Honey Harvest

Finally, I have found a moment to write about the first “Orange Bee” honey harvest.  It actually took place on July 4th.  When I woke that morning, I couldn’t think of a better way to spend the early part of my day.  My adoring husband, who I will now refer to as, my man Dan, was eager to help with and photograph the process.  We hurriedly drank hot cups of coffee, slipped into our bee suits, fired up the smoker, and headed to the bee yard.  Below I will recount a condensed version of our day.

The first step in removing the frames which are full of honey is to brush the bees from the capped comb.  Bees are not fond of being separated from their delicious nectar, perfectly understandable as it takes the bees about 50,000 miles of flight time to make one pound of honey.  Always cautious not to smush any bees, I slowly remove each full frame and gently brush the bees off into their hive.  Now, this works pretty good but it seemed before we could secure the frame in an empty box and cover it a few bees would be back. It felt a little frantic at times, trying to keep them off as we placed the frames in the boxes for transport.

Frame full of capped honey - before brushing bees away.

This task took about an hour.  When I’d completed removing all the frames that were full of capped honey we loaded them into the truck for transport to an extractor.  There were 9 frames of honey to be harvested and I know that one full super (the yellow box in the photo above, where bees make honey)  holds about 2 1/2 gallons of honey.  A super holds between 8-10 frames.  Mine hold 8, making it easier for little ‘ole me to handle when my man Dan isn’t around.

We headed to the honey house to prepare the combs for extraction.  My man Dan carried the full super into the honey house for me.  A super with 8-9 frames full of honey weighs about 60-80 pounds.  I am thankful for my husbands assistance with this part, otherwise I’d be visiting my chiropractor.  The first undertaking is to cut the wax capping away from the comb.  A heated knife is used to do this job, easily removing the wax and leaving a comb full of glistening honey. During this part the important thing to remember is to keep your finger tips clear of the hot, sharp, dangerous knife’s edge when nearing the top of the frame.

Removing wax cappings to reveal pure, glistening honey.

The cappings fall into a waiting tub where the honey drains and is later added to the honey bucket.  You can catch a glimpse of the stainless steel extractor behind me.  After removing the cappings from both sides of each frame I loaded them into the extractor, placed a sanitized bucket underneath the spout, hit the on switch and before we knew it out poured pure, unfiltered honey.  Prior to turning on the machine, I placed a strainer of cheesecloth over the top of the bucket. This strainer catches tiny bits of wax or any other debris as the honey flows into the waiting bucket.  After several minutes the extraction process was complete. I poured the honey from the cappings catcher into the cloth, put the lid on and loaded up.

When we arrived back at my bee yard I took the capping remnants and laid them out on a table in the bee zone. The girls would spend the next couple of days cleaning out every drop of honey remaining hidden inside the wax and transport it back to their hives. I also placed the empty frames, from which I’d extracted the honey, back into the hives for the bees to clean out. No waste of the honey that they worked so hard to make.  They do this in short order – bees are remarkable housekeepers.

Bees cleaning honey out of wax capping remnants.

Now is the waiting part.  Later in the afternoon I lifted the cloth up from the bucket and allowed honey to drain from it.  Removing the cloth completely, I replaced the lid and began the 24 hour waiting game.  Waiting, allows any air bubbles to rise to the surface, and be skimmed off  before bottling.  Since it was July 4th, I didn’t mind the wait.  We had a BBQ, toasted a successful “first harvest”, and watched fireworks until late in the evening.

The next day I began the bottling process.  It is easy if you are quick to shut the honey gate.  The honey gate is a wide- mouthed contraption, fitted at the bottom of the honey bucket.  It allows you to open or close the “gate” while filling jars.  No mishaps took place.  After bottling all of our honey, my man Dan did the math and determined that we were the proud owners of 3 3/4 gallons of honey.  This sounds fantastic, however 2011 is a poor honey production year.  My hopes are that next year we will have more rain, less heat early on and double the amount of honey.  Seeing the liquid gold flow from bucket to jar was one of the most fulfilling moments in my short bee keeping adventure.

Filling a jar with pure, local, wildflower honey.

The last job left for me was to slice some “cut comb” honey to add to a few jars for the true honey enthusiast.  Quite a few folks have asked for the comb honey.  If you’ve never tried it I would suggest you do so.  It is honey in it’s absolute purest, untouched form. Indescribably delicious!  I eat a tiny piece almost every day and remain amazed at the wonderful flavor that gushes into my mouth from within the wax cells.  It’s better than chewing gum with a burst of liquid flavor but quite similar.

Cut Comb Honey - -Nature's Finest Food

So there you have it.  A marginally condensed version of my first honey harvest.  To some it may seem trite and uninteresting.  I hope this is not the case.  If you are a regular reader of The Orange Bee and have followed my adventure from early March you likely have taken an interest in my bees.  They are lovely, impressive, voracious, tiny creatures. I believe we, human beings can learn from observing their behavior….talk about team work!

Another harvest is around the corner.  I am checking once a week for completion of 7-8 more frames full of  honey.  The girls are busy with the final step of capping the honey.  I assure you, I will not take more than my share.  Bees have a way of making more honey than they need to survive the winter.  I am being cautious, as a new bee keeper and want to be certain that when cold weather arrives I’ve left them more than they can consume over the cold winter months.  Stay tuned and thanks for reading.  Don’t hesitate to leave me a comment or little ditty before you go – your comments always make my day.

4 Responses to Honey Harvest

  1. Beautiful! What a wonderful photo-journal of the honey process. My knowledge of bees is scant. I just love the results of their precious labor. I love the idea of putting the remnants back out for the bees. I had never heard of that before and it seems, well, kind and thoughtful (even thought it is undoubtedly going to end up in the next bountiful harvest. You make me want to buy a bee suit and get to work.

    • Hi Kelly – thanks for your response. Don’t you just love that photo of the comb? Thinking I might just put out a small section tonight with my cheese tray when we have our Christmas Eve celebration! One of our guests tonight is the man who my bee keeping mentor – he’d absolutely get a kick out of it! So glad I found your blog. Maybe Santa could bring you a suit :-)

  2. Sondra says:

    You continually amaze me! I really thing you need to come teach a cooking class at Central Market Southlake. Is that something I can work on from my end? Text me or call me.

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