We were sad to have our hive swarm at the end of the season this year, but there were a few benefits to that experience. One of the most important is feeling prepared for next season, and knowing the signs of a coming swarm. Additionally, we were able to harvest the hive of honey that otherwise we’d leave for the bees to overwinter with.
Harvesting honey from a top bar hive is a more simple process than with a traditional Langstroth hive. With the more well known hive design, the honey has to be spun out by a centrifuge. In a top bar hive, the honey is simply crushed out of the comb. This can be done by a number of methods, we were able to use a special extractor designed for this type of hive.
It was incredible to me how fresh and fruity the honey was. Unlike honey that has sat on a store shelf in a plastic or glass container for weeks, fresh honey is full of the flavors of the flowers it came from. Our honey was mostly harvested from the middle of the hive, meaning that the bees foraged it during the height of summer. With our hive placement this meant a bouquet of apple blossoms, day lilies and clover.
The lack of bees will also make moving the hive to our new farm much easier. A beehive containing bees can only be moved after dark, with the entrances covered. If you attempt to move it during the day, not only will you face the wrath of the bees, but the ones out foraging will not be able to find their way back to the hive. Moving at night means the bees are asleep, and they will return to the hive after foraging the next day.
We’ll be observing the weather at our new farm this winter to see where to put the hives. Beehives in Maine need to be placed in a relatively windless spot to keep them from having to experience too much of the winter weather. This is also why our hive has the top painted black: to help it absorb heat in the colder months.
While we move the hive and install a new colony of bees, we will be happily enjoying the fruitful honey from our harvest.
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