Posted on July 13, 2014
My bees make incredible honey. It’s just amazing stuff.
Because our bees were overcrowded in their hives, we recently removed one bar with drawn comb from each box and those bars were full of capped honey. The other frames had some brood or were empty, so we didn’t remove those. Removing the bars with honey lessens the amount of stored honey for the bees during winter, but we have a long growing season here in Austin and there is still time for the bees to replenish their supply, assuming the hive survives. Bees are excellent little foragers and they’ll rapidly make up the loss of honey.
We were totally unprepared for the extraction of honey from our hives. As we pulled out our chosen combs of honey, I bagged them in airtight plastic gallon bags and placed them into the freezer until I had time to remove the honey from the comb.
I’m not sure there’s a need for expensive equipment to extract honey from a home bee hive. It’s probably nice to have a professional extractor and if I’m ever serious about honey production, I’d consider investing in one. But for this relatively small and unplanned job, we kept things low-tech.
I emptied comb with honey into an old metal colander placed in a bowl.
Do you see how the colander is propped up? Yeah, that’s right–with tea boxes strategically placed on the edges of the bowl, flanked by jars buttressing each side. Didn’t I say it was a low-tech operation?
I crushed the comb with a heavy, large spoon and let the honey drip slowly into the bowl. Bees make beautiful comb. Perfect hexagons, with firm but malleable texture, honeycomb is a truly remarkable product. I hated to crush the comb, but it there’s no way around squishing it up to get to the honey.
I didn’t toss out the crushed comb, but stored in the freezer. Sometime in the future, I’ll melt it down when (if?) I add other boxes to our hives. We use top bars for the bees to comb-build on and if there is a strip of wax on the bar, like this,
the bees use it as a guide for their comb-building.
Once most of the honey was out of the comb and into the bowl, Bee Daddy poured the honey into a jar through a tea strainer. The tea strainer caught any extraneous materials (primarily wax) left in the honey from the first round with the colander.
It’s a messy job. Sticky honey dripped onto the counters, floors, table–everywhere! I never quite realized how water-soluble honey is though–it cleans up immediately. So, while messy, this neat freak (yeah, I am, sorta) didn’t fret too much over the mess.
I washed each jar as we finished.
We bottled almost 7 cups of honey! Wow! Sweet, locally produced honey. Our bees fly within a 3 mile radius of our home, so it doesn’t get more local than that. We’ve shared honey and will keep some for future use. Several people who’ve tasted our bees’ honey think it tastes like peaches. Interesting. There are peach trees around, but peach pollen/nectar wouldn’t comprise but a very small percentage of the honey. Our bees produce honey that tastes better than any store bought honey that I’ve ever tried–that stuff is just not in the same category at all.
With the deaths of our queens, our bees are struggling a bit. I appreciate their hard work and am awed by their amazing abilities. I hope this isn’t our last honey harvest, though I imagine we won’t get honey again for quite a long time.
Thanks bees! You’re the best!