1. Suit-Up. Do not ever attempt to work with bees without proper protective clothing. The best part about having boobs is that the head piece fits snuggly, and when tied down it will never ride up your breasts (a problem my man-partner had). Also important to remember- bees hate black. Wear light color clothing.
2. Smoke the bees. Bee keepers smoke their bees with wood to calm the bees- because when you try to take the honey from the hive the bees will attack you. Surprise. During our experience our head bee-keeper noticed how relaxed our bees were that day. He mentioned when they're really agitated, you can hardly see anything because they're covering the mesh that's protecting your face. Which surprised me, because apparently the five guys in front of my face trying to sting me through the tiny mesh-holes were categorized as calm. This was the moment I saw myself benefiting from the meditation course I took. Keeping calm was never so important.
3. Retrieve the honey. Take the honey out of the hive. For this step a lever is often useful since honey works like glue, and bees do everything in their power to seal up any cracks (especially between the combs and the box).
4. Shake the bees off. Our boss-man, having years of experience, did this with ease. He used one quick motion to drop the bees back into the box onto freshly replaced honey-less honeycombs. With what looked like a paint brush, he swept the other bees of with delicate strokes.
5. Load the honey. Shamefully I must admit, I was too weak to lift up any of those boxes containing honey. Honey is deceptively heavy. Its so much heavier than water (and if you've ever carried a 5-gallon jug of water- you know its heavy).
6. Work. I honestly was not expecting to work so much at this point. This was a good-ten hour work day for 4+ people.
7. Scrape that wax of the honey. We used metal combs to take the protective layer of wax off to expose the honey. This was a learning process, because you didn't want to take off too much honey with the wax, because then you're loosing that honey. But if you didn't take enough off the wax off, then the honey would be trapped when you put it in the centrifuge (that cylinder thing in step 7). The different colors of honey came from bees who had collected pollen from different species of flowers. The two photos below show different colors of pollen collected by bees (look at their back legs where they carry their pollen).
8. Messy business. Making honey is a messy business. You'll find your shoes peeling off the floor with every step. For the hours of work required to gather the honey, way too much time was required afterward to clean up.
9. Filter. Filtering honey is crucial. No one wants to find a bee larva, wax, or other stuff in their mason-jar full of honey. This is also a great time to stick a piece of cucumber or grape under that delicious flow to savor in the product you helped unleash into the world.
10. Utilize the scrap pieces. If a colony of bees has filled all their combs up, they will start to produce honey in any open space in the hive. Bee keepers throw these pieces in a bucket rather than discarding them. I found myself shoving my fingers into this piece to gleefully pick out all the deliciousness. The discarded wax will be used for bee's wax products and a million other things. Even pharmaceutical engineers utilize bee products.
Bee-keeping is only a small part of keeping bees. Ensuring that the bees have quality flowers and space to gather pollen to produce quality honey is essential. Volunteering at the bee farm in Ecuador will prove just that.