Monday, July 16, 2012

Extracting My Honey

During the middle of last week I found time to visit my hive. I had taken 4 frames of foundation out to my hive with the intent to exchange them out for honey frames. My hive was looking marvelous! I was able to pull out 4 frames of capped honey and was reminded that I am dealing with insects that can sting (the girls pack a pretty good punch). 

Over the weekend I was able to uncap and extract my honey! Only having 4 frames, I did not find it necessary to run them through a Sideliner Uncapper. My weapon of choice was the Cappings Scratcher (would have been faster with a Cold Knife).

Uncapping Frame

Placed all of my frames in a Multi-Use Straining System while I uncapped one frame at a time. Included is a cross bar with a nail to rest your frame upon. Using the Uncapping Scratcher, I slid the forks slightly underneath the caps and lifted perpendicular to the frame. Working small sections at a time, I was able uncapped all 4 frames in little time.

Cappings Scratcher

 At the beginning of the nectar flow I was unsure if I would even be able to extract any honey this year. Now that I am able to work in 4 frames to extract, I was not prepared to invest in an extracting kit. Another benefit of joining a bee association or having a mentor is the ability to borrow some equipment until you are ready to invest in your own. 

With this being my first year as a beekeeper I did not want to put a lot of money into an extractor that I might grow out of in a couple of years. I was fortunate enough to use someone's extractor. The extractor I was allowed to use was an 18-frame motorized extractor. I only had 4 frames and one of the important things to make certain during the extracting is that your frames are evenly spread out in the extractor for balance. 

Frame in Extractor

Once all the frames were loaded, I started the extractor off at a slow speed. As i gradually increased the speed, I was able to see the honey being 'flung' from the frame.

Honey Coming Out of Honey Gate

Before I began extracting, I opened the honey gate and placed a bucket with a strainer to catch the honey as it flowed out. The strainer made certain that I had nice, clean honey (free of debris). 

Bee in Extractor

The bees that had followed me into the extracting room were drawn to the extractor as the honey was being drawn out of the frames. All in all I was able to extract 8-10lbs of honey. As it was coming out of the honey gate I had to sneak in the finger taste test. 

Best Honey I Have Ever Had!

Friday, July 13, 2012

Harvesting My Honey

It has been a while since my last post but not much has been happening with my hive. Last time I had made a visit to my hive, before now, was two weeks ago and that was to check to ensure that my queen was still laying. One benefit on that visit was being able to see the birth of a bee.

Bee Birth

 When I went into my hive yesterday though, I had the intent on harvesting some honey. I have been keeping an eye on the nectar flow and it seems to be settling. I figured this would be the perfect opportunity to see if I could collect honey from my bees. With this being my first hive, I was told that whatever my bees were able to harvest during the nectar flow would be used during any dearths and the winter months. I know that they will need 60-80 pounds of honey in order to survive this winter. 

It has been a tremendous nectar flow and knowing that my bees were working extra hard, I had the mind set the I may harvest some honey this year. My hive was bursting with bees when I took off the top.

Bees on Inner Cover

I was not expecting such a strong colony. Last time that I had went in, there were a lot of bees in the honey super but not to this current capacity. Once I took off the inner cover I was able to see that all the frame were drawn out and most of the center frames were capped (Yay!) 

Capped Honey

I started pulling out frames and found that all my frames had honey. Most frames were either fully capped or had patches of capped honey except for the outed two frames. I brought 4 empty frames with me to exchange out for honey frames (did not expect 4 frames of honey to be so heavy). I didn't intend to collect much therefore I did not see the reason in using a honey harvesting tool other than my bee brush. I now regret not using Natural Honey Harvester or an Escape Screen. A bee brush removed a few bees but more were flocking to the frame (I knew that I would be taking some to the extracting room).

While I was in my hive I thought it would be best to check my lower chambers to see how everything looked. I knew that I would not be collecting any more honey this year, so I went ahead and removed my queen excluder. 

Brood Chamber

As I began to remove frames from my brood boxes, I guess my bees became agitated because two of them were able to sneak some stings past the jacket I was wearing.  I assume that when a bee stings you, they release some type of pheromone indicating an attack, because after the two stings, my hive became chaotic. It was only time before a couple bees found there way into my veil and I knew it was time to close up and get out. I was able to escape with four stings (3 on the arm and one on the head) but I found this rational with the four frames of honey I am able to extract.

Tomorrow I Extract!