When is honey ready to harvest?

When is honey ready to harvest?

Both classroom time and field time were spent this past Saturday and Sunday with community beekeepers in order to better answer what might seam like a simple question. Though some beekeepers have already harvested honey twice since establishing  their newly constructed transitional hives 8 months ago, questions of their products quality is a big concern. 

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We started Saturday morning in Kololo by identifying the area’s nectar flow calender. By compiling a list of bee forage trees and plants and the months in which they flower, beekeepers can better prepare for their hives to be in full force as well as harvest the honey to make room for the next round. However, not just any honey can be taken.

After making hundreds of foraging trips to fill just one wax cell with nectar. bees must provide enough ventilation within their honeycomb for the nectars’ humidity level to drop below 20%. Once this is achieved, bees finish the preservation process by covering it with a thin layer of wax. By acquiring this low humidity level, not only will the nectar keep without spoiling but the honeys’ micro septic properties make it impossible for bacteria to grow thus preserving it’s quality  Only at this point is the honey ready to keep until needed by the bees and therefor ready for the beekeeper to harvest.

Upon completion of our theoretical review beekeepers gathered at Worku Ochemo’s home and we put our newly acquired knowledge to the test.

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 We prepared our smoker, put on our protective gears and as the sun went down we began our practical session with the transitional beehive.

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We opened the hive and were happy to see that the bees had so positively taken to their new homes.

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Bees don’t work for nothing, and their wax production and extension of the honey comb not only shows the quality of the hive design but of the bees ability and desire to fill it with food.

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As the bees gently buzzed acknowledging our presence and under the light of a simple headlamp and torch beekeepers looked on as we identified and explained each of the combs. The above panel filled with pollen was excitedly distinguished, 

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from this one, of ripe honey.

 

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Ambakuna Hive Tours

Ambakuna Hive Tours

We began our time in Kembata-Tembaro Ethiopia touring as many of our recently trained beekeepers homes as one day allows.

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Friday morning was spent in Medula,

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where beekeepers proudly demonstrated their established transitional beehives, recently acquired swarms awaiting transferring, and their newly constructed coverings protecting their hives against rain and sun.

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Beekeepers took the time to explain how beneficial the hives were in comparison to the old and not only were the bees able to produce more honey but the beekeepers noticed that they were happier in their cleaner home.

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We spent time asking questions about bee forage and harvest times, and no beekeeper hesitated in identifying the plethora off nectar and pollen plants surrounding their homes.

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                                 The afternoon took us back to Kololo, 

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where beekeepers once again, welcomed us into their homes.

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They were excited to show us their growing apiary and all the new transitional hives they’ve built since our last workshop only 8 months ago.

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Following our February 2014 workshop, beekeepers had already harvested honey twice,

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and were very eager for us to sample.

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Not only was it a joy to visit the homes of more than 10  new and old beekeepers but there commitment and enthusiasm showed through their generosity, 

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and it was all just a taste of the beautiful experiences to come.