If you follow Bee Mama Missives, you might remember this contraption from the end of 2018.
Its looks are fuselage-like, but is a sweet thing: it’s our new two-frame honey extractor and in the not-too-distant future it will be recruited into action. At the top, you see the nearly, but not completely, flat cover; just below and to the right, is the handle which turns the cage holding the frames of honey. The spout at the bottom–with the poetic name honey gate–is typically closed, except after the frames full of honey have been whirled and twirled. When the handle is rotated (more about that later), the freed honey will fling to the sides and bottom of the extractor, ready to flow out in glorious, golden goo. We’ll capture the honey in a bowl, first straining it through the mesh, then bottle it for friends, neighbors and ourselves. Yippee!
As soon as our weather cooperates–this coming weekend, I hope–we’ll open our two Langstroth hives, Buzz and Woody, to see how the ladies and their queens have fared since our last meeting in mid-October. In that last 2018 hive check, both hives had plenty of honey: each had one 10-frame brood box loaded for bear (no actual bears here, just frames packed with honey), plus a smaller box on top, full of the sweet stuff.
Lots of honey, which the bees probably slurped a fair amount of during these past chilly, wet months. But until we peek in, we don’t know how much honey, if any, is left. Plus, the honeybees could be (probably are) gearing up for action with the queen laying eggs and honey production ramping up. So it’s time to prepare our extractor for the removal of whatever honey is left, which will also allow the bees more room in the comb for the next generation.
This is a small, two-frame extractor. We’re hobbyist bee keepers and don’t need anything particularly big or extravagant. It’s a manual extractor, but there are plenty of Internet videos instructing how to attach a drill to the handle, thus converting to a less manual, more automatic honey-getter.
Hope it works. No doubt there will a Bee Mama Missive post in the future if it doesn’t.
Like any food equipment, it’s a good idea to wash before use, so wash we did!
Flat cover removed, let’s peer into the extractor bowels and look at its innards. The flat bar across the top holds firm the mechanism for the handle which spins the basket. As well, in the center of the flat bar is affixed a spindle which spins the basket-with-frames when the handle is turned. The basket runs much of the length of the extractor body.
Insides dismantled and removed, the lid and handle are washed and left to air dry on the counter.
Bee Daddy (flashing a double thumbs-up) displays the ready-for-washing frame basket. This is where the frames are placed in the extractor to remove the honey by centrifugal force, either by arm or drill force; we’ll figure that out when the time comes.
The chasm of the extractor’s body is deep. It looks pretty and shiny, but I don’t want any honey spilling and filling into it without a nice, soapy scrub and a good, hot water rinse.
You’ve probably noticed that we’re not in the kitchen where normal food-related equipment is washed. The extractor is too big, too tall, too weird for the kitchen. So the bathroom it is and the rub-a-dub-dub commences.
Once washed, we let basket and drum dry on a clean towel before reassembling the extractor. It now waits, clean and at the ready, for the bees, or more accurately, their honey.
As for the honey makers, each day’s march toward spring sees increased activity as they gather pollen and nectar. It’s early days in the season, but it has begun.
And the flowers? They’re opening up for business, too.