Adventures in Extraction!

Folks, I apologize for not staying on top of the posting. Life’s been a bit bananas. This actually happened in August, but I’m sharing it with you now. As you might remember from the prior bee post, we bought a three frame honey extractor this year! Since one of the BSE’s hives is overachieving, we decided to give it a whirl, as it were.

I was literally right off the train from Chicago, and pretty tired, so the BSE and Gadgetron handled the bees. As you can see below, the hive in the middle is really thriving. The hive to the left is mine, and you see it’s not quite the howling cyclone of activity that the other two are. The small hive off to the side is a swarm that the BSE caught from one of our hives in July. It’s good she caught it before it bailed!

We needed to remove about six frames to try out the extractor, so we opened up the hive and got to inspecting. Please admire some lovely photos of the BSE, and also please note how full the frames are!

Gadgetron is not nearly as photogenic as the BSE, particulary with that hat on, but here he is pulling frames. You can see the tightly packed capped cells!

Here’s a clip of the BSE and I explaining what’s happening here, and a nice close up of the tightly capped frames we are choosing for extraction.

These are frames we brought up to the deck of Castle Falkencrab. What’s that you say? You think it would be easier to take the extractor to the hives? That would be a negative, ghost rider. I asked the same question and was asked to imagine trying to fight off the bees. That put me off the idea very quickly, I can assure you.

Now, in the past we have taken honey using the crush and strain method, which I’ve detailed in prior posts. That involves scraping all the wax off, then straining the wax to get the honey, and it’s just a whole messy scene with wasps. Here, we want to just uncap the cells and take the honey. We will leave the wax. Here’s a new tool for us, an uncapping tool. It looks like a hair pick, doesn’t it?

The BSE explains here why we’re doing it this way, and how it’s much better for the bees to have the wax returned to them. The video also shows Gadgetron using the hive tool to just barely scrape the frame, uncapping the individual cells full of honey.

Please enjoy this gorgeous photo of a backlit frame about to be placed into the extractor. You can really get a sense of the size of the cells, and an understanding of how much honey a frame holds. Remember, these frames were tightly packed both back and front.

The extractor holds three frames, and they go in looking as the one above does. Our extractor can be cranked by hand, or we can hook a drill up to the handle and turn it that way. I highly enjoyed whirling it around by hand, and it didn’t take but six or so cranks to extract they honey. It’s a real time and mess saver. Here’s what the frame looks like after the honey has been removed. You see that it’s just the wax, and the bees can easily refill that and recap the cells.

Honey pooling at the bottom of the extractor, along with bits of capping wax.

Filtering the honey is much easier, as well. Gadgetron opens the spigot while the BSE and I narrarate. And yes, I did indeed lick that raw honey off my finger, and no, I don’t care about bee bits. It’s delicious, and extra protein never hurt anyone.

The extractor is easily hosed out, which is a very different and quite welcome scenario than the usual sticky mess everywhere. Gadgetron put that bucket up on a stand in the sun, and it filtered quickly while we enjoyed the gentle breeze and the kinetic art.

All told, we got 6 pints of honey. That is one pint per frame, and there are 10 frames in a hive box. Go back up top and see how many hive boxes we have total among the three and a half hives, and you’ll see why we usually have honey to sell, share, or barter. Please let me know if you have any questions!

Author: Amy Crabtree Campbell

figuring it out as I go, since 1967

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