First harvest from Flow Hive™ Frames (and a lesson in what not to do)

Last weekend was a significant milestone for Virgin Honey – the first harvest from the Flow Hive frames in Madonna’s hive.

Flow hive honey harvest

Shamus changing out Honey jars…in the pouring rain!

You see, when I first got my flow hive, I read my instructions for assembly and harvesting honey with great eagerness. However that was many moons ago (July I think) and I didn’t think to re-read the harvesting instructions again!

Fortunately for me, the bees and all involved, Nadine is an information sponge and we were soon able to rectify some of the more glaring issues. As you can see in the video below, we did lose a fair bit of honey in the process but certainly know now what not to do for next time.

The Flow Hive frames make harvesting honey fun and, when done correctly, very easy and stress free for the bees. People considering investing in Flow Hives still need to know all about bee management but the harvesting process is something you can get any novice involved in.

I think that the more people who know and care about the welfare of all bees, the better we our planet will be.

One of the wonderful benefits from being able to harvest this way, is the ability to get absolutely unadulterated honey which is what Virgin Honey is all about. It will take my bees visiting over 2 million flowers to gather just 450g of honey – a curious fact that never ceases to astound me! Honey will always contain a mix of nectars (unless your hive is in a mono-culture) but the Flow Hive allows you taste greater nuances since bees are fairly methodical in their storage of honey, you are likely to get a concentration of a particular flower’s nectar on a single frame.

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Shamus with two jars from 2 different Flow Hive Frames. Notice the colour variation.

Flow Hive honey will be a little bit of a rarity as I presently have only 3 frames (versus 28 standard) but I look forward to sharing a few jars of it with you soon.

Big thanks to Nadine from Feast Photography for the video and photos on the day.

Honey from two hives.

I had hoped to harvest from my Flow Hive frames this weekend and had plenty of volunteers from Northside Beekeeping Association on hand to help and celebrate with Italian Coffee and Baklava to dip into the freshly poured honey. Unfortunately a week of rain slowed up the girls so they weren’t quite ready.  

 So close! Flow frames still a week or so from harvest. 

Fortunately a check on the other frames and boxes meant that I was able to harvest in the traditional way, getting 4 full depths from H1/FH1 – Madonna’s hive and 4 Ideals from H2/B2 – Magdelan’s Hive. The B2 in Magdelan’s indicates that it was a brood box not a honey box that I extracted from. 

The only difference between the two is that a brood box sits below the Queen excluder  and a honey box or super sits above. In theory there will be a majority of bee larvae in the brood frames (with some honey and pollen used to feed the bee larvae) and 100% honey above. 

This is a simplistic explanation and not fully accurate but it is the basic theory.

While I had put on a second brood box to both hives to encourage more laying, Magdelan’s hive is using it as a honey store rather than for the queen to lay. 

Honey is so beautifully unique in that it’s taste is totally dependent on what the bees have foraged. I noticed during the extraction that Madonna’s honey look slightly opaque which indicates a good portion of buttery clover honey. Rather than mix with Magdelan, which is a lighter clearer honey, I’ve decided to keep them separate. 

  Madonna’s harvest on the right and Magdelan’s left. 

There is certainly a difference in the two but as a suburban apiary with diverse flora, it will all be mixed bloom but I hope my buyers will appreciate the uniqueness to each harvest from the girls. 

The virgin honey harvest for Virgin Honey

So I estimated my first harvest (or as I’ve now heard it called – “robbing”) would happen in early November. The beauty of living in sunny sub-tropical Brisbane, is that I had to revise that estimate and organise for the virgin honey virgin harvest to happen last weekend due to a bee explosion and a good honey flow in my area.

So it was with much excitement, a few litres of Margarita to lubricate the workers, and much hilarity that good friends Nadine (@madamehoneybee), Natalie and her daughter Eva and I extracted the first honey from my hives.

While I thought we would be taking 4 frames from H1/A (Hive 1/Honey Box A), I only had 3 truly full frames, so it was agreed to leave the girls with the 4th frame.

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The fun of extraction was completed rather hazily on Saturday night, but it wasn’t until late yesterday that I had time to bottle my wares. From the 3 frames, we extracted 7kgs of honey – approximately 2.3kg per frame. In no way a record weight but for my first ever extraction I was delighted! While it was not white clover which would have been too much to ask for, the honey is a beautiful light colour and quite floral.

If anyone has been eagerly waiting for a taste, I’m afraid that the virgin harvest has been accounted for. It saddened me to have to put aside a small sample for quality control (as pictured below). The good news is that the 3 Flow frames will be ready for harvest in about 2 weeks and I am really looking forward to that. I suspect that that will be a more populated extracting party than Saturday night as there are many who are interested to see if and how it all works!

Virgin Honey's first honey sample

PS: Yes there were photos taken whilst we extracted but will not be posted to this “family friendly” site. We discovered a new drinking sensation of one sip of Margarita (from a salt rimmed glass) to one finger-full of honey. It is the bees knees! xx