The Honey Harvest

Even though I only have three hives, the title makes it seem like I’ll be hiring some hands, working from sun-up to sun-down, wiping my brow and ending each day with aching muscles.

Well, it still is a process, and sometimes tedious, but the reward is worth it — jars full of sweet golden-colored elixir. It is the “nectar of the Gods.”

I took my supers off the hives around the last week of September. I put them in a small room with a dehumidifier and ran it constantly for ten days. It’s a good way to bring the moisture content down.

I didn’t start extracting the honey from the supers until Saturday, October 17th. I had to wait for a part for the motor that was going to be mounted on the extractor, and Phil and I drove to Chicago to visit our middle son Andy and his wife Clara. Lots of fun! So, I left the supers where they were until ready to extract.

Let’s go.

supers in the back of my Gator

Extracting the honey from the supers comes next. I’ll admit, that is a process. I would love to watch how commercial bee keepers extract and bottle their honey. My way — in such small numbers — seems so rudimentary. But I did upgrade my 3-frame extractor. Instead of using a hand crank, which was extremely hard work (quite the Amish way) I bought a motor that will replace the crank.

nothing more beautiful than seeing an electric cord with a motor and switch

Now I have to remove the capping from the cells filled with honey. For the frames of comb that do not extend over the frame, I use a “cap scratcher,” and simply “scratch” the covering of wax from the cells. That exposes the honey on the frame. I flip the frame to the other side and repeat the process. Then I place it into the extractor.

For the frames that are overflowing the banks of the frames, I invested in a “hot knife.” Plug it in, the blade heats up and you slice through the capping, using the frame as your guide. Flip and repeat.

Of course, each frame is different and you must decide which implement to use. I have to admit, the hot knife is fun to use. The joy is two-fold: it means you have a massive frame of honey, and cutting through the capping is really cool.

If you noticed, under the frames where I de-cap the frames is a big, gray, rectangular double bucket. One sits inside the other. The top bucket has a grating that catches the larger parts of the cut-offs, and the honey, along with smaller bits end up in the lower bin. The bottom bin has a spigot. When I am done with the scraping and extracting of all the frames, I’ll then put this honey through the strainer and into my honey receptacle. Nothing goes to waste.

Once I have three frames in the extractor, it’s time to turn on the switch and let the motor do the work. I started on low and increased it to high. It worked perfectly! And no sore arm muscles.

And then, what all this work is for presents itself. The release of the lucious, golden honey from the frames. As the centrifugal force of the extractor does its work, the honey travels to the bottom of the extractor. We’re able to watch as the honey enters the spigot and spills into the strainer. It starts slowly, but as the job continues and more honey collects in the bottom of the extractor, it oozes out much more quickly.

This is a double strainer. The top strainer has larger holes to allow the honey easier passage through the excess scraps of wax. The bottom strainer is much finer and gives me beautifully smooth honey.
The honey collects in a sterilized 5-gallon bucket with a spigot at the bottom.

When I was all done extracting (I used two buckets), I had to check the moisture content of the honey with an instrument called a Refractometer. In order to be considered Grade A honey, the moisture content has to be below 18.6%. Thankfully, one bucket was 17.9% and the other was 17.5%. This year I harvested over five gallons of honey. For me, that is a good haul.

I then went about sterilizing my 4, 6 and 8 ounce jars and filling them –104 total count! Now that was an ordeal that took days. I was so glad when it was over — I was tired of always feeling sticky!

Here are my little beauties. They will make great gifts, with many to spare.

#harvestinghoney #honeyharvest #honeyinmn #harvestinghoneyinmn #beekeeping #beekeepinginmn

2 thoughts on “The Honey Harvest

    1. I’m glad it’s over! “Thanks” regarding the jars. The ones that are capped with a cork are shrink wrapped — just in case.


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