Summer is the most reliable and usually largest honey crop of the year. By June, the hives are reaching their peak population and the long hot days give all those bees ample opportunity to forage on nectar from wildflowers, weeds, and what is increasingly one of the most important honey plants in this part of the country: soybeans. There's some debate on how productive soybeans are as a honey plant, but if they lack in nectar production, they make up for it in sheer number of plants. It's unlikely there are too many beehives in Ohio that don't have hundreds of acres of blooming soybeans to forage on. Like in most areas, beekeepers in Ohio are pretty dependent on what the farmers are doing.
With forty-five hives to keep up with and most of them with multiple supers of honey in need of harvesting, I've been getting stretched a little thin with the current bee equipment. The Ford Escape works really well for checking hives, but wont haul many supers. Plus all those supers and any attached bees end up going in the car with me. This all adds up to a lot of somewhat frustrating trips to and from bee yards at harvest time. In addition, we've found ourselves quickly outgrowing our honey extractor, which holds three frames and needs to be cranked by hand. It was great for us when we had twenty hives, but we've found ourselves outgrowing it pretty quickly. Of course it's better having the honey and too little equipment than having the equipment and no honey to harvest.
About a month ago, I was telling another beekeeper about my situation and it just so happened he had a large extractor and a truck he wasn't using anymore, and asked if I'd be interested. Naturally I was, and long story short, we've got a new extractor and a truck- just in time for honey harvest!
Not only is this thing a truck, it's a bona fide bee truck. I'm the third beekeeper to own this thing. At 32 years old, it need a little TLC here and there, but overall is in great shape. It made moving the extractor a cinch, and since we had it in time to pull supers, that was taken care of in a few hours. I was actually able to move supers six at a time stacked on a two wheel dolly rather than carrying them one at a time through the garage door.
I'm not sure how old the extractor is, and there's no nameplate on it, so it's anyone's guess as to who made it. It is most likely made by the Walter T. Kelley company in Kentucky, and it's certainly older than I am. It's built like a tank, and weighs about as much as one, too. Most importantly, it extracts thirty frames at a time and is motorized: no more hand cranking for me! After making a new stand and adding a new ball valve and elbow, it was ready to spin honey.
The extractor worked like a dream last weekend. The honey is all in buckets now, and I am putting off carrying them all down into the basement while I write this blog. The empty supers are back on hives just in time for the goldenrod bloom. Hopefully we'll have a nice crop of fall honey- I'll keep you all posted.
Thanks for reading,