This past weekend a friend and I got together to harvest honey from the summer. Despite keeping bees for three years this was the first harvest that was large enough to need an extractor. Many factors come into honey production by the bees including weather, hive health, hive size, breed of bee, supply of blooms, and honey bee pests. This year we were lucky after three seasons of keeping bees!
The night prior to the honey harvest, we sterilized all our jars and lids in the dishwasher. Even if we are not going to use them all, it’s best to be prepared.
We removed the frames from the hive. You can do this the morning of the harvest or a couple days prior.
There are many different techniques to remove the bees from the comb. We brushed the bees from the frames using a bee brush. We did not smoke the hive. We placed an empty deep about 50 feet away from the hive. We placed cardboard on the bottom and a clean towel on the top. This helped to keep the bees off the honey and also kept curious bees in the “neighborhood” from investigating. One by one we placed the honey filled frames into the deep. Once full, we brought the honey into the garage.
In the garage, we prepped the area. First we put down painter’s plastic and a layer of newspaper.
Then we placed the extractor on top of our covered garage floor.
Next to the extractor, we added a small table. Covered it with newspaper and then placed a cookie sheet and the hive scratching tool right next to the extractor.
Next we cleaned out the food grade honey bucket. There’s a spout there- that yellow thing, for easy pouring into jars.
Inside the bucket we added a mesh bag to filter the beeswax from the honey.
We tied it off with string to prevent it from falling into the bucket from the weight of the honey.
The bucket was then placed under the extractor.
To the side, we placed a bowl of warm water and a dry towel. This is a great way to “wash” your hands when they get a bit sticky. Throughout the harvesting process, we used this quite a bit to keep things from getting sticky. As you will see, honey harvesting can be a messy business if you do not stay on top of the sticky. Honey can get everywhere!
Once you are ready to extract close the garage doors, screenless windows, and any other openings where the bees can get inside. The garage will become filled with the smell of delicious honey and if you do not take these precautions. You will have visitors by the thousands!
Over the cookie sheet and starting at the top of each frame, we scratched the capped honey on both sides of the frame.
Inside the extractor is a slot for each frame.
One by one we added each scraped frame being careful to balance the weight inside the extractor.
Then we spun and spun them. It takes about 10 minutes of spinning to extract all the honey from the frames. A tip for you: When extracting, spin the honey in the same direction for 5 minutes and then reverse the direction for 5 minutes. This helps to really pull the honey from the frames. We repeated this process until all the honey was spun down. You can see that the honey and small pieces of beeswax from the uncapping began to fill the bottom of the extractor.
Here you can see the empty frames. They are still wet and glistening with honey.
Once done, we returned the empty frames to the deep. We will return these frames to the hives. The bees will remove all the excess honey and repair the honeycomb to be used again.
After all the frames were spun, we took a plastic spatula and scrapped all the honey off the sides and bottom.
Finally, it was time to open the spout on the extractor and add it to the harvest bucket.
We let it flow while we continued to scrape the honey into the bucket.
We even scraped the wax and honey into the bucket lost during the uncapping of the frames. Every bit of honey counts! It’s a lot of work for those bees.
Once in the bucket the filtered honey starts to seep into the bucket.
Gravity helps. Hanging the bag over the bucket, it’s now a waiting game until every last bit of honey drips into the bucket. It can take hours and sometimes we let it drip overnight.
Finally, we bring the honey bucket inside and added it to the jars.
This honey harvest was fantastic!
Photo Credit: Tilly’s Nest