BeatrixDeadCombAfter giving Annabelle the two bars full of honey, we collected the rest of the comb, which was mostly, as seen in the picture, a mix of empty brood cells and honey cells with a small scattering of drone cells. We were surprised at how dark brood comb gets in just one season compared to the honey comb, no longer pristine white but still quite light. The most interesting feature of the comb in the picture is the hole in the lower right quadrant. The combs occupied nearly the entire cross section of the hive and had been much attached to the walls, allowing travel between combs only in the bee space at the floor and through holes like this one. Some beekeepers make such holes in the comb but this was entirely the colony’s decision.

BeatrixHarvestedCombWe were able to mostly fill a large plastic box (56 qt capacity) with this comb, perhaps eleven bars worth with less than half of most holding honey. In our mourning we were neither counting nor being terribly observant. Still this is more honey than we would harvest as surplus from a single hive at any given time and even more wax. We had not anticipated extracting any honey whatsoever for months yet and so were ill prepared. There was insufficient space in our freezer to store this much comb and we were uncertain how long we could just keep a box of broken comb around the house. We could buy some equipment from a beekeeping supplier but would it arrive soon enough. We could assemble similar equipment with a little scrounging and DIY but how quickly? Having been caught flat-footed with such a harvest we were in a dither.

Hastily we reviewed Linda’s video on crush-and-strain honey extraction and ordered suitable equipment from Brushy Mountain, hoping it would arrive soon. Until then we would try improvising. While shopping at Morgan and York for w(h)ine and cheese we asked if they had any food grade buckets we might beg or buy. They did but having been used for pickles were probably not the best for us. Instead proprietor Matt Morgan kindly went next door to Courtney Clark’s Cake Nouveau and obtained a donation of some one gallon buckets for us that had formerly held fondant. Thank you, Matt and Courtney. There is honey in your futures.

ImprovisedHoneyExtractionHaving acquired our buckets we dug out a large funnel left over from our mead brewing days. Cutting a hole in one bucket lid we friction-fit the funnel and lined it with cheesecloth, which we clothes-pinned in place. Rather than Linda’s genteel crushing with a pestle and pouring into a vessel we used the slightly messy, Michael Bush method of hand-crushing some honeycomb directly over the funnel. It took hours for the first load to slowly filter through but we got about a quart of honey before the cloth clogged and we needed to set up a fresh run. We now eagerly await the arrival of the larger capacity equipment. Otherwise the excitement of harvest will soon give way to tedium with repetitive small batches.

Metaphorically this honey is bitter but on the tongue it tastes sweet and flavorful. Thank you, Beatrix.