Monday, September 26, 2011


Raising bees is a rewarding experience on many levels, the most notable benefit, however, is the gift of honey. Supplied to me by my very own girls, I was able to extract some of this delicious nectar for the very first time this past week.

I met a local beekeeper, Bill,  a few weeks back at a great bee supply store and he kindly and graciously offered his time and resources. We spent a morning checking on his hives, he keeps his bees in three different yards and placed bee escapes on his hives to help coax the bees out of the honey supers.
Afterwards, I left him with this box above, my own super of honey, almost ready to be extracted. Using his refractrometer, we were able to measure the moisture content of the honey. Too much water content in the honey will cause it to ferment. The ideal is around 15-17% moisture, mine was at 17 to 17.5. We left it for a week in his honey room, with the dehumidifier running to help draw additional moisture out of the honey.

That super, by the way, weighed a tonne. It was tricky lifting it off the hive because of its weight and bulk. Still I wondered if it was heavy enough to hold anything substantial.  Here it is on the honey room scale, coming in just over 55lbs. Who knew beekeeping would provide such a good workout?!

A week later, the moisture content was down to around 16.5% and we were good to go. Here I am removing the wax capping from each of the ten frames in the super with a capping scratcher. It looks easy, but there is a certain knack to it. Use to much pressure and you risk taking out big chunks of honey, not enough and you could be standing there all day and every cell must be opened so the honey can be released.
As each frame is uncapped, it is placed inside the extractor. I quicky learned, you want to get the caps off and the frame in extractor as quickly as possible, as once you uncap it, the honey starts to flow!
The extractor uses a centrifugal force to separate the honey from the wax comb. The photo above was taken while the extractor was running, and the lines you see running from the frames to the wall of the tub is honey being whipped out as the extractor spins. 
This was definitely the coolest part, the girl twin who loves putting on her science cap was quite enamored with this step.
And within no time, it was running out of the tap at the bottom. You can see the wax chunks in the honey as it comes pouring out. 
The honey kept flowing and flowing, the wax is easy to see now, along with someone trying to steal a bit of my honey.  
We weighed the super before extracting to determine how much water had evaporated during the week. Then we weighed the super with the empty frames after all of the honey had been extracted. Subtract the two and voila, you have your actual honey weight. My girls generously supplied me with 33lbs of honey. 

The pail of honey was left to sit for 24 hours, to allow the wax to rise to the top. Bill kindly strained it, separating the large wax cappings and had it ready for me to bottle a few days later. 

Now, if you're like me, you're probably wondering,  how much is 33lbs? 
Just what does that much honey look like? 

Well, let me show you.
My guess is this is the equivalent of about 20 pint jars.

Its taste, however, is equivalent to none. 

Nature's perfect food.

Thank you Bill!

~Be well friends!~



Flat Creek Farm said...

Your honey is bee-you-ti-ful! Today was our big day, and tomorrow I hope to finish bottling. It was an experience, to say the least. But not entirely bad! The sweet result is beyond compare, and I'm already looking forward to next year's honey harvest. Enjoy, Fellow Bee Girl! -Tammy

Catherine said...

I went to visit Tammy's blog and i see it's honey time there! love your honey jars! your honey has a beautiful color like sun in a jar! Catherine

The Musical Gardener said...

What a great post, and you captured the process so well. I used to have bees years ago, and it always amazed me that such little creatures could garner so much goodness (and hurt so darn much, when they chose to!).

Mary, Windy Meadows Farm said...

You must be thrilled! I'm so hoping to have my own...maybe next year. I'm still reading, there's so much to learn. Until then, we'll all enjoy your bee adventures...thanks! -Mary

Jocelyn said...

Your honey is bee-utiful! What a wonderful amount. We just extracted this weekend, too. I had a lot less, and did it by hand. I envy your extractor.

And yes, you are totally right. Uncapping takes a lot of practice. I need a lot more practice, myself. Did you render wax, too?

Anke said...

That is so exciting! You must be thrilled with the end result!

Jamie Oliver (@va_grown) said...

How exciting! Farming takes so much patience, but you get rewarded so beautifully!

teekaroo said...

What a great post! I'm hoping to have bees someday.

~from my front porch in the mountains~ said...

This is so interesting! love every pic explaining the process. And 33 lbs? Wow! I had no idea it would be that much!!!
Wrapped with a cute ribbon, I see Christmas gifts in all that honey :)
You go girl! I am so very proud of you for following your dream!
xo, misha

Lynne said...

You know what "they" say . . . you learn something every day.

Thank you for the wonderful photos, great information and the marvelous autumn color of

Unknown said...

I didn't know that it was such an involved process, but very interesting. I'm impressed with the quantity and the lovely photo of the jars all filled.

April's Homemaking said...

How wonderful- I love honey! Your jars of honey look so beautiful- loved all of the pictures showing the process!!

Unknown said...

Oh how exciting! I'd love to get into bee-keeping, when the time is right! This inspires me! :) Enjoy the honey!

Intentional Living Homestead said...

Wow, what an incredible post. I keep learning so much everytime someone posts on bee keeping and honey. I definitely have a new respect for the honey in my cupboard and where it comes from...and the work to get it to me:-)

Thanks for sharing.

Anonymous said...

Yes, it is!
My nephews in-laws have a beekeeper business. It's nice to have an "in" for that honey. :)