Thursday, November 24, 2011
Hello everyone! We’re David & Sheri Burns, husband and wife duo and beekeeping gurus. Where else will you find a better looking couple to help you become a great beekeeper? If good looks aren’t enough, look at how hard we work to put the best bees and best products in your hands. If that’s not enough what about David being one of only two EAS certified master beekeepers in Illinois. Thanks for letting Long Lane Honey Bee Farms be the place that meets all your beekeeping needs.
LESSON 111: EXTRACTING HONEY FROM THE HIVE
So many of our first year customers extracted honey from their hives their first year. This is somewhat unusual. We tell most customers not to expect much their first year because the colony is using a large portion of their incoming nectar to produce wax. It takes 8 pounds of nectar to produce 1 pound of wax. However, their second year, after their comb is built more incoming nectar can be stored in honey supers. But, if all conditions are right, a first year hive can produce a large surplus of honey.
Let me take you step by step through the whole process of taking the honey out of the hive all the way through to putting it in the jar.
MAKE SURE IT IS CAPPED (RIPE)Honey bees ripen nectar by removing the moisture and when the moisture level is to their satisfaction, they seal it off with wax, like putting a lid on a jar. This prevents the honey from drawing any additional moisture. You must be patient and wait for the bees to cap the honey comb before you remove it. If you remove the super of honey prior to it being sealed your moisture level in the honey will be too high and could cause the honey to ferment which will cause your customers to complain and want their money back. So do not remove the honey combs until all frames are completely capped. If you pull out the frames prior to the caps being completely sealed, you can leave the frames in a room with a dehumidifier for a day or two and it will draw out moisture.
REMOVE THE BEES OUT OF THE SUPER
There are several ways this can be accomplished and no single way is better. It’s simply a matter of what fits your style. So here are the most common ways:
a) Brush the bees off each frame.
I did this when I first started with bees. I’d walk out to the hive with 10 frames in a medium super and I’d take two top covers. I would lay the first top cover on the bed of my truck upside down. Then, I would place my empty super into the top cover. Then, I would take out the 10 empty frames and set them aside. I would remove one frame of honey at a time, from the hive and brush the bees off, then place it in the empty super in the truck. I would place my second top cover on the super box to prevent robbing. I would repeat these steps until I had brushed all the bees off all 10 frames. I would then place the new frames where I had removed the frames filled with honey to allow the bees to start drawing out the foundation.
b) Blow the bees out of the super.
As our operation expanded I would load my air compressor into my truck with a generator to run it. I would open up a hive, and set the honey super on top of the hive on it’s front side. Then I would use my air compressor to blow off all the bees. The bees would land out in front of the hive and go back into the hive. This is the method that still works best for me.
You can use a leaf blower if you do not have an air compressor.
c) Use bee escapes which allow the bees to exit but not re-enter. Featured below are the three most common bee escapes, the triangle, conical and Porter escape.
The triangle bee escape board goes under the honey super and bees leave, but find it impossible to go back in through the maze.
Conical bee escapes work the same way, as this board goes under the super and the bees exit the small, red conical tubes but can re-enter. The side pictured faces down.
This Porter escape was invented by Mr. Porter in 1891 and fits into the inner cover oval hole. Bees exit but cannot re-enter.
Be aware that once these devices remove all the bees from your supers, the small hive beetle now has free reign throughout your honey supers. If you live in areas where SHB is well established, which is about everywhere now, you may be wise to use escape boards sparingly.
Another common method to get the bees out of your super is to use a fume board. a fume is placed on top of the super with a little chemical poured onto the fabric on the fume board. This chemical has many names, but it’s either Butyric Acid or Benzaldehyde which is a chemical that the bees do not like nor does any human who hates the smell of vomit. The bees run out of the super to get away from the bad smell and the super is empty within 5 minutes. If the beekeepers spills some on their clothes, they can empty out the nearest coffee shop in 5 minutes too! Many love this easy method. I'm skeptical of the product being absorbed into the wax or honey and having an overall effect on the hive. However, smarter people than me have reassured me that these chemicals quickly evaporate.
HARVEST FOR DIFFERENT TYPES OF HONEY
Honey from specific flowers does have a different taste. I would not begin to describe the difference but believe me it is different. Here's how to harvest specific honey. Essentially you must remove your honey supers after that particular flower stops giving nectar, and place new supers on before the bees change to a different source. This way, the honey will not be mixed from different sources. Of course, some mixing may happen, but you'll get more of the type that had the largest nectar flow.
