Saturday, July 17, 2010

2010 Honey Harvest! 430lbs!

We finally got this year's honey crop harvested. We collected about 12 medium boxes of honey from the colonies in our out yard and here at the

house. Once the boxes were collected we moved them into a screened tent so the bees couldn't get to them. Removing the boxes from the hives involves the use of a fume board. A fume board is simply a plywood lid with a piece of felt stapled to the inside. You squirt some VERY foul-smelling liquid onto the felt and put it on the hive. The smell drives the bees down out of the super so you can take it off with very few bees in it. The boxes full of honey weigh approximately 50lbs a piece. It's an awkward lift so you have to be careful not to hurt yourself lifting or carrying them.

Once inside the tent we begin the extraction. First the wax capping covering the honey is removed with an uncapping knife. This knife is the only heat this honey will feel. The knife slices through the wax sometimes lifting it off in a single white sheet of wax. This capping wax is the most sought-after wax for making candles.

After the capping is removed the frames are put into the extractor. The extractor is nothing more than a little centrifuge. When fully loaded, the lid is closed and you crank the handle, spinning the frames within, which throws the honey out of the cells. It drains to the bottom and flows out of the honey gate and through several filters. After that it's ready to bottle.

Once the frames are empty (you've spun the honey out of them but they're still wet) we put them out for the bees to rob clean. They clean the frames, boxes, and tools until they are completely free of honey. Bone dry! It's total pandemonium when you put the boxes out but it's the best way to get the combs cleaned.

Honestly I sort of dread extraction every year. It's extremely hot, heavy, hard, painful work. You get some stings even though the bees aren't being aggressive for the most part. You pinch bees under the frames when you lift them, roll them against your leg when they come to clean up the honey you spill on yourself, etc. The actual extraction is miserable but the end result is worth it. Lots of pure, golden honey. MMMMMMmmmmmmm.



Syber said...

This is a really good article.

Carole King said...

That is so cool! Norm: "One more item off the honey do list"! Can't wait to taste the new harvest.

Sylvie in Rappahannock said...

hi Donielle & Micheal, so glad to have found your blog. It's very interesting to me as we have a very very small apiary (2 hives) in Rappahannock county and we had our small harvest this year. Fun to read what people with bigger apiaries - and more experience are doing. The bees are endlessly fascinating, aren't they? and as a cook, I am really starting to incorporate more local hone=y into my dishes. Looking forward to reading more.

Alfredo said...

Hey brother from a different mother. I like your blog very much but I thought that bee work was happy work.