Honey Flow and Extraction

July 27, 2010

We’re at the tail end of honey flow, so Charlie and I have been busy with the bees. We’ll go into the hives again this weekend to take honey out, and then depending on how the bees are doing, we’ll wind down for the autumn. I thought that you might be interested in learning just a bit about robbing and honey extraction.

There are different ways to rob the hives. Some people use a fume board and a stinky chemical to drive the bees down lower into the hive. Some people use a bee escape which allows the bees to fly lower in the hive, but it doesn’t let the bees back up. When you put a bee escape on the hive maybe 24 hours before you rob, it can significantly reduce the number of bees that are up in the honey supers (the boxes where the bees are storing honey). I use a method that many small scale beekeepers use. It’s called shake and brush- and that pretty much sums it up. You pick up each frame and give it a vigorous shake so that the bees fall down into the hive. Then, you brush off the remaining bees and put the frame in a box with a lid to prevent robbing. It’s actually fairly simple- except for the ticked bees.

Now for the sticky part . . .

Our friends Isaac and Wanjiru came over to help us with extraction. You use the uncapping knife and take the cappings off the frame. Then, use a scratcher to uncap any cells that the knife couldn’t reach. The cappings go into an uncapping tank. It’s got a vat in the top to hold the wax, and then the honey drains down into a lower compartment.

When the frames are uncapped, they go into the extractor. We borrowed an extractor from our friend Rusty. There are different kinds of extractors. This was a very nice stainless steel extractor that holds four frames at a time. Essentially, it’s a centrifuge, and you have to flip the frames to get all the honey out of both sides of the frames. Everyone wanted a turn with the crank. Here’s Elizabeth giving it her best shot:

You can see the honey flowing out of the honey gate at the bottom of the extractor. It then goes through a filter and into a honey bucket.

After the honey is filtered, it’s ready to be bottled. There is a honey gate at the bottom of the bucket to use with bottling. I use canning jars from the hardware store. A trip through the dishwasher is all that is needed for the jars to be ready. The kids help with the labels, and we’re done.

Except for the eating part- yum!

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