Thursday, September 1, 2016

Honey Harvest

The end of summer has finally arrived and we can harvest honey! We have already gathered the equipment that is required to complete the process: extractor, hot knife, honey buckets, and a strainer. But before we can grab honey supers off the hives, we need to make sure we leave as many bees as possible in the hive. One method to do this is with bee escapes.
Bee escape
Bee escapes are inexpensive and snap into the hole in the inner cover. The inner cover is then
placed below the lowest honey super. It is designed so that any bees in the honey supers can move down into the brood nest section of the hive, but cannot return through the escape to the honey supers. Supers can then be removed from the hive for harvest. Other methods include bee blowers and aromatic sprays that repel the bees. It is the preference of the beekeeper.

Uncapping a frame
Once we have our bee-free honey supers to our honey harvesting facility, we can begin to uncap our frames of honey. The hot knife should be plugged in for a couple minutes to reach optimum heat. The blade should be used to scrape off just the outermost layer of wax cap without gouging into the comb. Uncap both sides of a frame and place it in a basket in the extractor. Continue to uncap frames until your extractor is at capacity.

Ensure the extractor is secured in place. Start turning the hand crank or turn on the motor to spin the baskets in the extractor. The force of spinning will fling the honey out of the comb. If using a tangential extractor, where only one side of the frame faces the outer wall of the extractor, flip the frames around to extract the opposite side. The honey will hit the sides of the extractor and settle to the bottom. The gate on the extractor can be opened to allow honey to flow out. Make sure a honey bucket affixed with a strainer is under the valve! The strainer will separate out any chunks of wax or bee debris.

Depending on the beekeeper, the honey can be bottled at this point. Others may choose to run the honey through a smaller strainer to remove additional wax or debris. The only step left is cleanup.

To see this process in action, check out this video by a previous American Honey Princess.
Video of small scale honey harvest: