Beekeeping and Honey Bees – Harvesting the Honey
Beekeeping is a very popular hobby and obviously the main reason for setting up, maintaining, and stocking a beehive is to harvest the honey. You will know that it is time to harvest the honey (the month depends on your location in the world) when you look into one of your hives and find that the frames of comb are full of honey and that the honey bees have covered it with wax caps. It’s time to remove the super and keep it in a bee proof room prior to extraction.
When the super is full of capped honeycomb you are going to have to remove the honey bees from that super. There are several commercial chemicals available on the market that will make this easier. All the bee-keeper has to do is apply the chemical to a fume board or pad and place it on top of the super. When the honey bees detect the chemical they head to the bottom of the hive to the brood chamber or a part full super below the full one. This leaves the super full of capped honeycomb and bee free for you to harvest.
This product does not harm the honey bees; the honey bees simply find the scent offensive and move away from it. Another method bee-keepers use to clear honey bees from a super is by using a crown board with a Porter bee escape fitted. There is also the Canadian clearer board and the clearing cone; there is also WBC cone escape if required. Using the escape method can take 24 to 48 hours.
Now that you have removed the super you need to prepare the frames for extraction. The first step in this preparation is to remove the wax caps that the honey bees have used to seal the honey into the comb. Many bee-keepers use between nine and twelve frames in their supers, some modern hives take more frames. By using the correct number of frames to suit your type of hive you give the honey bees enough room to draw the comb out to the edge of the frame, they then cap it right on the very edge. This makes it easier to remove the wax caps by cutting flush to the frame. Bee-keepers use a metal knife to remove the caps, the knife works best if the knife blade is hot, after all it’s easier to cut warm wax then it is to cut cold wax. You can keep the knife blade hot by keeping it in hot water.
A tall jug or pitcher that covers the knife blade is ideal. If the container is metal and can be kept on the heat then so much the better. Some bee-keepers like to use their bread knife to remove the wax caps from the honey comb while others prefer an electrical knife that is designed just for bee-keepers. Another method of removing the caps is by using an uncapping fork.
Once you have removed the caps from the comb the honey is exposed, you can then use a straining cloth or bag or you could secure a piece of cheesecloth over an empty pot or container and put the wax cappings on the cheesecloth the honey will drain through the cheesecloth and the bee’s wax caps will be left on the cheesecloth. This wax can be processed in a solar wax extractor or in a steamer/melter. Once the caps are removed from the honey comb the honey is ready to be extracted.
This can be done by resting the frame on its top bar (upside down) in a tray or suspend the frame upside down over a tray. The honey will drain out of the comb. The honey comb cells have a slight up turn towards the top bar. This is to prevent the honey running out when being deposited by the worker bees. This is not very a very efficient method but is used as a last resort for some if they can’t get access to an extractor.
It is perhaps better if you borrow a centrifugal extractor from a fellow bee-keeper or your local group, club or association. There are many models of extractor I would suggest you seek advice. You can of course make cut comb honey in 16 oz, 12 oz or 8 oz rectangles. Rectangular cutters are available or you could use a hot knife and cut your own rectangles.
My name is Bob Prior-Sanderson. I am a successful bee-keeper and I publish eBooks about the long lost secrets of beekeeping by the old masters. Website: http://www.firstlessonsinbeekeeping.com