Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Honey Extraction 2010

We extracted our honey the last Saturday of July, 2010. We were able to borrow extraction equipment from a friend at church (in exchange for extracting his honey too), and we also got together with another bee keeping buddy to all extract together.

First step, steal the honey. This does not make the bees very happy. Hubby was able to travel up to Bells late on Friday night to get the frames with honey from our four hives up there. On Saturday morning he removed the frames with honey from our five hives at home.

I tried to prepare the kitchen for easy clean up. Tried. I taped a plastic table cloth down on our kitchen table, tucked the curtains up out of the way and moved all the chairs and other stuff out of the kitchen.

Here is the finished set up. We tried to keep a logical flow to the order of things to minimize having to move drippy frames of honey too far. You can see just outside the kitchen window is a stack of medium supers, these came from three different families (and four different bee yards).

Just inside the door we set up a place to stack the supers we were working on.

This is what the surface of one of the frames of capped comb looks like.

Next was the decapping station. Where we used a hot electric knife to cut the wax caps off of the comb to expose the honey.

If done right, the wax comes off in a pretty curl.

The uncapped frames were then loaded into the centrifuge (is this this right name? maybe called and extractor?). This held three frames of honey and had an electric motor to spin the frames and force the honey out of the comb and onto the bottom of the vessel.

This picture is looking down into the cylinder of the extractor as it spins and the honey is flung out.

After several sets of frames were spun, we opened the valve at the bottom of the centrifuge and the beautiful golden honey poured out.

The honey was strained through a series of filters to remove wax and bee parts, then it was held in a 5 gallon bucket with a tap at the bottom.

Repeat. Over and over and over until all of the honey was extracted.

Poor hubby got the job of going outside to retrieve the next super full of frames. The bees very quickly learned where their honey had gone and were frantically trying to steal it back.

Hubby was careful to open and close the door to the kitchen quickly to avoid getting too many bees in the house.

After a few hours, the bees outside the door were overwhelming and hubby had to make a quick dash around the yard holding the frames to try and keep the bees from following him into the house.

This is a cluster of bees drinking the honey that is leaking out of one of the supers on the outside table.

Finished product! We ended up extracting about 12 gallons of honey for the three families.

Here are the bees cleaning off the outside table after we were done extracting.

Within an hour they had lapped up the giant puddle of honey.

The house was fairly easy to clean up, not as easy as just letting the bees do it, but not too bad. I'm still picking bits of wax off of my floors, and my floors were sticky even after two moppings.

In review, this year was just so-so for honey. As first year beekeepers, we are thrilled to get any, but still, we were hoping for more.

Comments and Lessons Learned:

1) We made a mistake and did not use queen excluders on our hives. This meant that the queens in nearly all of our 9 hives moved up into the supers and started laying eggs. Commercial beekeepers typically do not use queen excluders, so we hoped to get away with it to. Nope. Because of the eggs and brood present in the supers, we had to be extra careful to only pull frames that were just honey. Ideally, the whole super would have been filled with honey, no eggs. While this is a mistake in terms of how much honey we got, it is also a happy accident as it will mean our hives should be much stronger next year since they were able to raise so many more babies.

2) The honey was DARK this year. In general, a lighter honey is more desirable, but the comments from the Collin County Hobby Beekeepers association was that all the honey seemed dark this year. It still tastes great to us.

3) We needed more buckets and containers cleaned and ready to go before we started. We ended up having to pour honey bucket to bucket a few times unnecessarily.

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