The Sticky, Sweet Process of Honey Extraction

IMG_0675.jpgSweet Honey. This is such a glorious sight to me. It’s been a year in the making and I am finally able to pour some of my amazing girls’ hard work into my honey jar.IMG_6302.jpgIt takes a year from when I installed the new nuke to when I hopefully can extract honey. The new bees were installed in the spring of 2017. The first few months was all about helping them build enough comb for brood, (egg laying comb) and for food for them to eat during the winter. Here we are in the summer of 2018, the girls survived the winter beautifully and are creating frames of glorious golden honey.

The old time beekeepers would never pull only seven frames to extract, but I was really running out of patience. I really wanted to jar some honey! The girls had capped off 90% of seven out of ten frames in a super or box. Capped honey like the one above shows that the moisture level is just right. If taken too soon, the moisture in the honey would spoil. The girls fan the honey to help in evaporation. Pretty cool, huh?IMG_6422.jpgAfter deciding whether or not I can pull frames to extract, I had to decide how I was going to physically extract honey from the comb. The most basic way is to cut the comb away from the wooden frame, then just mash the heck out of it with a good old fashioned potato masher. This is the simplest way to break up the wax. Over a week’s time the honey would then filter through a few sieves into a bucket.

Another idea is to use a hand spinner. The old timers say it sounds real romantic to hand crank your honey out of the comb, but they say you’ll do that one time and realize how exhausting it is. I thought about renting a spinning machine from the Spartanburg Beekeepers Association, but kind of dreaded the idea of connecting all the dots. Or I could drive hours round trip to bring the frames to Carolina Bee Company and let them extract it for me.

Ok, ok….Let’s get real. I’m lazy. And Carolina Bee Co., where I get my supplies from had this shiny baby on SALE!!!! Not only would I save time, I would be able to save most of the comb for the bees to reuse!IMG_6421.jpgThe first step is to open the wax cells in order to free the honey. Many keepers use a hot knife to cut of the wax cappings, but that would’ve set me back about $200. I decided to use this rolly thingy.IMG_6425.jpgAfter opening the cappings, I slipped the frames into the spinner. This machine can hold up to 8 frames at a time. IMG_6427.jpgThen just turned this puppy on! Ok, so it wasn’t as easy as that. For one, as you can see most of the screws and bolts that hold the doors down were missing. During the transporting of the machine to the farm, the screws came loose. In order for the machine to spin, the lids need to be down and hitting a special button. So, needless to say, I quite carefully held it all together for the 40 minutes or so it took to spin the honey out.IMG_6434.jpgHere you can see the honey dripping to the bottom of the drum and the broken comb that flew off. In my inexperienced mind, I imagined the comb to be basically still intact and the honey emptied out. When in fact, pieces do fly off, but I was able to put 4 or 5 frames right back into the hive. With a bit of comb and honey left on the frame, I’m hoping that will save the bees energy from having to completely start from scratch. IMG_6437.jpgAt the bottom of the spinning machine, there is a spout where the honey and wax bit flow from the drum. The honey flows through two sieves that nestle in each other on top of a white restaurant grade bucket. The sieves collect the different pieces of wax, bugs, and dirt. Yes, the hive is completely sanitary, but just the act of transporting the sticky frames from the hives to the barn can attract outdoor stuff. No biggie.IMG_6440.jpgI kept the sieves on top of the bucket with the lid in my laundry room for a week. This allowed the honey to continue to filter. In time the air bubble would rise to the top and any fine particles would go to the bottom.

 

TIME TO FILL SOME JARS!!!! Enough waiting! All of this patience stuff is killing me! (Now because I am not doing all of this extracting and jarring in a certified honey extracting room, I can not officially sell my honey to the public, BUT I CAN GIVE IT AWAY!) Here in this video, my friend Angie shows the perfect technique in filling a jar.

Another cool fact: I am not to clean this bucket E.V.E.R! If I did, I would risk having water collect around the valves and ruin any future honey. Don’t clean? No problem!IMG_0704.jpgIsn’t this just a beautiful sight?!? So from 7 frames, I was able to fill 12-9oz. jars and 8-4oz jars with honey. Not bad, not bad at all.IMG_0669.jpgSo, I’ve got this wax and honey left over in the sieve and I don’t want to waste it. Those dark orange blobs you see? Those are bits of pollen that was left in the cells! What should I do? Well, I placed it on top of a bowl and put it outside in the sun.IMG_0670.jpgThe sun warmed the wax which allowed the last bit of honey to strain out, which I was able to fill my own honey jar! And the bit of leftover wax will be used for lotions or soap or salves.IMG_0675.jpgBelieve you me…This sweet goodness is going on my morning toast, in my coffee, in my tea, a spoonful at lunch, and on a biscuit at dinner. YUM!IMG_0714.jpgLast year for my birthday, my darling daughter gave me these labels. I am so proud to put these on my honey jars. I love everything about them!

