Beekeeping is about 98% fulfilling and 2%… well… not-so-much.
2% are those 100 degree days when it’s your ONLY day off and you have to inspect or harvest because it may be another week or a month until you have another chance. Soak a bandana for your neck & have all your tools ready before suiting up. Have plenty of drinking water nearby and like most things in life, once you get started and you find that because you’re amongst your beloved honey bees, it’s really not so bad.
Tim & I have developed a system that works well for us. He usually pulls the frames and brushes off most of the bees. I take the frame and finish clearing the bees and then put the frames into an empty super and cover it with a cloth. The empty super is on the back of the truck so the height is comfortable for me. Once that super is full, I can push it back & start filling another, stacking the boxes as needed. We do all this methodically until we’ve gone through each hive. Once we’ve closed the hives back up, we can drive the truck to the extracting room where they can sit until we are ready to extract.
TIP: Always check your partner’s back for any stowaway bees before entering the house!
TOOLS: The tools we use for extracting are pretty simple… maybe even primitive. 1. A large tote with a thin board attached and across the top edge with a screw facing up driven through the center of it. The screw is for resting a honey frame on while removing the wax capping. 2. A very long thin knife for skimming off the wax. An uncapping scratcher, (this can be a fork). 3. Empty bee boxes (with an inverted lid underneath to catch drips), to put the extracted frames back into.4. The extractor; ours is a hand crank, two-frame extractor that our generous kids gave to us for Christmas. Prior to that, we borrowed our local club extractor and prior to that was a home-made bucket extractor that required an electric drill to spin. 5. Lots of clean lint-free dish cloths, and washing water. 5. Rubber gloves. 6. A strainer. 7. Empty food grade buckets with lids. 8. A refractometer to measure the moisture content in the honey. You want it to read below 18% so there’s no potential for fermentation.
Once the honey has been extracted from the super frames, we take those frames away from any high foot-traffic areas and leave them for the bees to clean. They will clean every drop of honey from the frames as well as from the extractor or anything else that may have gotten sticky honey on. This makes the bees very happy for a few days.
We usually strain the majority of wax chunks and debris before letting the honey rest and settle before we bottle it. We call it lightly filtered as it may still have bee debris, wax and pollen. It’s certainly All-Natural and that is what our customers expect.
Last, but not least (for now), I save a sample bottle each time we extract and through the years have a collection of all the varieties that our Beeautiful Friends Hill Apiary Honey Bees have produced! The bottles are SO pretty!