LOCATION: A friend’s house. Chesapeake, VA.
I had added extract honey from a bee hive on my list because it sounded like a really interesting thing to experience, but I never thought this would get accomplished so easily. While talking about a few things on my list at work, my co-worker, Jordan, explained that his dad had a few bee hives and did harvests in May and September. I quickly asked if I could help with a harvest and Jordan’s family was more than accommodating.
I’ve been stung by wasps twice, but I have never actually been stung by a bee before, so the few days leading up to the day I was a little nervous. What if I was allergic? What if I got stung a lot? I knew I would be in a bee keeper suit, but that doesn’t protect enough. Jordan said his dad gets stung a lot. What was I getting myself into?!
When I arrived, I found that Jordan’s dad had already removed the combs from the hives. 50,000 bees were in his hive boxes and that was no joke to play around with. There were several combs to be harvested though which meant an entire afternoon of work to get the honey. After removing the combs from the hives, the first step to get honey was to take a hot iron like knife to scrap the wax off the combs.
The hot iron would remove the wax but would leave the honey in the combs on the surface. Any wax that was not removed was scraped away with a fork. Once 8 combs were cut, they were put into this big steel vat that had a spinner on top. You place the combs in the vat and close the top and spin it as fast as you can.
This causes the honey to fall out of the combs and slowly drips out the bottom tube and filters it into a tub. The whole process was messy, sticky and tiring since you had to put so much pressure on the iron and so much strength on the spinner. However, the end product was some of the best tasting honey I’ve ever had in my life.
While removing the wax, I noticed some combs were closed off and did not contain honey. Jordan’s dad explained that those were baby bees waiting to hatch. If they did not hatch by now, they would be placed back into the hive to hatch later. While setting one down, I noticed something trying to crack out of the comb, it was a baby bee!! Since the baby hatched early, it did not have a stinger or venom and couldn’t even fly. I was able to put him in my hand and watch up close at the bee’s mannerisms. Definitely something that not many people get a chance to see. Eventually the bee would fly and sting, but I was able to see him in his purist form. Unbelievable!
After spinning honey off as many combs as I could, Jordan’s dad let me bee suit up and go outside to observe the hives. I tried not to be nervous, but it was hard. There were thousands of bees flying around me and next to me in hives, how could I not be nervous!? He explained to me that movement attracts a bee, so if I stay still they won’t be bothered with my attention. This totally explains the old wives tale of “there’s a bee on you, stay still.” Even though I was staying still, there was one bee that kept flying into my face mask, boy was I glad that mask was on! After a few minutes at the hives, it was time to go. Soon I would have my own bottle of fresh honey that I collected myself and I was left with a great experience that seems almost too good to be true.
* Thank you Jordan and Jordan’s family for letting me into your home and teaching me all your wonderful knowledge. Also, thank you Troy for accompanying me on this adventure.
WOULD I DO IT AGAIN?: I loved it! The thought of getting stung was nerve wracking, but the experience was wonderful!
HOW TO DO THIS: Unless you know someone with a hive, it will be hard. I tried calling local farmers, but insurance policy was an issue.