Sunday, July 11, 2010

Honey Harvest

As you all know, we are new beekeepers so this is our first time participating in a honey harvest.  We are fortunate to have a great mentor, Frank Clements, the bee boss, who has worked with us this first year so we can learn as much as possible.  He mentioned that he was going to one of his friend's house, Boyd Falls, to help him harvest the honey from his hive.  My queen bee and I thought this would be a excellent chance to learn more. We had been to Boyd's once before just to help out but after a number of months we had a whole new appreciation of his hives and backyard. 

To get the best look at the pictures above, hover over the bottom of them in the black area, click and arrows show up that let you look at each picture at your own pace. If you go to the button in the middle of the picture it takes you to my picasa web album and you can look that way as well. I hope the tech info is of assistance to you.

As you can see by looking at the pictures above, Boyd has created bee food heaven.  He has all manner of flower plants including cucumbers, asparagas, apples, figs and an assortment of flowers that are in constant bloom.  In this environment his bees have a nice source of food all spring and into the fall. 
Below are pictures from the day before we actually started harvesting the honey.  The hive had 13 BOXES and it was determined that we would attempt to harvest honey from the top 10 boxes.  The first challenge in harvesting honey is getting the bees to leave all of the honey harvest boxes.  This must be done within a day or so or else other critters like wax moths or hive beetles will ruin the unattended boxes.

The process begins by taking all of the boxes off until we got down to the 3rd box from the bottom.  The bee boss put on a handy dandy bee exiter/extruder which allows bees to exit the boxes above but not to reenter.  There is a picture of the bee extruder in the slideshow above.  So we took all of the boxes off which meant bees everywhere, yea great bee suits, and inserted the nifty bee exiter.  The bees are not NASCAR bees since once they hit the hole in the extruder they turn right and leave.  We left it overnight hoping to return to empty top boxes.

Note to others, bees don't like to leave quickly.  So the next day we still had lots of bees in the top boxes. We applied Bee-Quick, which smells like almonds to me and this drove the bees down box by box.  By the time we got to the bottom few boxes the bees were still hanging in there which made it interesting in the honey house where we were NOT wearing our neat bee suits.  Did I mention the extruder only lets bees out single file and they don't like to leave quickly??


The next step in our process was once the bees were gone from a box was to put the box into a black plastic bag and into the back of a waiting pickup for transportation to the nearby honey house.  We quickly would put the recently de-beed box in the black plastic bag so it would not become re-beed. "Not sure about beed boxes as a word but as a native speaker I think you will understand me."  Below are a few pictures of the hive bodies in plastic bags that are stacked in the honey house.

Honey House & Extracting Honey
We are finally getting to the part you have been waiting for, extracting the honey. With the honey laiden frames in the wonderful air conditioned honey house, we begin the fun work of extracting the honey.  The bee boss has a wonderful electric honey extractor.  He keeps in neat and shiney and insists that when we are done it is all clean and neat.  We all agree and really like his style and cleanliness.  It takes a bit to set it up but finally it is in place.

Frame by frame, we vacuum off the bees so we can decap the frame without being stung. When we are done we open the vacuum cleaner and all of the bees come flying out and back to the hive.  Kind of a bee recycling.

Decapping is done with either a hot knife or a Jeff Hackler Honey Punch.  My favorite is the honey punch for just getting the frames ready to extract the honey but if you want the pure wax on the end of the comb you want to use the hot knife.

Next the decapped frames are loaded into the extractor.  This nifty device can handle about 12 frames at a time.  It uses centrifugal force to extract the honey which then falls to the bottom of the extractor thanks to regular gravity. 

The spigot at the bottom of the extractor is opened and the honey is strained before dropping into a five gallon bucket.  I am guessing we extracted about 20 gallons of honey. 

When we were all done with extracting, we cleaned up and returned the hive bodies back to the hive for the bees to clean up the remaining honey from the frames. 

Boyd was kind enough to provide generous samples of the his honey, an unexpected suprise.  Frank, the bee boss, provided a generous helping of new knowledge in beekeeping.  Wow, a perfect day.

Like we say, keep your veils tight, your hive tools sharp and your smokers lit.
This is the bee boy out......

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