Saturday, August 29, 2009

Honey Extraction Day

Our mentor, Lew, came down this morning to walk us through our first honey extraction. The first order of business is getting the bees out of the supers that we wanted to extract honey from. Lew sprinkled a chemical on this board, then placed it on top of one of the hives. The idea is that the bees will go down the hive to get away from it. However, this requires a warm sunny day and we (quite thankfully, as the extracting shed was HOT) had a slightly cooler overcast day today and the chemical didn't heat enough to work.

This means that Lew fired up the leaf blower, tipped each super, and blasted the bees out of it. They weren't very happy, but they did as they were told.

We removed the ones with honey and got down to the supers with brood (home of the next generation of bees). These we left, of course!

Jim loaded the supers with honey onto the back of Lew's truck for the trip to his extracting shed.

Here the first order of business is to remove the capped comb from the outsides of each frame. Lew has a machine that does this. The knife that cuts it off is heated with steam. The capped comb (which has some honey still in it) drops to a stainless steel plate and drains into a heated vat. The honey sinks and the comb and other residue rises, so nothing is wasted.

From there the frames are placed in the extractor, basically a large centrifuge. Lew's holds something like 60 frames. (We've been given parts to build one that holds four at a time!)

It takes about fifteen minutes of spin time to extract the honey. Then Lew opens the valve at the bottom of the extractor tank, starts another little pump that sucks the honey up into the vat, where it runs through a filter before we filled our containers.

And here's the truck loaded with our empty supers (ready to be stored until next June) and the honey. Each of the small buckets holds seven pounds. A good day's work!

Is it delicious? You betcha. :D


  1. Wow, that's great! I really want to keep bees - they need all the help they can get at the moment! - but we don't have space for both chickens and bees in our tiny garden, and since we haven't been to the allotment very often this summer, I don't think we'd get permission to keep them there, either. Perhaps when we retire to the country...


  2. Did you collect beeswax too? Or just honey?

  3. Very neat, Val. Brings up memory of chewing honey comb though. Hope all those caps didn't go to waste.

  4. Anne, I don't know what regs are like in your area, but bees really need very little *keeping* throughout the season. Access to shallow water and blossoms. Our pollination on garden plants was definitely higher this year--might be good on your allotment?

    This time around we did not collect the beeswax/ cappings ourselves, but left it with Lew. It won't go to waste; he'll heat it and strain it to purify it.

    I definitely need to think about it for next year, though, when hopefully we'll be doing the extracting and all at home. I'm not much of one for candles so need to look into other uses.

  5. Hi Valerie,

    Harvesting your own honey is great, isn't it?
    But we don't use chemicals to get the bees off our super frames. We use the shake, brush, and run method. Takes a little longer, but since we only have a few hives, we don't mind.

    Margaret (Beekeeper at Sunset Magazine—I heart my job!)