The Honey Thief

Yep, you guessed it. I robbed my bees on Sunday.

It’s such a big job, I sort of dread it. Until I start dripping honey onto hot buns that is…then it’s aaaaalllllll good.

My strategy with the bees these past two years has been: leave them the hell alone.

I haven’t done anything with them other than clip the grass in front of the hive from time to time and slap on a super when it looked like they’d filled up the others. Two years ago, after they died out, I decided to strip everything down and start from scratch. No more chemical mite strips, nothing. Just bees in a box with some wax comb for a jump start.

I ordered new bees, dumped them in, gave them a gallon of sugar water and forgot about them until fall. When I checked back in September, I had honey. Good bees.

This year’s strategy was much the same minus having to buy new bees. I suspect the queen probably needs to be replaced, but I’m going to leave that up to the girls (all worker bees are female) to decide and the boys (drones) to attend to when the time comes.

When I first started with bees, I fussed with them, worried about them and upset their apple cart on a regular basis. Some years were good, some years were not. Now implementing my hands-off strategy, I’ve had two successful years of honey robbing.

Here is my highly sophisticated honey extractor:

Yep, that’s two paint buckets from Walmart. The lid on the bottom bucket is cut out with only an inch or so left around the rim to support the top bucket which has several (10 maybe) holes drilled through it. I line the bottom of the top bucket with cheesecloth, cut out the comb from the frames and stuff it into the top bucket. Occasionally, I push the comb down to free more honey from the cells.

You are supposed to uncap the cells (melt off the top layer of wax which seals the honey inside each little cell) with an expensive, heated electric uncapping knife. I use a long knife and hold it under very hot tap water, then slice off the seals as best I can. It’s very messy and unprofessional but adequate for my one beehive and one super full of liquid gold.

Here’s a little before and after action.

The top has been uncapped, the bottom is still sealed over. It isn’t a precise operation, but I already have about three inches of honey that has dripped through the cheesecloth filter to the bucket below.

I smoke the bees before taking the super off then have to find a place away from the hive to remove each frame and brush off the bees. They really want to keep that honey and stealing it makes them pissy.

Bees also like to hitchhike and follow me to the house, so I have to brush off my bee suit before I take it off. I’ve gotten through the entire process more than once sting-free only to get stung taking off my bee suit.

I’m happy to report no stings this year, and I only had one loose bee in the house which I dispatched before she could get me or some other unsuspecting household member.

By this weekend, I should have about a gallon of honey to jar up and put away for the future. We still haven’t eaten all of last year’s harvest, but it will keep. Which is good, because some years are good, and some years are not.



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