Most Summers in North Carolina are pretty hot and humid. This year, 2022, is no different. I keep saying that my least favorite months are July & August.
We are In The “THICK” of it and beekeeping is tough through these hot months.
That being said, the Honey is ready. With the help of my mentor group, we all worked hard to harvest the supers of honey. In my case it is definitely a Win/Win situation with my mentor group. They learn and I get the help that I need with physical labor. Those supers of honey are 20-30 pounds each and then having to lift them off of the hive? WHEW!
The group that I am mentoring helped with the heavy lifting and then we went on to do the honey extraction.
We took 6 supers. Upon closer inspection, some would prove to not have enough honey in the frames to extract and those were given back to the bees. If a super is not 75% capped, it is not preserved and will ferment. At the end of the extraction, we had 4 very full supers of honey. It added up to 130 pounds of honey.
Honey should always be measured and sold by weight. These are Federal Honey Standards with specific state requirements.
When I first began beekeeping, I was told that honey extracting was a very messy process. Many commercial beekeepers go to the expense of building a “Honey House” and is probably warranted due to the volume of honey that they have, but after a couple times of extracting, I was able to complete the extracting process fairly painlessly and quick. Yes, you have to make sure to have several wet cloths available to wipe things when they get sticky, but I do the entire process in my kitchen. I work methodically and with a plan and there really is not that much of a mess. I have a small kitchen, but a good sized dining area attached, so there is plenty of room to work.
When planning how to have my mentor group observe and help with the extraction process, I knew that I could not have any more than one mentee at a time. So I scheduled the day that I was to do the honey extracting and set up a hourly time when the mentee’s could come, one at a time, to observe and help. It worked out great!
I should have titled this blog “Working Smarter – Not Harder” It was a blessing to have the help and I am helping them by teaching a skill that has somewhat lost it’s way.
We uncapped all of the frames and inserted them into the extractor. With the wax capping’s off, the honey is slung out of the frame by centrifugal force. The force is a hand crank and human arm strength. It works fine for a little operation like mine. The honey drips through a micro-filter to remove any unwanted wax and debris. Then it is collected in a holding tank with a honey gate. Bottles are filled with wonderful aromatic honey through the honey gate.
It’s always been a hobby for me, but I know some beekeepers with hundreds of hives. I feel that some of the beauty and uniqueness of the honey bee gets lost in the commercial aspect of beekeeping. I enjoy the process of watching the honey bees through the year and plan my beekeeping time according to the bees needs. The commercial side is the opposite. Most everything for them is on a schedule with only the beekeeper in mind.
August and September will be all about getting the bees ready for winter. They are already thinking about it (have been since the Summer Solstice) and my taking honey, upset their apple cart. I will make sure that they have enough food stores to get through winter and it will not be by feeding only sugar syrup. There is a Fall nectar flow in North Carolina and the resources that they bring in will be left for the bees. I also do a bit of rearranging of the honey stores from hives that I did not harvest honey.
So, until next month…..