When I began keeping bees three years ago it was because I wanted to help bees and in return have them pollinate my garden. Harvesting honey is a bonus.
Honeybees have different tasks. In the spring the “forager” bees begin gathering nectar from flowers and take it back to the hive, where it is turned into honey (for more information see this link for a thorough explanation). By late July in Maine it’s time for the first honey harvest.
This past Saturday my mentor “J”, my friend who we’ll refer to as “J2″ and I harvested honey from the four hives in my backyard.
First, we laid out a piece of canvas and put an empty medium box on it (there are deep boxes and medium boxes that are stacked on top of each other to make a Langstroth hive – I have 8-frame boxes, which you can see here). Second, we removed frames of capped honey from the hives. Each time we removed a frame J would brush the bees off of it and hand it to me to insert into a box (see photos below) and J2 or I would immediately cover it up (with some of the extra canvas) so the bees could not get to it. Third, J would replace where a frame of honey had been with an empty frame for the bees to fill with summer/fall honey (we’ll get to that in a second). Fourth, we closed up the hives and carted two mediums (8 frames each) and a deep (8 frames) of honey – each box weighing between 40-50 lbs – to J’s truck.
J has temporarily turned a space in his home into an area for honey extraction. He has his own harvester, but for those who want to try it out at home (beware the STICKY mess), you can rent one from The Honey Exchange in Portland.
I have yet to participate in the honey extraction process, but essentially this is what J did: First, he removed all the caps with a knife (he’ll make candles out of those later). Then he placed the uncapped frames in a honey extractor, which spins them around and the honey is removed by force (the fast rotation). Any wax or other particles are removed and the honey is pumped into buckets (specialized ones with a spout on the bottom). These buckets can be purchased locally at The Honey Exchange, some beekeepers with small shops (who also make hive bodies…) and online (try Brushy Mountain Bee Farm).
In all I got 50 lbs of the most delicious tasting honey I’ve ever had. I am keeping a lot for myself and giving the rest to friends. I’ve been given so much free honey in my life I don’t think I’ve purchased any since I began beekeeping.
Though the bees are out foraging for nectar now and will be for a good couple months, the chances are I will not harvest in the fall. That honey I’m going to leave to the bees to feed off of during the winter.
I hope you enjoy the pictures from this recent harvest.