Harvesting Honey Fall 2015

The time of year where everything becomes pumpkin flavored is upon us and the temperature has started to drop. While checking my hives and starting to get them ready for winter I noticed that one hive still had quite a bit of honey in it. I was fairly conservative earlier on in the summer when harvesting due to a heat wave that really decreased nectar flow. Since I felt the bees could spare a few more frames of honey I decided I wanted to harvest some more of that sweet, delicious, golden nectar.

Since I’m a bit frugal and don’t want to shell out the several hundred dollars for a honey extractor I use a Honey Spinner to extract my frames of honey.

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The bees  actually filled the frames up very nicely and had the honey all capped off.

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Once I had my honey spinner all set up I made sure to have my other supplies ready to go. One of the most important things I have found for honey extraction is a clean wet towel to wipe hands and equipment off with. Honey is sticky, it’s messy, and it’ll get everywhere. Another good thing to have on hand is some isopropyl alcohol. The alcohol will help solved propolis.

One other important tool is a capping knife. The honey won’t spin out if the caps are left on. If you don’t have a capping knife a fork can also be used to remove the caps, it just won’t be quite as neat. The goal is to remove enough of the cap to let the honey out, but not cutting too deep into the wax comb.

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The best way I have found for cutting caps off the cells is to use the knife at an angle. It also helps if the wax is built out to the edge of the frame. When the wax is below the frame it can be hard to get an even cut. The tip of the knife can also be used to break open any cells that the initial cut missed or wasn’t able to get to.

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A clean area is always necessary and a clean surface to place tools is nice as well. I have a small tv tray table I use to place the container I cut the wax into and to put my wet towel and knife on.

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Once the caps are cut off I was able to place the frames into the honey spinner. The honey drips slowly, but it can fall out of the open honeycomb on to the floor, so move quick unless you have a pet dog near by to help with clean up :).

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I use my cordless drill to spin the frames in the Honey Spinner. I have found that the newer Li-Ion batteries work best to keep a constant speed on the spinner.

Beekeeping Tip: No matter which type of spinner you use to extract honey it’s important not to go too fast. The wax in the frame can come loose in large chunks or even the entire side of the frame. This is called blowout and can clog up your spinner with wax. Slow and steady is the key here.

I have a screen on the bottom bucket to catch any wax or debris from the frames but lets the honey leak through. The end result is delicious raw honey straight from the hive. I’ve got to say that raw honey like this tastes amazing. The honey in the store is a pale imitation to the real stuff.

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Something of interest is that taking a teaspoon of raw honey a day can help some people with seasonal allergies. The amount of pollen in the honey is small but is supposed to help your body recognize it when you breathe it in. If you suffer from pollen allergies you can try finding some local raw honey and eat a little each day. I have known some people who feel much better during the summer doing this.

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Honey is an amazing substance, and I’m glad to enjoy the surplus my honeybees produce. I feel though that it’s important to always leave enough honey for the bees to use during the winter. The health of the hive always overrides my desire for that sweet golden honey.

Next year the harvest will be different, I now have some Flow Hive frames, so we’ll see how well they work out.

– Jason Snell

Beekeeping – Swarm Collecting

Early in the spring of 2015 I watched as one of my hives swarmed and a good portion of the hive flew off with the queen. Now I wasn’t going to let a fresh swarm go to waste so I grabbed my small wooden nuc box and headed over to where the bees had landed.

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The bees had clumped up into the bushes in my neighbor’s back yard. After I received permission I went to investigate. I was lucky that the swarm basically clumped up at ground level. Swarms will sometimes form a clump in all kinds of places, including high up in trees or buildings.

This is the second swarm I’ve been able to capture, and with the bees so low I simply opened the top of my nuc box and then shook a good portion of the bees into the top of the box. I snagged the queen the first try.

How do you know the queen is in the box or container you’ve shaken the bees into? You’ll notice that instead of immediately leaving the rest of the bees start to march into the box.

Beekeeping Tip: If you’ve already collected your swarm and want to transfer them to your hive boxes, place a light colored sheet on the ground with the hive on top. Shake the bees gently on to the sheet. The scouts for the hive will see the dark entrance of the hive and will investigate. To make them even more interested place a couple of old frames from another hive into the box. It’ll make it smell like home.

swarm of bees entering nuc box

You can see in the photo above the bees starting their march into the nuc box. Another thing you’ll notice is several bees turning around and sticking their hind ends up in the air while fanning their wings like crazy. What the girls are doing is pushing out the pheromones the queen is emitting to let the rest of the colony know where home now resides.

Bees fanning at entrance to a nuc

It may take awhile for all the bees to march in. Just be patient, they’ll get there eventually. Once the bees are in your nuc box you can set them near your other hives. Even if the bees swarmed from one of your hives they’ll know which one they now belong in.

 

Honeybees bearding on the edge of a nuc box   Small bee nuc box between larger hives

You may also notice some of the bees clustering or “bearding” up near the entrance. That normally isn’t an issue and is just the girls settling into their new surroundings.

Enjoy your new hive!

– Jason Snell