Friday, 28 August 2009

Honey Harvest 2009

Ten days ago we finally managed to harvest our honey. I had promised my friend Alex (who raises Alpacas) that if we could time it right she could come and help us. Tuesday suited all of us and Tuesday it was.

The day was perfect. You need fine weather when you take the honey from the bees and we certainly had that. Perhaps a little too hot for comfort but that is better than wet and windy!

The whole process took about four hours. We started by removing the supers from the hives.

This hive was one of our best - both these supers had nearly totally full frames (the supers are the smaller "boxes" on top of the bigger green box).

The other excellent hive was the one we have dubbed the wild hive. Again we had nearly two complete supers although we were unable to take some of the frames from the lower super as it was attached to the main log!

Most of this year's harvest came from these two hives although all of the hives produced something.

Before we put the supers into the trailer we had to brush as many bees as possible off the frames. Not always easy as the bees aren't too keen on being deprived of their honey!

Last year we used the wheelbarrow to take our honey harvest back to the house - but that was last year and since then we've actually had rather a lot of sunshine and the bees have been able to collect just a bit more honey! So this year we hitched up our trailer and took it into the field.

This photo was taken right at the start when Max was lighting the smoker. Each time we put a super into the trailer we covered it as much as possible with the sheet which you can see at the front of the trailer. This didn't really fool the bees as the smell of honey was so strong but it did stop them from getting back onto the frames. The trailer was double stacked with supers and we were VERY excited!

Back at the house the fun started. Max put the air compressor outside the kitchen and reduced the pressure to a minimum. Using this he and Ralph were able to blow the remaining bees off the frames. By this time we had closed all the doors and windows into the kitchen as we had heard stories of clouds of bees arriving during the extraction! Ralph bought the supers in and Alex and I started the extracting.

A word here for first time honey extractors - put newspaper down on the floor as much as possible. If not you have honey dribbling onto the floor which is tedious although not the end of the world. What is a bore though is when it is walked in and then carried all around the house. I also found it useful to change into flipflop style shoes as they could be washed easily when I did inevitably walk in honey.

In the pictures above Ralph and I are scraping the wax off the first frame. The bees close the cells once it is filled with honey and the water content has been sufficiently reduced (water content is a subject I am not qualified to explain but if the cell is closed the job has been done). From this point on the job is a sticky one!

We all took a turn with the extractor. There are two types of extractor: radial and tangential. The difference is in the placement of the frames: in the radial extractor, frames are placed so that they have an edge to the edge of the extractor; in the tangential the frames are placed with a side to the edge of the extractor. I haven't explained this well but you can google for images of both. In practical terms it means that with the tangential extractor you extract one side of the frame and then turn the frames around before extracting the second side. One day we will be able to upgrade to a radial I hope but in the meantime our small three frame tangential does just fine and it wasn't long before the liquid gold was running out of the tap into the storage buckets.

This is what we do it for! As the honey comes out of the extractor it passes through a fine nylon gauze which catches the worst of the bits and pieces - bits of bees, wax cappings, general debris. This bucket takes 25 kilos of honey and we filled two of them. We then filled two more smaller, 3 kilo, buckets and a couple of pots straight from the extractor for Alex, us and a couple of other friends. Plus the four honey combs we took a short time ago, each weighing nearly 500 grams. In all then, we probably had about 60 kilos of honey. Oh joy!

We left the honey in the storage buckets for a week to allow it to settle and for the air to come to the top and then Max and Guy potted it up while I was in London. This is what I saw when I walked into the kitchen last night:

The lady who gave us all those seedlings earlier in the year also gave us well over 100 honey pots, with lids. Glass honey pots don't come cheap and she has saved us about 40 euros - you know who you are and once again, thank you!

My job today is to order some labels so that we can sell some of the honey to friends who have been asking for it. In the meantime we will store it somewhere cool and dark.


Polly Pierce said...

Goodness you have been busy since I last checked in! What a haul of liquid gold? It's fantastic to see and thank you so much for posting about this experience...

Mark said...

Wow! What a huge amount of honey!! Beekeeping is on my "to do" list at some point in the future.

Rosie said...

I would love to get into bee keeping, but is is one type of critter I know Nothing about! We are considering planting an orchard and I think some bees would be a great addition to it in the future! Maybe not my own but perhaps for a few jars of honey someone else could use the land for their hives! This makes me want some honey on toast!!

By the way.. I visit your blog regularly and have nominated you as one of my favourites if you are interested then head over to grab your award.
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jjd said...

Excellent and very interesting posts! Big kudos for being Green.... My family loves fresh honey.. but my favorite part is the comb.

vertpaix said...

What a great blog you have. You haven't updated since Aug. Are you going to be posting again?

Anonymous said...

i followed your link from ravelry wow nice harvest i am from the US so i had to translate terms while reading. the one that did throw me was pot i was envisioning little clay containers LOL this year i have 6 hives out of 7 that made it threw the fall i am splitting the 2 weakest ones and using the other 4 for harvest. i live downtown in the town i live in and hope to get 80-100 lbs per hive.