Stolen Sweetness – Taking honey from the hive

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I don’t know what got into me last week, but one day I opened up the cover of the hive to see if one of my colonies had touched the new super I put on it two weeks ago. When I saw a framed of capped honey I got the wild idea to pull a couple of frames for harvest. Walking out to the hives with my boys I usually am excited to see what’s going on, but the idea that I was going to pull frames gave me butterflies. So much so that when I opened the hive and pulled the first frame of honey (which is so much heavier that a brood frame), I dropped it! In case you were wondering how to anger a large pack of bees, that’s exactly how to do it. I got stung through my pants, just once, but I deserved it.

I was able to pull two other frames out without harm to myself or my bees. With the help of my very helpful (and well suited up) five year old and a big feather as a bee brush, we got those two frames in a trash bag, bee free, and into the kitchen. Now came the problem of what to do with the frames. Ideally I’ve learned you only want to cut off the cappings so that you can return the empty comb back to you hive. But to get the honey out that way you need an extractor, which I didn’t have so I cut all the comb off, down to the foundation, using a small serrated knife.
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I held this over a sieve fit into a mixing bowl.
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I was really curious as to how much honey I would get from one frame. Typically I’ve seen honey yields listed in pounds, but being a visual person that never held much value for me. Well now I know that one medium super frame of honey fits into a quart canning jar with just a little extra to save for tea & toast.
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We’ve been preserving vegetables and fruit for 10 years now, but the feeling of putting two full quart jars of honey into our pantry was immensely satisfying in a different way.

Now that I’ve gotten a taste, I’m curious to find if I can steal some more sweetness. To those beekeepers out there, how much honey do you recommend leaving a first year hive? Both of my hives now have about two full medium supers each and are still bringing it in. Should I leave it all to them or will leaving them with one full box be enough?

14 Comments

Filed under beekeeping

14 responses to “Stolen Sweetness – Taking honey from the hive

  1. KimH

    I am sooo jealous This is one thing I always wanted to do but never have done. Im already pushing old, but maybe before Im gray & dead.😉

  2. Judith

    I would take 85% and return the rest to the bees.
    Do not know anything about the process but from reading you article that is my guess.

  3. A lot depends on where you live. Here in Iowa we have some cold harsh winters. My professor at the University taught us to leave two deeps for them. It sounds like you are using mediums, so probably three. I learned the hard way not to take to much. The first winter mine all starved to death. You may also want to be prepared with some sugar boards just in case they need more food in the deep of winter. Good luck with your new hobby. We LOVE the honey.

    • asonomagarden

      Thanks Joann. Our winters are much more mild, it doesn’t snow here, but I should probably leave them more than enough, at least for this first year and see how much they eat.

  4. I try to leave at least 2 deeps for them, but since our winters (SF Bay Area) have been harsher the past couple of years, I leave a medium super too. I believe in leaving extra for any weird weather that always seems to come up. Yeah, I’d leave 3 medium supers for your hive, maybe 4.

    • asonomagarden

      Thanks Mil! I really appreciate the advice. They’ve only built about 2 each so far, so I’ll leave them what I have.

  5. What a beautiful beautiful post. Thank you. I LOVE bees. Going to get a hive next year. I am so excited.

  6. Elizabeth Newton

    I have been told that you need to leave thirty pounds (a full super of capped honey) for the bees to get through our (Sonoma County) winter.
    There is even a danger of leaving too much, as a too-big store of honey conducts cold into the hive and the bees can’t get to it.

    I recommend that you join the Sonoma County Beekeeper’s Association–they are a great source of information for what you should be doing each season of the year.

  7. Wonderfully inspiring! Nice photos, too. We used to make our own maple syrup when we lived in New Hampshire, and as soon as we get back to the country, I’d love to keep bees. Did you post somewhere on how you got the hives started–I missed that one if you did post it?

  8. Oh, I can’t wait to have bees. We move to our farm (near Denver) in September! I will be a little scared tho, I’m not gonna lie! Thank you for sharing all your adventures!

  9. Heidi Tucker

    I have thoroughly enjoyed seeing the pictures of your honey! I have to admit, I am a little envious. My husband was a first time bee keeper last year but our hive didn’t make it through the winter (lived in North Carolina at the time). However, we just relocated to Woodland (near Davis) CA and may give it another shot next year. On a different note, do you do any photography as a business? I love your work and was wondering if photographing our family might be of interest to you? Are you anywhere near Petaluma? We love a very relaxed and natural style of photography. We have our family picture taken each year for Christmas cards and since relocating I’m on the search for someone with this gift! Thank you for your blog and sharing this wonderful part of your life. Heidi Tucker

  10. Pingback: Robbing the Bees- A Honey of a Day | The Garden Diaries

  11. tali

    over in the Bay area, I’d leave 1 super full, and that would be enough. has to be really full, i might move around frames to make sure i leave them with all heavy good combed over frames in that one super. Seems to work. Not sure if its colder in Sonoma than in Berkeley, but it might be, so maybe leave a little more. I’ve had a few hives, I’d some some over the winter, but I dont think it’s because they starved, I think it’s because of colony collapse. Good to make the hive smaller, keeps it warmer I think. Mid winter I’d also feed them back some their honey (1/3 honey, 2/3 water, but you can google other people’s mixtures) or organic sugar syrup into a feeder jar and apparatus at the entrance that i bought on the dadant website. tried to keep that pretty constant for the coldest part of winter, especially if i dont see them flying out.

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