey.  The extractor whizzes around and the honey is filtered as it comes out.  Filtering removes any bits of wax that have become dislodged during the uncapping process leaving what can only be described as liquid gold.

Mission accomplished and now time for the big clean up.  It doesn’t take long to realise that EVERYTHING is sticky.   Plastic sheeting is removed and disposed of, equipment is thoroughly cleaned and every surface is washed.  Several hours later when all is done and you are enjoying a well-deserved cup of tea/glass of wine you will hear a plaintive cry – why is the door handle sticky!

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