I finally was able to experience the entire process of honey production from start to finish. It was a long path with several obstacles along the way, but this weekend we were able to enjoy the “sweet” rewards. As a teenager I kept bees until my dad had a horrible allergic reaction after getting stung and we gave up with that particular hobby. I never had the chance to experience the end result of actually extracting the honey from the frames. I’m happy to report that while my honey production this year is not what it could be, I was able to retrieve one box of 10 frames from a stronger hive a few weeks ago. I didn’t want to take too much away from the bees over the winter since our winters are harsh and unforgiving, especially when you are a bee. I plan on harvesting more honey in the spring after I am certain the bees will survive the winter. For now, one box was enough with which to start.
I found a very well made honey extractor from Maxant and it arrived on the Wednesday before Thanksgiving. If it wasn’t for the fact that the hot knife and bottles didn’t arrive at the same time, I would have packed all the equipment up for my trip to the Wisconsin Rapids Thanksgiving celebration. Luckily for them, I was short a package or two and the extraction process had to wait until after our return. On Friday night, after receiving the remaining packages, I put the extractor together, did a quick read on how to operate the thing and decided to go all in and give it a try with the one box of honey that I had. It was quite the process and also quite fun!
The honey comb laden frames out of the hive have all been capped with wax, behind which lies the actual honey. The first part of the process is uncapping the comb so that honey starts to flow out of the frame. This is a VERY sticky process and I still haven’t really figured it out. One technique is to purchase a special electrically heated knife that melts as it cuts. I did this for several frames, but it was in no way the proverbial hot knife through butter… Another technique is to use a pick to physically puncture the cells of honey and I personlly found this second technique to be easier and more efficient, creating less honey waste in the wax cappings. After the frames were uncapped, they are placed vertically in the extractor, spun slowly at first and then up to about 150 RPM to remove the honey from the frames. The honey is allowed to settle onto the bottom of the tank over night and then filtered into a new bucket through a 400 micron filter. From there it goes into individual bottles.
The new Maxant honey extractor in it’s box
The impressive extractor after assembly located in the sunroom
The ad hoc extraction setup in the kitchen. A VERY sticky ordeal!
Below, I begin uncapping the the honey laden frames with a hot knife.