We have been beekeepers for only a few years and already we have learned so much..and have so much to learn.
Bees are truly fascinating. I intended on writing a L O N G blog post about all I know of bees and beekeeping; then I remembered this video I came across a few years ago.
Take a moment to watch it, you will feel super smart afterwards. I am pretty sure you will also have a new found appreciation for bees.
Amazing right? So now that you have a general idea of how they make honey, here's a look into how we extract it.
First things first. A single colony will produce a lot of honey, they are known over achievers, therefore, they produce more than they will consume. All of the honey that the bees will need to feed themselves are left in the bottom boxes of the hives. These boxes often weigh over 60 pounds and contain honey and pollen.
The honey that we extract comes from the smaller boxes that we add to the top of the stacked boxes. Once a nectar flow has started, we add "honey supers." Once the flow is over (dearth) we take those top boxes. Again, this is a small portion of the honey that they produced.
Some colonies are larger than others. As they grow, more "deeps" or bottom boxes are added. This is why you will see as in our own apiary (bee yard) there are some hives taller than others.
We know it's time to harvest honey when the frames in the supers are at least 80% capped. To reach this point, the bees have converted the nectar to honey and capped each cell with wax.
Extracting honey is one hot mess! It's always summer when we extract, so here in Missouri with the humidity it's usually somewhere around 95 degrees + the heat index, so maybe 100 degrees. Not to mention that when we extract we always wear our gear, so yea we get really hot!
We bring the capped frames inside where I have already lined the kitchen and dining room with plastic in hopes to not get honey everywhere... we still get it everywhere. So for those of you who know me and ever come over to visit and get stuck to a chair, you now know why :)
To open the cells and release the honey all the wax cappings need to be gently scraped off. Gently so that we don't destroy the comb they worked so hard to create. These frames with the already built up comb will go back in the honey supers the following year.
Once all the cappings are gently removed, it's ready to go in the extractor. Our extractor holds only two frames at a time and is spun by hand. We are pretty old school like that... for now at least, I am pretty sure if a larger electric extractor comes along for the right price, we'll have one.
The extractor works using centripetal force. Once spun out and after the honey reaches the bottom of the basket that holds the frames, time to pour into a large bucket.
We use a fairly large screen to filter. This way a lot if not most of the goodness like pollen, gets bottled and any unnecessary debris gets filtered out.
Then it's time to bottle and label. I can never decide on just one type of jar or one design of a label, so I use them all!
Nothing goes to waste! Those cappings that we carefully removed are wax. They get melted down into clean usable wax. This time of year I use my garden solar boxes to melt it down for me. I simply cut slits in the top pan, letting all the clean wax drip down. In this heat, this process took all of 2 hours.
Look at that beautiful wax!!! I wish this could be a scratch and sniff kinda thing, because fresh melted wax smells sensational.
We don't have enough hives to produce the amount of wax I need for my products. Instead of heading over to Amazon and having bleached and over filtered wax delivered to my doorstep the next day; when I need some, I order from beekeeper that we bought some bees from awhile back, and he ships it to me, costing $18 just to ship.. plus the cost of the wax.. and worth every single penny. The quality of the wax I use in my products is extremely important to me. Plus he's in Missouri and I love supporting other local beekeepers.
The wax is then used in many of my products, from lotion to lotion bars.
To beeswax food wraps.
I use our raw honey as well in many of my products. Here's a top seller:
To see all Co-Op Chicks products made from honey & beeswax click here.
The skin benefits from both honey and beeswax are abundant. Give it a Google.. they are pretty amazing!
I bet you want some honey about now, right? Well, I am selling a very limited amount this year. If you are interested here's the scoop: I am offering these sizes at the listed prices. I am selling very little this year as my online and local sales of products has increased quite a bit lately (thank you for all the new orders and always to my loyal clients!)
I am offering a flat rate shipping of $5 per jar, or can meet if you are local. Payment for honey only can be sent via Paypal. Send payment (honey + shipping) to firstname.lastname@example.org via PayPal. I will ship it out the day after you order.
LIMITED TIME OFFER: FREE HONEY!
With your order of $40 or more you will receive a 4 oz jar of our very own raw honey!
Now that I went over the basics of harvesting honey I think I'll end with some various pictures I have taken of these fascinating creatures over the last few years. Enjoy and as always, thanks for reading!