One of the best things about keeping bees is harvesting honey! How sweet! At least once in late summer several local backyard beekeepers get together in my garage to extract honey. We all help each other out and it is a fun time to share the fun of extracting wonderful sweet honey that our bees have created.
Step 1: Remove Honey Frames From Hives
The first step is to take the frames of honey from the hives. The number of frames depends on many factors including strength of the colony, weather, and amount of nectar available to the bees. Be sure to wear protective gear when removing frames of honey from hives. The boxes filled with honey can be heavy so I remove them one frame at a time. I gently brush off the bees from the comb and place them in a cart that is wheeled to the garage.
Step 2: The Equipment - Garage Set Up
I've invested in a honey extractor from Dadant. It can extract up to 4 frames at one time. Additional equipment includes a heated knife and capping scratcher for remove wax cappings on the frames. A tarp is taped to the floor to keep things clean... A five gallon bucket with strainer is ready for extracted honey.
Step 3: Uncapping the Frames
Honeybees preserve the honey by capping it in wax cells. To extract the honey, the tops of the cells, or caps, need to be removed. Most frames have honey on both sides, so each side needs to be uncapped. The photos show uncapped frames stored in bin ready to be uncapped. Then uncapping with the hot knife. Next the cap scratcher is use to pick out any cells that have not been opened. The last photo is a uncapped frame ready to go into the extractor!
Step 4: Spinning the Frames
Four uncapped frames are placed into the extractor and are held in a metal mesh basket. The lid is closed and the handle cranked for a minute or more. The honey is forced out of the comb and drips down the inside of the extractor. Once the spinning stops, the frames are taken out and flipped so that honey is removed from the other side of the frame. Note, my dog takes her job as floor clean up consultant very seriously!
Step 5: My Favorite Part!
When honey starts filling up the bottom of the extractor, it is necessary to open up the valve and let honey flow into the waiting bucket! Most Excellent! Quality testing is an extremely important task. The honey is very very good.. maybe an additional taste is required?
Step 6: First the Filter Then the Jar...
More uncapping, more spinning, more tasting.. Eventually the bucket fills. In a good year I've gotten as much as 15 gallons of honey from 3-4 hives. The honey is filtered through a paint strainer. The bucket has a latch near the bottom that can be opened and closed for filling jars.
Step 7: Melting the Wax
There is a lot of honey and wax in the cappings that were cut off the frames. I made a simple solar wax melter that I put in the yard with the wax capping. I use the wax for making lotions and furniture polish..
Step 8: If You Are Interested in Keeping Honeybees...
The best resource for learning about keeping honeybees is from a local bee keeping club or association. Most beekeepers I have met have been extremely helpful and full of advice and opinions. After 7 years of beekeeping, there is so much to learn from the bees and the process... and I'm addicted to honey! My honey is used for eating, baking and mead making - oh and lots of gift giving.