Rub-A-Dub-Dub

If you follow Bee Mama Missives, you might remember this contraption from the end of 2018.

Along with the new extractor is a frame knife for breaking the comb and freeing the honey during spinning and a mesh for catching the honey prior to bottling.

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.

Ahem.

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.

Inside.

Outside.

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.

Giant spiderwort, Tradescantia gigantea

30 thoughts on “Rub-A-Dub-Dub

  1. Makes me happy to see all those girls with their little pollen baskets bulging! Thanks for taking the time to write, photograph and share your bee chronicles, Tina.

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  2. I was thinking about your bees recently, wondering when things were going to ramp up again. I have my answer! I do have a question I couldn’t find a clear answer for. Does a given bee collect both nectar and pollen, or are those tasks divided among different bees? I would think the answer is that a bee collects both: nectar for energy, and pollen for the hive.

    I laughed at the mention of the drill. Here’s my little story. While we were sailing from Hawaii to Alaska, an urge for a lemon meringue pie overtook the entire crew. The lemon pie was doable, but what about that meringue? Easy. We found the electric drill, duct-taped it to a regular whisk, and got after it. It worked like a charm!

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    • I think the bees have specific jobs at specific points of their lives. The foragers are at the end, so they’re gathering pollen and nectar as the hive requires and season offers. Right now, they’re gathering lots of pollen for comb building, but I know that some are gathering nectar, too. I’ve read that some bees gather both in a trip, but that it’s typically either pollen or nectar. I think our weather might cooperate today to go into the hives for a first look. If not, it’ll have to wait until next weekend.

      Your drill story is a funny one. Hope the pie was delicious! Meringue is tricky in the best of situations!

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  3. Interesting, you extract honey right at the beginning of the season. Perhaps it has to do with climate here, but we don’t until after the first nectar flow which is connected with the rapeseed crop around our way. And that’s May/June. If we pull off any honey now, we are at risk of starving bees because the hive population goes through exponential growth in March. Interesting.

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    • We’ll extract honey only if there’s some left from last fall. I was hoping to get in there today and check out things, but it’s too cold and will be for this next week. It looks like next weekend may be just warm enough. We’ve readied the extractor just in case. Our winter wasn’t particularly cold, but it was chilly and wet. I’m guessing we don’t have enough honey to get–which is just fine with me–but, the girls have surprised us before!

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      • Yes, if the frames in the second brood box are full of honey (which I don’t think they will be), we’ll pull them out and we already have some frames ready for replacement. If there’s honey in the frames at the sides, but the central frames are generally empty of honey and/or have larvae, we’ll leave them be. The top box has smaller frames and were mostly filled in the fall, so the same thing applies. Mostly, our goal is to make sure the hives have room for the onslaught of new brood–we don’t want any swarming. Sometimes we get it right, sometimes, not so much.

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      • I would not be interested in it anyway. If it is not the local Santa Clara Valley honey like it should be, it may as well be from somewhere else. In fact, it is probably better somewhere else now, where it is not made out to be something fancy and weird. It is gratifying to see that some continue to produce it, or at least provide homes for those who produce it.

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  4. Pingback: The Big Twirl | My Gardener Says…

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