Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Raising Honey Bees in Alaska, Harvesting Honey

Every year, we add a few new projects, as we endeavor to increase our self-reliance. This year, in the arena of animal husbandry, we added ducks and honey bees. Since I have written in a prior article about the former, this article will focus on the latter.

Honey bees are absolutely the lowest maintenance creature we have raised, but obviously some special equipment and instruction are necessary first.

To get started, my husband enrolled, along with about 60 other people, in an informative, two part class in February, held in Eagle River, AK, and taught by Steve Victors (Alaska Wildflower Honey), a 20 year, local beekeeper and vendor of beekeeping supplies.

In addition to useful, Alaska-relevant considerations, Steve summarized the history of beekeeping (the Mayans and Egyptians both domesticated them), medical uses for wound management and mummification, and the fascinating culture of the hive, with its queen, workers, and drones. I wish I had attended, too!

After the class, Bryan was enthused and decided to go forward, so he bought a bee suit and
Astronaut or beekeeper? 
disassembled hive boxes. The suit looks like something an astronaut would wear, made of thick white cotton and nylon, with sturdy elastic around the ankles and wrists, and a double layered, framed net head dress. The boxes are made of white pine. Each hollow hive box is about 20” long x 16” wide. The depth of the boxes varies from 6 - 10”, depending on whether they are intended for housing bees (deeper) or storing honey (shallower). In the South, most bee hives I have seen are white, which is to keep them cool. But Alaskan beekeepers paint theirs dark colors, to keep them warm. Ours are forest green, to match our various outbuildings.
The green honey boxes are shallower
than the unpainted brood box below