Saturday, August 30, 2014


Well, it’s finally that time of the year, a first for us, hopefully of many. It’s apparent that our bees didn’t read The Introduction to Bee Keeping book where it said that they should not produce any surplus honey in their first year. We’re sort of happy they didn’t.

We started the morning by pulling the honey supers off the hives. Last week we had condensed them down, taking the empty frames out of the lower supers and replacing them with ones already filled with honey from the ones near the top. We also pulled 10 frames that were totally filled and capped. Well done, little bees. The bees cap the honey when the moisture content is below 18%, which is when the honey is about perfect, and will naturally store with nothing else done to it. They know what they’re doing.

Once the rest of the honey supers were pulled, and the bees (angry bees, they were) were evicted from the frames, we started treating them to get them ready for winter. Varroa mites are one of the new major problems for bees, and they must be treated before they tuck away for winter. These parasites feed on the bees and on the brood, weakening and eventually killing the bees and the hives, especially over the winter. We wanted the honey out of there first, even though the treatment for the bees is not supposed to harm it. It’s a natural, organic treatment that is heated and the vapors are let off in the hives. This will have to be done two more times before they bees are ready for winter.

We then started the fun of extracting honey. With so few hives, we were able to borrow an extractor. I’m not too sure we would want to use this hand-crank one if we had twenty hives to pull honey from, but today it worked well. Thanks, Smiley.

We put the frames where they would warm up. This is a much easier process with them in an area that is above 80F. We then took the caps off, trying a couple different methods. For us, using a warm sharp knife worked best. This exposes the honey in the comb. We then put two frames into the extractor, and start them spinning. It takes 150 turns to pull the honey off each side of the frame using centripetal force. We then turn the frames inside the extractor and do it again. At 300 turns per two frames, ten frames per super honey box, and six honey supers full, we did a LOT of cranking today.

The honey comes out the chute near the bottom of the extractor, to be gathered in a filter bag that pulls out the little pieces of comb that might still be there. It drips into food-grade 5 gallon buckets that are 
sealed up until we are ready to take care of the honey in them. We let it clarify for a day or two then we put it into sterilized jars. We will have a LOT of jars of honey by the end of this week.  

This is what it was all about… well, sort of. The honey tastes wonderful. It won’t be processed or pasteurized, so it will retain all its wonderful healthy and healing properties. Of course, there is an absolute need to test the honey as it comes out of the extractor (and we certainly ended up with sticky enough hands), and it was wonderful. 

We learn more every day, and now we know that when we build our ‘honey shack’ – something on the Technicolor wish list – it will have a sink and running water in it. We may try next year to catch some of the pollen for a while, and we will add some more hives next year. For this one, we need to finish up treating them, and bedding them down after the first frost. Stay tuned, then cross your fingers that they have a good winter. We’ll blog later about how we prepare them for the almost 6 months of inactivity that they will endure, and why it’s such a nerve-wracking time for a beekeeper. 

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