Honey Harvest, finally!

honeyfromlucinda

My family and friends have been very patient with me in my eccentricities. When I first brought up my interest in beekeeping, they were cautiously encouraging, not sure their required level of participation. As I’ve delved deeper and deeper into the art of apiculture, they have become more encouraging and enthusiastic, and I suspect this is because they saw “sweet things” on the horizon.

I got my first beehive 3 years ago, on July 1st. I knew I’d have to wait at least until the second year before I’d get any honey from her. But she had a rough first year. Not only because of my inexperience, but also because of the problems with her location. She was in the shade, she was bought late in the year, she didn’t have a lot of natural food. It was rather rubbish for her really. So I was just happy she survived her first Winter.

Finally on her third Summer, I opened up the top super to have a peak and found it was wall-to-wall honey! Well, the box weighs at least 55 lbs, I cannot lift it, especially with my protruding tummy. (Go Baby!) So my Honey helped me and got suited up and lifted the super for me, and found the next super down was also 10 frames of beautifully capped honey. Yeepee!

This is my first official extraction. Last year I tried to extract 6-8 frames but I made the mistake of leaving them where the bees could find them, hoping they would clear off. What? Abandon their honey? Never! Yeah, they took it all back and all I was left with were such chewed up empty frames.

There is a story about a beekeeper, he took his honey supers off his hives, took them to his basement. He spent all day extracting the honey from the frames, and went upstairs in the evening to take a break and watch a film. Meanwhile his well-meaning wife came home and went to the basement. She found it very stuffy and humid. Unknowingly, she opened a window to air out the basement. That night, the bees found all the honey that had been stolen from them and stole it back! All of the beekeeper’s hard work was for naught. He woke up in the morning to find not a drop of honey left in his basement. So the story goes…

Well folks, I’ve seen it happen and was much disappointed last year too.

Anyway, this year, I was more careful. It’s amazing how fast we learn when our sweets are stolen!

extractor

This fancy cylinder is an extractor. You can put two frames in and then you spin the basket inside and using centrifugal force, it flings the honey to the sides of the cylinder and drips out the bottom spigot.

insideextractor

cappedhoney

The honey is capped with wax, and that’s how we know it’s done. Honey has a “water activity of 0.6.” This basically means that there is not enough moisture in honey to allow fermentation. So honey cannot go bad. If we take honey that is not capped from the hive, it may not be evaporated enough. Thus you could have honey that ferments in the jar. You may notice that if you have honey in a jar for a really long time, it crystalizes. This is not your honey going bad, it just needs to be microwaved. Or you can stick the jar in hot water and the honey will melt again and become liquid. Most micro-organisms cannot grow in honey if you extract it when it’s capped. The “cappings” -wax- on honey is also pure white and makes excellent candles.

Anyway, you have to uncap the honey prior to extracting it.

uncappingbucket

It’s a sticky process. It’s best to have a bucket to do this in.

uncappinghoney

uncappinghoney2

uncappedhoney

Then you put it into the extractor, spin it, then you let it drain into a container with a filter. We used a cheese cloth as a filter to get out unwanted beeswax, bee legs, pollen etc.

drippinghoney

preppingbucket

honeyinbucket

This picture shows really clearly how the honey is sometimes different colours depending on the flowers that the bees take from. We found that we had some really light honey and quite dark honey in this extraction.

The next time is either to pasturize it (heating it up) or you can bottle it straight from here.

We have yet to pick up our jars so in the bucket it stays for now.

And now you have learned more than you ever wanted to know about the process of honey extraction. Of course on a commercial scale, it’s a little different but the principles are the same.

In other news, we’ve been planting our Winter garden here this weekend. Peas, beans, cabbage, kale, and leeks among other things. We’re getting ready to harvest our garlic. The curly scapes are straightening up, letting us know they are just about ready to be plucked from the Earth. Since planting them in October, it seems like a wait well worth it.

I just have to mention this, I L-o-v-e gardening in a dress!

dress

dress2

And sunhats….

sunhat

Go on, call me a “Fashionista.” I can take it…..

About Amanda

Living a simple quiet life on the Gulf Islands, BC.

11 Thoughts on “Honey Harvest, finally!

  1. Danielle Seguin on 18 July, 2010 at 5:06 pm said:

    This is one of your best blogs yet! Thank you so much for the pictures and the really great explanation. I can’t wait to visit soon and maybe steal a bit of your honey to taste… I’ll blame it on the bees. Xo

  2. Bea Smoker on 18 July, 2010 at 5:46 pm said:

    Wonderful to hear your hard work is finally paying off. Congratulations!! Can’t wait to sample some of your delicious product.

  3. Very exciting indeed. And what a process! I’m speaking of the actual extraction…but even when you think of the effort the bumbles went to. Geesh, I’ll at a bit more appreciation to my next taste of honey!

    And yes, you look absolutely lovely gardening in a dress. Its the only way to go I say!

  4. Very neat! Love the pictures :) Cute dresses too!!

  5. Look how cute you are! You are but a wee pregnant thing.

  6. Deb Weyrich-Cody on 20 July, 2010 at 7:00 pm said:

    Hi Amanda, Congrats on your first extraction, your honey looks beautiful!
    On the pasteurization thing though… Did you know that honey found in King Tut’s tomb was still edible or that honey was used by the Incas (or Aztecs, I can’t remember which) after doing brain surgery to help heal the incision and prevent infection? Nature’s perfect food – naturally preserved.

  7. Hooray! How exciting :) Congrats on the harvest – can’t wait to see it jars and hear how it tastes. What will you call it? And will you sell it? (fingers crossed posting this comment on Firefox instead of Safari works)

  8. Danielle: No stealing honey! That’s my job!

    Gramma: We’ve reserved at least one jar for you!

    Holly: Yes gardening in a dress is superb. yes I have such a great appreciation of honey, from what work the bees have to do. Really, I have the easy part, thievery!

    Karina: Love the photos on your blog with your house finishing up! Yay!

    Emily: I am wee… quite wee. My husband is 14 inches taller than me! (I didn’t mean to scoop one of the tall ones…)

    Deb: That’s what I kinda thought about pasturization. I think we’re just going to leave it raw. If it’s good enough for King Tut…

    Andrea: Yay you can post again! I can’t wait to see it in jars too. Kinda thinking of calling it “As A Bee Honey” in keeping with the theme.

  9. Deb Weyrich-Cody on 22 July, 2010 at 10:16 am said:

    “As A Bee Honey ” sounds like a perfect match. Congratulations Wee Beekeeper! Maybe even, sometime down the road… “As A Bee Apiary & Organics” ? Sorry! I know, babee steps, babee steps. ; ) D.

  10. Deb Weyrich-Cody on 26 July, 2010 at 5:25 am said:

    Hi, me again. I’m probably telling you this for nothing, but just in case (wouldn’t want anything to happen to your cappings either), remember that moisture is the enemy and honey will absorb it right out of the air if left uncovered. After all “nature abhors an imbalance”, right?
    Oh, and Andrea, I’ using Safari too, so that’s not the problem. But, I’ve gotta tell ya, it doesn’t like this “submit” button. I can’t move the cursor back to correct my typo, sorry Cheers, D ;)

  11. hi Deb, Thanks for the tip. I did not know that honey would soak up moisture from the air. Fortunately it’s in a sealed container because 1. we didn’t want the cats falling in it. 2. we didn’t want the bees stealing it back.
    And I have been experimenting with straining the wax cappings so I think we’re good there too. But it would have been rather tragic not to know that important fact!

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