Jars of honey from boxes of bees
The population of a bee hive rises between winter and summer from approximately 10,000 to 60,000 and at this time of the year the queen is busy laying 1,200 eggs per day. Those eggs she does not fertilise become drone bees and immediately after pupation they start a life of hard work in the colony, from simple cleaning tasks to finally flying from the hive to collect nectar, bringing back almost their entire body weight of it one each trip!
The nectar comes from the available flowers nearby depending on the time of year and the area in which the hives are situated. Different nectars have different tastes and sugar content. The higher the sugar content the more the honey will tend to crystallise.
When the honey frames are full and capped off by the bees for their reserve food supply, the keeper will simply steal them and harvest the honey by scraping off the caps of the honey combs and place the frames in an extractor. The extractor spins the frames so that centrifugal force releases the honey which collects at the bottom of the extractor barrel.
The honey is then poured from the barrel and sieved into buckets to remove lumps of wax and other debris. The buckets are then stood to allow the honey to settle. Honey with a higher sugar content will harden to a greater degree. When the honey is settled it is then mashed which "creams" the honey and prevents solidification when jarred.
David emphasised that a bee keepers year is full of constant vagaries: the weather, the crop, the health of the bees, it depends on this and it depends on that! What is certain however is that the production of honey is a constantly fascinating and interesting activity, and we are all very grateful to David for sharing his experiences with us.