Is ‘beekeeping’ actually ‘hive robbery’?

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Posted Oct 10 2016 by Cassandra Lishman of Plas Helyg
Hive robbery about to begin? Beekeepers gear up ready to harvest honey.

I harvested some honey from my hive recently, on an extremely hot day – a great day to visit the hive, as the bees were mostly out foraging so there are fewer of them in the hive.

Also, it’s better to do it on a hot day so that you don’t lower the temperature in the hive (varroa survive at lower temps so it can encourage them to flourish by opening the hive too much).

So I dressed in a full set of clothes to cover myself completely, as the bees can sting straight thorough my suit – so best to have an extra layer. Then the bee suit on top of that, complete with wellies & long gloves. It was extremely hot!

I had my smoker ready with added lavender to help calm the bees. An experienced bee inspector had told me that it’s good to add calming herbs. Seems like a no-brainer to me, but not something you are generally taught in books.

After checking the supers and how much honey the bees had, I decided to take 5 frames. This left the quite vigorous hive with an entire super of honey, plus what was in the brood chamber, for their winter stores.

I have recently read that it’s a good idea to take less than you think, and you can always check the hive in the spring and take a little more then if the bees seem to have extra. I avoid feeding them any sugar syrup unless it’s a new nucleus. They make honey to feed themselves, so best to let them keep what they need.

So back to the title of the article – are we really ‘keeping’ bees? I argue not. They cannot be ‘kept’ – they are wild creatures and do their wild thing. And they definitely aren’t keen on hive robbery! Which is ultimately what I feel I am doing.

For thousands of years people have been taking honey from wild bees to satisfy their desire for sweet things. Imagine the feeling the first human had when they tasted honey!

I am humble and grateful for this amazing bounty on my doorstep, and for really surprisingly little effort. I robbed 5 kilos of honey this year, up 2kg from last year. Hoping to get another hive going in the spring.

Wonderful feisty little creatures, I plant many plants for their delectation, and am tasting this biodiversity in their honey. Long live the bee!

So I think it’s a reasonably fair deal – I provide a home, plant things they like, leave them honey over winter and don’t take too much. I read the Barefoot Beekeeper before I started, and was thinking of getting a top bar hive, but bought National hives because I was told by several people to start this way. It’s quite a ride navigating what is best all round.

Below are two of the 5 frames that I ‘robbed’. Notice the thick comb they have built on the side of the frame.


I have quite a non-technical method of getting the honey out of the combs. With scissors, I cut the comb off the frames into a large pan. Using a potato masher I mash up the comb to release the honey. Then strain through muslin supported by a colander into another pan. Leave overnight to drain before transferring into clean jars.


I keep the comb for candle making….but that’s another story!

Re-blogged from Green Living Muse.