I was able to harvest my first batch of honey from my year old hive earlier this year. The process was simple but a bit messy because of the wax in the honey. I have to work on the messy part of it next time to make that more refined.
After removing the honey super from the hive, which weighed about 30-35 lbs, I took out each frame and examined the cells. This is to make sure none of the cells have been used for brood (bee larva), or are only partially filled. Then I needed to cut the caps off the honey comb which exposes the sweet stuff.
You can see in the background to the left of me, a knife, resting in a cookie sheet of water on the cook stove. This is for when my knife gets all sticky with wax and honey. I can rest it in the hot water and it comes out clean and ready to use again. This also keeps the knife warm to help in the de-capping process.
To de-cap the combs I start at the bottom and saw back and forth moving towards the top as I cut. Underneath the frame I am resting it in a pan to catch the wax and the little bit of honey that falls. I also have the frame lifted above the pan to reach the bottom of it easier.
Once the combs are de-capped you can look right inside and see the honey resting there. I was quite amazed, by both the actual capping of the combs by the bees as well as the lack of dripping that occurred once the combs were de-capped. If I was careful with the knife there was very little dripping of honey.
You can see the hexagonal frame of the individual comb cells full with honey. The lighter flakes are what is left of the waxy caps that covered the combs.
So, how do you get the honey out of the comb?
I was fortunate to have a honey extractor, which is a large steel tub with a basket inside that spins, using centrifugal force to expel the honey into the tub.
Two frames can go into the basket, one on each side. There is even a notch in the bottom of the basket to rest the frame’s hangers that stick out at the ends.
You can see in the picture that once the basket starts spinning, the honey is thrown from the combs to the sides of the tub. It requires a short spin to get some of the honey out and then I turn the frames around to help even out the weight. This helps to keep my frames from getting warped or bent because of the unbalanced honey in the combs. Then I have to give it a good fast spin to remove the remaining honey.
I went through this process with all ten frames and then I was ready to bottle the honey.
There is a pour spout at the bottom of the extracting tub which makes for easy pouring. I chose to use quart and pint sized canning jars to store my honey in. After they were sterilized, along with my lids, I put a funnel over the mouth of the jar and laid down a folded piece of cheese cloth inside it. This removes the wax from the honey, as well as any bee or comb parts.
I then heated up the honey in the extractor just to warm it before I filtered it through the cheese cloth. That seemed to allow the honey to pass through the cheese cloth with more ease, rather than cold honey.
What I got out of it was a beautiful golden honey with a hint of clover in it. It was a great experience and I am looking forward to the next run of honey we get as the summer continues.