Dreaming of Honey? I know I am! See Article Below on Preparing for a Honey Harvest
Our goal at Two Bees Apiary is to help beekeepers with resources and information. We know that being keepers of bees, questions come up about our little hive buddies and the things that go along with them. If you have suggestions for Beekeepers Resources, please let us know. Contact us here.
Honey Extracting Season: We keep our bees in a langstroth hive using the common frame and foundation set up. I will write from that perspective. The last few years we have also been playing with beautiful comb honey drawn into our foundationless frames. When people ooh and ahh and say how amazing it is I try to remember that I can’t take the credit, it’s all the girls!
Possibly you will be doing a crush and strain method if you are top bar, and/or foundationless – that would be a whole other article.
When do I take my honey off? Honey should be removed after the nectar flows are over, here in the Lower Mainland mid to late August. If you use any treatments it may be necessary to remove honey a little earlier to provide enough time for the treatment mixture to be consumed. Not a bad idea to do a hive check a week or so before you want to remove honey so you’ll know what’s going on in your colonies and can make a game plan for the day of.
In addition to honey removal, this is the time of year when you’ll be preparing your colonies for winter so you’ll want to think about and look for the following:
- Weaker colonies, do they need to be combined with stronger ones?
- Will each hive have enough stores, honey and pollen? You may want to move frames from a stronger hive to a weaker one, upping the colonies stores.
- A general rule of thumb is to allow 60-80 pounds of honey depending on colony size. You might think about pollen patties if their stores look low.
* All honey supers MUST be removed before any treatments go into the hives.
Honey Extracting Day: Before taking honey supers off you’ll want to decide how to get the bees down and out of your honey supers and off the frames. No matter what method you use, you’ll want to have some sort of box or supers with a sealed lid away from the hives. Ideally in another building, e.g. a honey house, garage, basement or house. Reminder that the bees are not going to be as thrilled as you are for extracting day. By choosing a place away from the hives you’ll lessen your chance of cranky bees following the honey and you.
Bang and Brush - The quickest and least expensive way to remove your bees from the frames is the bang and brush method. Remove the frame, do a quick rap or bang to remove a larger amount of bees and then use a bee brush to get the stragglers. Walk the bee-less honey frame over to your sealed container, pop it in and replace the lid. This keeps curious bees out of your supers.
Bee Escapes – Adding a bee escape between your brood chamber and honey supers is another less expensive Bee removal, but certainly not your fastest. The bee escape allows the bees to leave the honey super and go down into the hive but not return back up. Good idea to allow at least 12 to 24 hours for the bees to clear the supers. Check to see that the majority of bees have left the super, put a lid on it and remove the entire thing away from the hive. Watch out for any lingering bees that did not leave!
Other Methods - There are many gadgets and chemicals out there that can be used to get the bees out of your honey supers. Gadgets may cost more than they are worth, and when using chemicals there is a possibility of contaminating your honey.
Removing Supers: Full supers can be extremely heavy, easily weighing 50-80 pounds. This is another reason we like to remove frame by frame, moving them to another area. If your honey house/extracting place is not close and that’s not an option, a dolly or a wheel barrel with a garbage bag lining will also work.
Setting up for extracting: What now? Here comes the sticky fun! The great thing about extraction “mess” is that honey is water soluble, easy and fun to remove. (Yes, I’ve licked my fingers!) Good idea to have damp cloths and warm water nearby to keep your hands sticky free.
Once you have your honey off the hive, the warmer the better to keep it flowing for extraction. You will also need either an uncapping scrapper or a hot knife, an extractor, and a bucket for your honey. Be sure to keep the doors to your honey house/extraction place closed to keep any unwanted honey bees out. It’s a good idea to have all your equipment set up before taking off the supers. That way you can move right into extracting.
- You will need an uncapping container. You can buy tanks specifically for this or use a roasting pan or a cookie sheet. You may want another container to keep the wax cappings to use for candles, salves or many other lovely uses! - Remove the layer of wax with your knife or cap scratcher. If using a hot knife be careful to keep it moving so as not to burn the wax or honey. If there are areas that the knife missed gently scratch with the capping scratcher. - Once you have uncapped both sides of the frame place it in the extractor. Depending on your equipment, turn it on or start cranking. Depending on your set up, you will likely want to turn the frames around to extract the other side. When the honey gets high enough, open the gate and allow to flow into your honey bucket and filter system. -You can use a bucket with a filter system, or use cheese cloth securely fastened around a bowl or pail. When finished, a spatula works well to get every last drop from the extractor.
Put the lid on your bucket and let the honey sit for a day or so. This allows wax, air bubbles or any bee parts that made it through the filters to come to the top. You can use a spatula to “clean” off the top layer.
Give the cappings a few days to drain more honey, wrap them in cheese cloth and squeeze it a couple times a day, yum! All the honey that comes from the cappings can be used for baking or feeding back to the bees.
Bottling: After your honey has sat for a day or so you’re ready to bottle. Again, the warmer the room the better for honey to flow. Have all your bottles or jars washed and ready, put your bucket in a comfortable position and open the gate slowly until you get the hang of how much each jars will take.