Nectar is still flowing here, so it’s a little premature to be pulling the honey from the hive. However, that is exactly what we did. We harvested the honey. We did this for a couple of reasons:
- The frames with only honey on them were overflowing and fully capped off. We do have other frames for the bees to use, but they aren’t using them. These unused frames are the new replacement frames we put in the hive that we’ll be waxing soon (see previous post). They aren’t yet waxed because we needed to get beeswax to put on them and we had none. They do also have honey in their brood frames, which we aren’t going to touch, so that is where they are storing their latest production of honey.
- Our hive recently re-queened and has shrunk in size due to many days without a laying queen, so the hive is busy rebuilding its bee numbers and there are fewer bees making honey.
Because of these two points we felt there wasn’t going to be any dramatic increase in honey production this year. So, we pulled the full honey frames from the hive and took them over to our mentor’s house where he has a full honey production house he calls the ‘Honey House’. He has everything a beekeeper needs to harvest honey and shares out his equipment to beekeepers in the area. We know we are very fortunate to have Jim as a resource and friend. Jim showed us what we needed to do.
Uncapping the comb: Jim has uncapped the honeycomb with various methods over the years. This is where you need to take the end or cap off of all the cells of honey. There are many tools that beekeepers use: uncapping knives – plain or electric, uncapping planes, uncapping punches. Jim has tried them all. What he likes best is a blow torch with an uncapping scratcher. He uses a blow torch to lightly go over the edge of the honeycomb and then scratches the softened wax off the end with the uncapping scratcher. This worked beautifully for us. Dave used the blow torch and I uncapped the cells.
Extracting the honeycomb: Jim has a large 18 small frame/9 large frame, automatic extractor. This extractor solicits the envy of all beekeepers as it makes extracting easy. You put the uncapped frames into the extractor in a balanced fashion. We only had 7 frames, so Jim added one more to make sure each frame had an opposing frame, then he turned on the extractor. We stood there and chatted while the extractor spun the honey from our frames. Checking the frames from time to time to see if all the honey had been released before stopping the process.
Filter the honey: Jim has his extractor on a base that he can tilt to make the honey flow to one side. He tilted the extractor and put a 6 gallon bucket under the honey gate valve with a very fine mesh sieve between the valve and the bucket. Then he turned the handle and the honey started to flow from the extractor, into the filter and through that, into the bucket. Honey is thick and takes its time as it flows through a fine mesh sieve.
Don’t forget the cappings: The cappings that we scrapped off in the beginning were also saturated in honey. Jim suggested we run that through a sieve and capture the honey from that as well. He put the cappings and the honey that came with them into a mason jar for us to take home along with the rest of the ‘thick’ stuff in the sieve that just needed more time to work through the filter.
We left Jim’s place two hours later with 2.5 gallons of honey in a 6 gallon bucket, a large mason jar full of cappings and honey that needed to be filtered and two bottles of cider from Jim’s homemade cider stores. This process was made easy by Jim’s know how and all the right equipment and it took less time than we expected.
We put the emptied frames which were still covered with a fair amount of honey and all the wax back in the hive for the bees to reclaim the honey that was there as well as having the honey comb to use again.
Thanks to the bees for their gift of honey. We will continue to care for them, prepare them for winter and feed them as needed throughout winter. That is the next part of our journey as beekeepers.
Honey love, Sheri