Here’s a picture of a frame that has a combination of light honey, and dark honey in the same frame. Sometimes a honey super may have contained a small amount of brood, but it appears more in the center in a circle starting at the bottom center of the frame.
Although this frames contains honey from two different sources, the dark honey is too small to extract separately so the two are combined. If you were going to enter your light honey in a contest, you should avoid a frame like this because the darker honey will darken the overall appearance ever so slightly.
HOW MUCH SHOULD YOU FILTER YOUR HONEY?
Here's a picture of Jesse using a hot knife to cut off the cappings. We sell “hot” electric uncapping knives as well as cold uncapping knives. Notice what the sealed area looks like. The capped area is white because the newly made wax is a bright color at first. As it ages through the years it becomes darker. Once the comb is uncapped, the honey can be extracted. If you do not have an extractor, a frame can be left upside down to drip out over night. This method requires a warm/hot room, atleast 80 degrees. Let one side drain, then reverse so that the other side of the frame can drain as well. You can squeeze or crush out the honey from the comb, but this destroys precious drawn comb that you could reuse and it mixes in too much wax with the honey. Once uncapped, place your frames in an extractor and spin the honey out. You can purchase a very simple plastic extractor for just over $100 but a more common extractor is a stainless steel hand crank 2 frame extractor for just over $300. This is our best seller. If you can afford a little more, then a 4 frame extractor does 4 frames at a time. Once the honey is extracted out of the comb it collects in the bottom of the extractor which has a value on the bottom. At this point, you can bottle it, although you'll have pieces of wax, bee legs and wings and other things that came off your frames. So most beekeepers strain their honey. Straining is different than filtering. We use a 400 micron strainer. These might be referred to as filters, but they are really strainers.We sell a lot of these nylon strainers that fit down over a 5 gallon bucket. These strainers are $8 and can be washed and reused over and over again. The honey flows very fast through these strainers and important elements of the honey are allowed to stay within the honey but foreign particles are strained out. Filtering honey usually involves warming the honey and pushing it through very fine commercial filters. Some larger processors heat their honey and filter every grain of pollen from the honey so that the country of origin cannot be traced. In other words, there are some flora sources unique to particular countries, and pollen is often tested from imported honey so that illegally imported honey can be stopped. As a result, a large amount of honey purchased in larger stores has no traces of pollen. This is very unfortunate, which makes many of us suspect that America is still importing illegal honey. Read the entire story… We are okay heating honey to 90-95 because often the internal temperature of the hive is maintained at these temperatures. However, flavor and some nutrients are lost at temperatures above 140 (f) Honey does not need to be heated to be pasteurized. It is a pure and natural product and the only raw food that never spoils. It does not need refrigerated and can be kept at room temperature forever without spoiling. We like our honey to be free of air bubbles. So we allow our honey to sit after it has been strained. It sits for at least one week. Then we bottle it. Our settling tank allows all air bubbles to float up to the top. Then we drain from the pure honey at the bottom of the tank. You can do the same in a 5 gallon bucket with a valve on the bottom which we sell too. Most honey will become hard, known as crystallized. This is normal and does not mean the honey is bad. It means it simply crystallized. This can be remedied simply by leaving a jar in warm water or using a mildly heated double boiler. A CLEAN HONEY ROOM
Keep a clean honey room. One drop of honey on the floor soon gets tracked all over the place. It is a messy job, but fortunately honey cleans up easily with water. So, after you are finished harvesting your honey, clean up all your equipment. Since honey is a natural product and all you are doing is bottling it, there are very little guidelines in most states. Check with your state and county for honey preparation. Here in Illinois, we passed legislation in January so that beekeepers can bottle up to 500 gallons of honey without inspections and permits. Since you will be giving away your honey or selling it, here are some common practices you should follow. Wear a hairnet, clean clothes, keep your hands clean and properly wash all equipment including bottles. Use good judgment. BOTTLING HONEYBottles are expensive. We use a combination of glass and plastic bottles. Many of our customers enjoy the small well liked teddy bear bottles. Bottles must be cleaned well and dry, free of any foreign objects and dust. A common bottle for us to sell is the quart jar. Most of our customers buy the one quart size and the traditional canning jar with canning lid is very cost effective. Thanks for joining us for yet another beekeeping lesson. With Thanksgiving just over, you’re probably thinking about Christmas presents. Why not surprise that special someone in your life with getting them started in beekeeping. Or if you want to tell the one buying the gift what to get, have them click on our hive kit link. Here’s our contact information: PHONE AND ORDER LINE: 217-427-2678
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