Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Sticky and Sweet, Extracting Honey: Part 2

In my last post, I talked about how to pull honey frames and uncap the beeswax from the frame for extraction. Now we were ready to extract the honey off the frames. We borrowed an extractor from our friend Tom, owner of Wilk Apiary. He has 9 hives throughout the NYC boroughs and sells his honey at the Ridgewood Queens farmer's market. Tom took the same beekeeping class as Paul and I did two years ago. He is so impressive with beekeeping and his passion for it has turned from a hobby to a pretty good side business! Which is amazing!  The extractor we used holds two frames at a time. There is a hand crank that comes with it. You slide the frames in and through centrifugal force, the honey spins out of the honey comb. Its a pretty cool process! And a sticky and messy one.
The honey extractor we borrowed is a manual one, with a crank that you turn. So we took turns spinning the  extractor.  In this photo, here's a group of us taking turns spinning.
 
Here is a video of how it's done.
video
Our first few runs at it was a bit of a failure, in that in our excitement, we spun the extractor too fast and the frames fell off the track and we broke a few of the wax foundation.  This is a funny photo of what not to do. Paul on the left is holding up one of the frames that fell off the track.  As you can see, the wax foundation is completely destroyed. I'm holding up the one that we were able to extract successfully. The whole foundation is still in tact. That is what you want, so the bees don't have to do a whole lot of work to rebuild the comb. Lesson learned!
In the next few spins,  we learned our lesson and took it easy.  The honey came flying out with ease.  With a tangential extractor, you must spin both sides of the frame. After honey leaves one side of the frame, you need to turn the frame to the other side and spin again. After you've done a few frames, you can filter the honey out of the extractor and into the holding buckets.
Here is a video of the the honey pouring out. You can see that the strainer prevents any wax from getting through to the bucket.  Look how the honey just pours right out of there. Liquid gold!
  video
Since this was our first harvest, we didn’t know what to expect with how much one honey super box would produce.  After the entire box was extracted, we had about 2.5 gallons of honey, or approximately 30 pounds! It was incredible!  This bucket shows both honey supers extracted. Five whole gallons of honey. The smell is so intoxicating!
 
In total it took us a little over 6 hours to harvest, we were so giddy, we jarred some up that day.
My first jar of honey, 1 year and 6 months after I first started beekeeping. I joked around that this jar probably cost me $1,000. Beekeeping is such an expensive hobby! Maybe I should sell some jars to offset this expensive hobby. Anyway, it's time and money well spent if you ask me!
This honey tastes so amazing. Locally raised, raw, and an amazing floral undertone. It's by far the best honey I've ever had. Maybe largely due to the fact that I maintained these beehives. But the fact that I know that something this amazing can be created in such an urban environment is totally satisfying.

Monday, July 8, 2013

Sticky and Sweet, Extracting Honey: Part 1

This past Saturday I was up until 3am sanitizing a slew of jars. I can be such a procrastinator sometimes. Getting ready for the big event.
My bee host was hosting a barbeque to celebrate our very first honey harvest. I made a giant fruit salad to bring with me. Ahhhhh, fresh fruit. I love summer!!
It was a blistering 95F out yesterday. Hot. Hot. Hot. I was completely dreading putting on my beekeeper's suit. It's really hot wearing that in full sun and heat. But we had a job to do. On hot days like this, the bees need to cool down. On one of our hives, there was full bearding, the bees do this to keep cool. Check out all the bees in front of the hive.
We pulled the lid and here it is. 10 Frames full of honey! Woot, woot!
Pulling the frames from the honey super was tricky business! There are bees all over the frames. We did the brush method. Pulling one frame at a time, and using a bee brush to gently brush off the bees from the frames. Then the frames one by one, go into a large tupperware bucket and we throw the lid on top to keep the bees from getting on the frames. The actual extraction is done indoors because the bees will want to get back on the frames.
Once the frames are pulled, then we use a capping knife to scrape off the wax caps. This was so much fun, probably my favorite part of the extraction process.
Look at all that dripping fresh honey. The smell is just intoxicating! When the honey comb is built past the wooden frame, it's easy to run the knife along the frame edge to remove the wax caps.
Sometimes the honey comb don't go past the frames so we use a fork to scrape off the wax comb. We don't like this method of wax removal as much because the honey was harder to extract.
Here is video of the removal of the wax cappings.
video
Here's my beekeeping partner Paul and I removing wax off the frames. This is a face of a happy, happy Mimi. I'm literally grinning from ear to ear. Extremely giddy, maybe it was all the honey we sampled. A honey high perhaps? I'll take it.

Friday, July 5, 2013

Sweet, sweet golden goodness

At our last hive inspection, we were in for a wonderful surprise! The honey bees have been very busy! They have been making lots and lots of honey!
This whole frame is solid honey! Incredible!! This frame is from the deep boxes, and the top honey super box is just about full as well.  It is time. Time to harvest, this sweet goodness!
This is extremely exciting for us because after 1 1/2 years, this will be our first honey harvest ever!
As I was about to leave to go home, I saw this little lady on my purse. I guess she wanted a free ride. I gently brushed her off.
This weekend, we are set to harvest. I can barely contain my giddiness! More pictures to come!
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