Hive report: harvest!
Big day! Yesterday, take off the super, and today–extraction!
I turned into a wuss yesterday and donned the bee jacket and gloves since I was going to pull a super of honey for harvest. I thought I might need to use the bee brush to get the girls off of the frames of honey. Even the calmest of girls can get a bit testy when you start pushing them around, but they were extremely calm and the escape board had worked very well. (I hadn’t had the full jacket on since last July and I hope not to have it on again for a while.) The thermometer on my shaded back porch was reading 88 degrees Fahrenheit when I pulled that super of honey; I was dripping like a soaker hose. I did have to do a little brushing. The frames were almost all full and almost completely capped–felt like 35 to 40 pounds when I lifted it down from the hive. Much more when toting it from hive to kitchen even though the hives are not far away.
My first extraction. I really appreciate Brushy Mountain Bee Farm’s video library, especially since I’ve not gone through an extraction with another beekeeper. I know part of the video is to sell stuff, but there’s good information on things to do and not to do.
The kitchen was transformed into the honey room last night: plastic drop cloths covering the table and the floor, the honey extractor, uncapping bucket, honey bottling bucket and the super of honey (but I did manage to leave a path to the espresso machine for morning coffee before I started the extraction this morning.
I’ve discovered one thing that I thought I didn’t need that I will have by the next extraction: a method of stabilizing the full frames over the bucket that I’m using to catch the cappings as I take them off the cells. It gets rather drippy and slippery as you’re lifting those nice little white caps off of the cells filled with honey. A full frame weighs about 4 or 5 pounds, and holding it up with one hand really exercises some muscles that I didn’t think about until almost the second frame! Why did I decide that I didn’t need the gadget that fits over the bucket and is designed specifically to rest and stabilize the frame? Beats me now as I’m uncapping! Hindsight is always so much better than foresight! Sigh!
Since the extractor is a tangential, hand-cranked one, it’s a rather long process and I’ve discovered that how you open the cells makes a huge difference in the amount of cranking you have to do. I opted for a capping scratcher, but it takes longer to spin out the honey with scratching as opposed to actually lifting off the cappings (or cutting with a knife)! After the first scratched frame, I resorted to lifting the caps off. But…next time I’ll try to arrange things so that I can use a knife. (I tried a bread knife, but the comb in these frames was uneven enough that it didn’t work well.
Seeing that first honey drain out of the extractor is a thrill. Awesome. This was the first real taste I’ve had of the honey from my bees–my local honey. It is certainly different from the jars of supermarket honey that go as “wildflower” honey. True, what I’m extracting is “wildflower” honey, but it’s much more aromatic. I’m only straining–not filtering or heating at all to preserve as much of the character as I possibly can. My kitchen smells so good.
My kitchen smells so good.
I made less of a mess than I thought I might! I’m being un-ecological and not even trying to clean up that drop cloth. The honey the bucket doesn’t look that impressive, but it is a five-gallon bottling bucket, so there is really a reasonable amount of honey there. Now to clean up the extractor.
The honey in the bucket doesn’t look that impressive, but it is a five-gallon bottling bucket, so there is a decent amount of honey there. I am anxious to see how many bottles/jars I have when I can bottle it after it has stood for a bit to let air bubbles go away (although I’m not entering it in any contests or the state fair–this year). I’m just happy to have it to share with friends.
Now to clean up the extractor and the other bits and pieces associated with this process. Most of it was easy to clean–a little soap and warm water. I think the extractor is going to have to go outside for a good rinse with cold water from the hose! I’ve heard that I could let the bees come clean away the residual honey from the extractor; but after a conversation with a Facebook friend, also a beekeeper, that might lead to bees stuck in the honey that’s still on the sides and bottom. Not good–don’t like stuck, dead bees! I’m letting it sit overnight since honey is still draining down the sides to the bottom; I’ll see what has accumulated in the morning. For now, I feel like it was a good day’s work.
I’m hoping to have a little cut-comb from the outside frames even though the ladies decided that would make a good brood chamber (along with the other three medium boxes). That will certainly be easier to process than doing extraction like this, but it is very taxing for the bees since they have to make new comb. With this extraction, they get the comb back to repair and reuse.