Thursday, September 1, 2011

Hi Honey! Honey Processing 2011 -- extracting

Bright and early Monday morning (July 4th), we quickly loaded up the supers into our truck and headed up to our church to do the honey extraction.

At the church, we met up with our other beekeeping friend, who was able to borrow the extraction equipment from another bee keeping friend.

We loaded all the equipment into the tiny scary elevator and headed to the basement of the church. We are so lucky this year that we were able to borrow the commerical kitchen of the church for the day so we could extract our honey. Due to food safety laws, if you plan to sell honey, you must extract it in a commercial kitchen to be in compliance with food safety laws. Yes, there are ways around this, and many people cannot afford a commercial kitchen setup. We were very lucky that we were able to use these really nice facilities.

I immediately got to work washing up equipment in the wonderful commercial dish wash station (I want one of those faucets at my house, it was AWESOME!).

Meanwhile, the guys assembled the rest of the equipment and set it up assembly line style so we could move quickly through our tasks.

By 9 am we were up and running. The process was much the same as last year, except we were not packed into my tiny kitchen, nor were we battling bees as we came in and out of the house. Step one: use the hot knife to cut the wax caps off of the frames.

Step 2: use a pokey tool to open any cells that were missed by the knife (yes, Dr. Aaron came back, and his wife brought snacks!)

The frame are then loaded into the centrifuge and the honey is spun out.

The honey is then poured into buckets.

One other fun thing about using the church kitchen is that we were able to invite anyone who was interested to come watch (and help). All told, we had 15 people there for a while.

The kids played with puzzles and made forts under the tables and were captivated watching our tiny portable DVD player.

This step of the honey extraction process ended with empty supers carried back up the stairs and many very heavy buckets. We finished up about 4 pm and were all exhausted and sticky after a hard days work.

The next step (the next day!) meant that hubby carried those same buckets BACK down the stairs and filled all our honey jars.

Hi Honey! Honey Processing 2011-- in the beeyards

We extracted honey a little early this year, on July 4th, 2011. In summary, 2011 was an amazing year for our bees! We extracted over 5 gallons of honey, that is about 150 pounds of honey. We were also able to do a lot of outreach and education. For every part of the extraction process, we had an eager audience. What fun.

Part I: On Saturday July 2nd, we pulled the supers off of the hives we have in Bells. These bees are pretty much neglected most of the year, add in our not-so-textbook methods of saving comb from the bee removals and the mis-mash of equipment we own and the result was that the inside the hives was a mess.

Hubby did some much needed cleanup (scraping off burr comb, cleaning out dead out hives, and removing the comb from long forgotten inside feeders), I helped wherever I could.

There are two remaining hives in Bells (we lost two over the winter). Inside the hives we were happy to find that there were almost ZERO pest problems, no visible mites, no wax moths, and no small hive beetles. The bees had completely ignored certain frames, and overfilled others. Brood was present in several layers of the box, but we did not use queen excluders in this case so that is our fault. Despite the messy condition of these 2 hives, we were able to pull off 13 strong frames of honey.

Our kids and grandma and grandpa watched happily from the air conditioned cab of their truck. We did learn that working the bees in this bee yard is wonderful in the late afternoon, the tall cedars to the NW of the hives made for some very welcome shade while we worked.

Part II
Sunday afternoon, we worked the hives at our home in Farmers Branch. We had an eager helper from our church who wanted to learn more about bees. Ha ha, ask us to teach you about bees and we'll put you to work... nothing like hands on education!

Dr. Aaron got all suited up and watched in fascination as hubby worked his way through the hives.

Also watching (from the comfort of my air conditioned sewing room) were his wife and daughter.

After just a few minutes of working in the stiff, hot gloves, Dr. Aaron got brave and decided to go gloveless, just like us.

Four more hives worked and no stings, hooray!

Here is our haul the night before we processed. 7 supers nearly full of frames. I think we had 63 frames total. The stack of supers was nearly as tall as I was... and yes, we stored the supers in the house for over 24 hours before processing. We were very careful to get each and every bee out of the supers so it turned out to be a fairly safe way of doing things. If we had left these sweet smelling supers outside, the bees would have swarmed them trying to get at the 'all you can eat' honey buffet hidden inside. Inside the house, the supers were shielded from curious bees.