People are constantly asking me if I have any honey. Once I'm sold out the question becomes "When will you have honey?" Currently, the answer is right now!
Some people are more specific. "When will you have (spring, fall, or some with comb)? Everyone has their favorite. I usually remind them that I am not in charge of the bees and their schedule and that "I work for the queen." What I'm doing with the bees is a delicate supply and demand dance, one in which my first priority is to ensure their survival in the coming winter.
When the bees' personal space is full of honey I add a super. That's just a shallower box that goes on top of the other two bigger boxes where the bees actually live and where the queen lays eggs. The bottom two boxes which are larger are called deeps and that entire part of the hive is called the brood chamber or nest. Read my last update from earlier in the season.
The amount of honey I take from the bees is the honey that they can afford to lose. They don't know how much is enough for winter and never think, that's enough work, let's take a vacation. They eke out all the production they can as long as the weather is warm enough and there are nectar-filled plants available.
This season I had a lot of swarming so honey production was slow. The saying among beekeepers is that you can make bees or honey. If the colony swarms or splits in two, you get more bees YAY but less honey BOO. The weather was also quite rainy which means fewer days that the girls can go out to forage and the longer it takes for the honey to dry out. The moisture content of each cell of honey must be 18.6 % before they cap it off. Rainy weather and high humidity make it take longer to get to that point.
I ended up with 5 gallons of spring honey when it was all said and done. The said and done includes harvesting (the hardest part because everything is SO heavy!), extracting, jarring, printing labels, punching out labels, labeling and cleaning up the jars. Also cleaning up the Pen & Hive kitchen from all that.
This year I was also keen on protecting my newly painted brick floor. Read about it here. Giant cardboard boxes opened flat worked great.
Right now the bees are working on creating a dark honey with a lot of complexity in the flavor. Spring honey taste like, well...spring. I always say it's taste like a bouquet of flowers.
It has all the nectar from those first apple, blackberry, clover, blueberry, and honeysuckle blossoms. And it's remarkably clear. I think it's my favorite.
Right now I'm selling the spring honey and waiting for the girls to wrap up the late summer foraging. Normally I harvest honey in September or October depending on the weather.