I harvested (stole) honey from my bees this year. How exciting!
They filled four supers this year, I took two, and they’ll winter in two. This is my first “harvesting”, as I took no honey last year. It was a revelation, also known as a comedy of ignorance.
First I had to get the supers off the hive. I had no idea how to do this, so I made the best of it, and it worked. Well, I think the right thing to do is put a one way valve thingy between the supers to move all the bees into the lower levels. I took them off in the afternoon, first lifting several frames out of each box (they are SO heavy. I should have gone with short boxes) until I could lift each box down. I also shuffled frames around, to make sure they had only frames fat with honey in their wintering boxes.
Then in the interest of putting the bees back into the hive, I took each of the frames I was going to keep for honey, held it over the open hive, and gently brushed the bees off with the bee brush.
Ooooo, they HATE the bee brush. They go mad trying to sting it, burrowing into the bristles with rage. This method put many of the bees back into the hive, but it was obvious I was never going to get all of them back.
Also this took a long time. The hive was open for a goodly length of time, and it’s all very disruptive. My bees are so nice. They hardly sting me, and they’re staying very organized, only storing honey and not brooding in the upper storeys. But still, they were losing their patience, especially with that @#$% bee brush!
So I left the boxes, and frames I was taking, outside until dark. Just sitting there next to the hive. It worked like magic! Almost all the bees returned to the hive at dark, leaving the frames of honey behind. At dark I went to get them, putting the frames into a big Rubbermaid one at a time. Each bee I found that had got caught out too late I put back into the hive doorstep. Bee casualties of the day: 2 (one sting). Not bad. This actually worked so well I’ll probably do it like this again.
Then I took the honey over to my neighbour’s extractor, another thing I’d never seen. It holds four frames at a time and centrifuges the honey out, which drips down the walls of the cylindrical chamber, to run out a tap at the bottom. Wow.
First you must artfully slice off the wax caps with a hot knife (“What’s that?” I said – luckily, he had one), then drop each frame into the frame-holding basket in the extractor.
It’s time-consuming! Slicing off the wax, corralling the stray drips and mess (all contained in the same Rubbermaids, which will be returned to the bees to clean up – zero waste), and finessing the extractor. The extractor is revved up slowly, then you flip the frames and run it again to get the honey off the other side of each frame. It’s amazing. The frames come out feather-light, all the comb intact.
When they were all done we cracked the tap and started filling jars. I knew out of two supers I had a few serious bricks of honey, but I also had a half-dozen totally empty frames (from the sides of the supers), and several partials. I wasn’t expecting much from my two not-full supers. I was hoping to get 6 half-pints to give away for Xmas.
WELL! The honey started flowing, and kept flowing. I filled all the jars I had, and then he had to round some up. An astounding (to me) amount of honey. The only thing I expected to need, that I brought, was a spatula.
Also, I was under the impression that when you open the tap, store-ready honey comes flowing out. Nope. There are hundreds of wax caps and chips, some debris, and the odd dead bee that gets centrifuged out of the frames. Filtering is a second process (that I haven’t done yet). The right thing to do is to decant the honey into a big vessel or bucket, and then strain it later into giveaway ready jars.
After a rest, all the wax floats to the top of the honey so I’ll probably skim it off and then strain.
Naturally, I completely forgot to take any pictures until nearly the last jar was full, and then found I had only my phone, with a fogged up camera. Yay!