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The (Honey) Harvest

posted Jan 31, 2010, 9:03 AM by Reinoud Vaandrager
After learning beehive construction skills last week, it was time to finally don my beekeeping suit and get up close and personal with the African bees by harvesting some honey.

Joshua and I left Thursday morning @5:30 to visit 4 hives installed in Njinikijem that were ready for harvesting. The morning is the best time for harvesting because when you lift the honey combs out of the hive, there might be brood combs as well and direct UV rays from the sun will kill the broods which is something you want to prevent.

After about a 40 minute hike through the bush we arrived at the hive location. Before entering we donned our protective suits (making sure there are no holes that might provide entry inside your clothes) and by heating up the Smoker to produce .. you guessed it... smoke!

preparing the smoker prior to extraction

Blowing smoke over the hive will signal to the bees that there is a forest fire about to consume their hive. This puts the bees into emergency mode and they will start feeding on honey to prepare for evacuation. This makes them less likely to sting you. At least, that is the theory ;)

In reality though, the bees got pissed of en masse when you even enter the proximity of their hive. Remember, these are the african honey bees and they tend to be a bit more aggressive then their european counterparts. The result was that we were quickly engulfed by angry swarming bees trying to put their stingers wherever they could. Some bees even entered the hole of the smoker (right into the fire)

harvesting a comb of honey, pissing of the bees :)

Having never been stung before, I was of course a bit anxious to find out if I am actually allergic to bee stings or not (appartently 1% of the population has severe allergies). Well, it didn't take long for the bees to find the weak spots in my suit, and I quickly got stung 3x: 1x in my forehead and 2x in my shoulder. The sting was not that painful, but I decided to eject the site for 15 minutes to see If some kind of allergy would kick in or not. Luckily, nothing happened and I was able to rejoin Joshua for the harvesting of the 4th hive.

In the end we got out of the site with a large bucket full of honeycomb. After processing (just grind the combs and let gravity do the extraction by putting the crushed honey combs on a fine mesh over a plastic bucket) we ended up with about 12 liters of delicious natural honey :)

letting the honey drip out of the crushed combs into the bucket below.