What an amazing God we have! He created these little bees to not only pollinate flowers and trees, but to make a sweet golden syrup. These little creatures are responsible for 80% of the food we eat. When I taste the goodness of this pure delight, I am reminded of how good our God is!

Hope you can enjoy some pure golden honey today!

Thanks for dropping by!

img_0403-46

Spring Chores at the Bee Hive

Spring is upon us. When I stand outside on my deck in the morning, the birds are singing an amazing chorus. The buds on the trees are bursting open. And I have to get ready for two more bee colonies arriving in a couple of weeks!Two Sundays ago was one of the first warm days we’ve had, so I knew I had to take the opportunity to open up the hives. Remember bees like their home to stay at an even 91* all year long. During the colder months they will huddle together to keep it warm. And during the hot days of summer they will beat their wings to fan the hive down. Knowing this, it is important to open the hive when it is sunny and warm, without a lot of wind. To do so otherwise will result in a bunch of angry girls who will let you know of their disapproval with their little stingers.

Taking my time and moving slowly, I started with the yellow hive. I saw before even opening the lid that there were many bees moving in and out. That’s good. Also, I tried to see how heavy the hive was, which tells me if there is any honey and or many bees. It was too heavy for me to lift a corner, so that made me excited.

When I opened the lid, I looked to see if the pesky beetles were in check; if there was lots of activity; and if the frames looked full. All three of those things were looking great!

In the picture above, do you see the queen? She’s the one with the fancy yellow dot on her back. Without the dot, I would have a hard time finding her. She does look much different, but with so many bees walking around, it can be tough to spot her.

Check out this video I took of their activity.

I was pretty pleased with the yellow hive. I saw capped brood, larvae and the queen. And that’s good. Unfortunately, when I went to the second hive my heart sunk a bit. There wasn’t much activity at the entrance and the hive felt very light.

This picture was taken last year, but I wanted you to see that there are two supers or boxes on top of each other. When I lifted the cover off, I saw that the upper box was completely empty of honey. Not horrible, but that meant they were probably hungry. Then I lifted that box off and took a peak into the large green box. Ugh. I didn’t see much going on. I lifted frame after frame out looking for eggs, larvae and hopefully a queen. There were a few spots of brood, but I never saw the queen. Only two or three frames were showing any activity. Most of the frames were just plain empty. This made me sad.

I did what I thought was a common sense approach. I gave both hives a sugar cake and laid a mite-away strip on top of the brood frames. I wanted to give them a little boost of food and help get rid of any mites that might be hurting the hive.

The next day I went to the bee store for supplies for my new sets of bees coming in. I asked the lady there about my poor hive. She said I may have to kill the queen and replace her. Kill Her?!?! Yup. I was to pinch her head and drop her in the box so her pheromones would tell the hive that she was done. Then the next day I would install a new queen. (Yes, you can buy queen bees. Maybe one day I’ll learn how to raise my own, but for now I’m good with buying one.)

So yesterday I went to the farm prepared to have to kill the queen. But when I approached the hive I saw this! The entrance to hive was just buzzing with activity! I didn’t want to get too excited quite yet, I still needed to look inside.WHA-WHAT?!?! I was so giddy! This looks so good! Do you see the brown comb in the bottom left hand corner? Well ten days ago that’s what most of the frames looked like…empty. Now today…there is lots of capped brood, larvae and bees!🐝🐝🐝Look at all that pollen those girls are bringing in. The bee at the very top has orange pollen and the others have yellow. I wonder where they got their stash? So fun to watch! As you can see they are all bunched up at the small entrance, so I decided to flip the entrance thingy over to the bigger hole.Now that the weather should be warm, this bigger entrance will allow more bees to get in. Uh oh! Looks like some of the girls don’t realize I closed up the small door. They’re really smart, they’ll figure it out.

Ok new bees are coming I have to get the site ready. Luckily Superman was on hand to help carry the cement blocks from the barn. On these four blocks a hive will sit, so it needs to be level.I’m thinking that looks pretty darn good!

Back at home, I’ve started painting the supers for my new bees. It’s important to seal the outside, just the outside, from the elements. Otherwise the boxes can mold, thus not too good for honey. I could put one more coat of white Kilz on them but how boring!In full MerryMary style, these hives are going to be fun!

Don’t these colors scream happy? I like to think I have happy bees, who are going to make happy Honey one day.

Thanks for stopping by!