Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Extracting Honey

On Saturday afternoon we decided deal with the super of honey that's been sitting in the middle of the yurt floor for the last month or so. (A "super" is the name of the stacked boxes that you see when you see a beehive.) Our pal Rebecca, who is thinking about getting bees, was here for the night and together we cleaned up the extractor and the various implements needed, such as uncapping knives and buckets and got set up. An additional crucial element in the process was heating up the yurt into the high 80's to make sure the honey was flowing easily.

The first step is uncapping. This means cutting off the thin layer of wax capping that encapsulates the honey contained in the cells that fill up the honey frame that we take out of the super. We have an electric knife that facilitates this, plus we have an "acoustic" one that just cuts with the serrated blade. Despite past experiences, the non-electric knife seemed to be as effective as the electric one.

Once the cappings are cut off the frames of honey we put them in our extractor, standing up with their broad side facing the wall of the extractor. When the extractor is full we put the top on and spin it, just a like a washing machine spins the wash to remove the water. It doesn't take long before the honey all flings out to the wall of the extractor and then runs down to the bottom. There is a spigot at the bottom of the extractor and once all the frames have been spun out on both sides, we open the tap and let the honey flow out through a double screen to remove bits of wax and dead bees and whatever else. Its an awe inspiring moment to see the golden flow pour out.

After that we take all the equipment outside and let the bees do all the cleaning. It takes very little time for word to get out and a pile of bees are gleaning any remaining honey. We got roughly 30 pounds of honey from this one super. There is the potential to get upwards of 100 pounds of honey per hive if everything works out just right, but so far we haven't come close to that. Maybe next year.

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