Wednesday 12 September 2012

Honey harvest

West Ardnamurchan is probably one the most difficult places to keep bees and produce honey.Mainly because the weather in Spring is so often cold, wet and windy at a time when the bees need to be out foraging for pollen and nectar. For each of the last three years I have had to feed sugar syrup during May and into June to keep the colonies going. If the bees get to August in good shape and there are good flying days we can get some honey. This year one of my hives that started as a nucleus in early Spring and produced eighteen pounds of honey today. We had a very good summer it was warm and sunny with a good nectar flow mainly from bell heather, heath and rosebay willowherb.
Removing the cappings from the comb


Extracting the honey from the comb for bottling calls for some specialised kit. The cappings  are sliced off the comb into a jam pan. The frame holding the comb is then placed in a centrifugal extractor, the high speed spinning throws the honey out into the extractor. Honey is then strained through a fine mesh  to remove tiny bits of wax, bits of bees and other stuff you don't want to eat. After the filter it settles in a tank and then is drawn off into the familiar honey jars.

Spinning out the honey

We do have one advantage here; there is no varroa mite. So far our geographical isolation has been a barrier to this global bee parasite that reduces the vigour of the bees leading to the eruption of latent bee viruses. So if you are a beekeeper  and you're thinking of moving to Lochaber with your bees...Don't! because your bees will be infected.

 We don't have any oilseed rape either so no neonicotinoid insecticides. These kill bees by disrupting their ability to navigate and find their way home. They have been banned in France but not in the UK of course.

Filtering and settling

Honey processing can be very sticky. If you are not careful drips of honey can be distributed throughout your house. You'll find it on door handles, cats, dogs, carpets and in your hair. Bare feet, newspapers on the floor and frequent hand washing minimise the mess.

Some of the final product, "Golden Ardnamurchan Flower Honey"

This could be "rare" honey, to go with the rare breed hens, ducks and goats! Some jars waiting for labels. I'd make a fortune if I could produce this honey commercially it has a unique flavour.

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