Extraction and Honey

See that? That’s frames of comb going into the centrifuge extractor. Not mine, these are from Alyson’s hives, we did her’s first, so I had more time with the camera then. Alyson, my two daughters and I met up on Simon’s on Friday night at 7, and started extracting the honey from the supers we’d harvested from our hives previously. I’d collecting the Association’s extractor from Maria on the Monday evening, so we were ready to go. Alyson had about one and a half supers of frames to spin, but her supers were far smaller than ours, so it didn’t take long, and she didn’t get as much honey. But what she did get was the clearest, most beautiful honey I’d ever seen straight out of the comb, and tasted amazing. Probably there’s a lot of rape seed nectar in there, so it might crystallise later on. I saw a jar of it today, and it’s just as beautiful. Simon’s came out far darker, but clear, and mine started out quite creamy, though it seems to be clearing now.

Anyway, so the process to get the honey out starts with taking the frames from the supers one by one, cutting off the cappings, and stacking them in the extractor as above. Then you turn it on:

This is Emily doing a far neater job of the de-capping than I can manage, although Caroline is still the expert here, she can cut it away as thin as paper. Years of practice. Once the extractor is full, and balanced, you turn it on, spin it up slowly at first but speed up as the comb gets lighter, and stand on the legs so it doesn’t walk around the room. Then put it in reverse, about 10 minutes each way. There are lids for either side of the motor, but it’s off here so you can see it throwing the honey against the side of the barrel, and it gathers in the bottom. Along with anything else in and on the comb – wax and the literal “bees knees”. Or, if you’re unlucky, one of the combs will be unable to take the G-Forces and pop:

This is an extreme example, where the foundation wasn’t wired for strength. On of mine and one of Simon’s also went, but the wire kept the damage down to a third of the frame or so. Doesn’t make the frame any more usable afterwards – you still have to take the comb out and put a new sheet of foundation in. But it does keep the wax out of the honey, and simplifies the filtering, which is the next step, and what we did Saturday afternoon:

Here the honey heater is bringing it gently up to 40 degrees Centigrade. Warm enough to make it flow easily, but not too hot to Pasteurise it or even melt the wax into the honey. I stirred it regularly to keep the heat even, while Caroline and Simon span out the rest of their own frames. One thing I have learned is to only ever wash up after wax and honey with cold water. Hot water just spreads it thinly and makes it next to impossible to remove. Cold water dilutes it down and it just breaks down and runs away.

Anyway, once it was runny enough, we opened the tap in the warmer, and ran it through the filters – two metal sieves with a very, very fine nylon-like mesh sheeting between them, doubled up, to remove all the anything-not-honey from the mix.

There was some very fine wax in there, but nearly all of it was captured in the various filter layers. The usable stuff went into the cappings bucket, at the bottom of the picture on the right. That we will let settle, and remove the wax for candles and hand creams, etc, and honey for Mead. Below you can see the filter system letting the final honey through. We put the medium bucket inside the big bucket, so we could rest the filter on top of the rim of that, and left it to finish seeping through. You can see the honey collecting in the bucket at the bottom:

We then sealed both buckets ready for the journey home. For the safety of the car, really. But the big bucket wedged nicely between the front seat and the dash, so it didn’t go anywhere. The honey still looked quite cloudy, but it cleared as we watched, so we’ll let it settle for a few days. We will then drag any remaining wax off the top, pour it into the bucket with the tap on, and then from there start filling jars.

Finally we took the supers and frames back to the hives. Here my main hive back at full height:
We’d put a replacement Super on when we harvested this one, and since I’d used Simon’s dark green paint for my first hive, but have been using the paint I bought from Modern Beekeeping on everything I’ve bought since, we get this stripy effect.

I then did a quick inspection of both hives. The bees don’t seem to mind the new anti-Verroa powder, and about half of what I left on Wednesday was gone. I checked the Verroa board, and there was some, but not much, droppage. But then there’s still no egg-laying going on in here, so maybe that’s affecting the mites too? We saw the new queen hatch and run off only a few weeks ago, so it’s too soon to expect her to be laying yet, and the bees didn’t seem too unhappy, so we’ll leave it until next week before we start to panic… =O}

And I now have about 50lbs of honey in a bucket in my garage, nearly ready to jar up. More on that next week.

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