This year we took some pictures of the process of harvesting honey, if you have questions please let us know and we would be happy to answer them.
We only harvest honey once a year, in the fall. We have heard of others harvesting two different times, but that does not seem to fit in our schedule so we have just done it once. In the future we may try a second harvest to try and keep the early and late honey separate. We are told that the late honey is a darker honey and some people prefer that.
This year we purchased several hives, greatly expanding our harvest. We are now up to 18 hives, we will see how many make it through the winter.
Here is a look at some of our new hives before we harvested from them.
This is what we like to see, a hive full of bees, unfortunately they were not all like that this year.
This is a picture of a frame that has been filled and capped by the bees. After they fill all of the cavities with honey they will cover it with wax so they can use it in the future when they need it. With our hives we keep a screen between the bottom two boxes and the upper ones called a queen excluder. This keeps the queen in the bottom of the hive where she lays all the larva. If we did not keep them separated there would be larva thought the hive which would make the honey taste a little funny.
Below is a picture of a super where all the frames are full. The bees will continue building comb wherever there is space to do so.
After the top supers have been removed there are bees that hang around the outside of the hive, you can see in this picture all of the bees on the first two hives that have just been harvested. This is the time to remain calm, and try not to agitate the bees. If you look at the second hive, the one with the yellow tools on it, there is a fume board. This is a special top that is soaked inside with a liquid that is very offensive to the bees (and humans). This smell drives the bees from the super that is to be harvested. This prevents the bees from coming with us when harvested.
Here is our harvesting set up, not very fancy, but it gets the job done.
On the right we have all of the supers we collected from the hives. When a super is totally full of honey it can weigh up to 60 pounds, unfortunately there were not many of those this year. Just to the left of the supers is a stainless steel tub that we use to collect all of the wax cappings, you will see that later in the process. After they are de-capped they are placed in the white tub until they can be loaded into the extractor.
Next we have the extractor, you will see later how the frames are held and the honey is removed, and then finally into the bottler.
Now for the process, the wax capping is removed from each side of the frame with a heated knife that melts the wax and exposed the honey.
After we are finished harvesting the honey all of the wax will be washed, melted down and filtered several times to produce pure bees wax.
After de-capping the frames are placed into the extractor radially around the center. When the bees build the honeycomb they build it at a slight angle allowing all of the honey to stay in the comb until it is capped. When we put it in the extractor it is placed upside down, and then when it starts spinning the honey flies out of the comb hitting the side and running to the bottom of the extractor.
After the extractor is finished working the honey is removed via the gate at the bottom of the extractor. There are several pieces of wax and bee parts that make it to this point, so before we put it into buckets we run it through a course filter to get all of the large parts out. After that we run the honey through a second filter that removes some of the smaller pieces of wax that got through the first filter.
Unlike commercial operations our honey is never pasteurized, heated above 90 degrees or forced through filters. The only filtration we use allows the honey to flow through via gravity, and this is why we can call our honey “raw.” Most of the honey purchased from the grocery store, if it is even real honey has been pasteurized (heated to 160 degrees for 30 minutes). This removes all of the good properties of honey and it is filtered to a point where all of the pollen is removed further decreasing it’s good qualities and making it impossible to determine where it came from.
After the honey goes through the second filter it is dumped into the bottler just to the left of the extractor. This piece of equipment makes the process of getting the honey into the bottles less messy, and almost enjoyable.
If you have any questions about this process we will attempt to answer you, and if we don’t know we will find an answer for you, thanks for taking a look and I hope you learned something about where your honey comes from.
From the Farm