Tuesday, 19 August 2014

Honey Harvest

Last Wednesday evening the husband put the clearing boards in all the hives. These boards allow the bees to move away from the honey frames into other parts of the hive but they can't get back again to the honey. So it clears the honey-filled supers of bees who will inevitably be less than pleased whenever their honey is taken away!

On Friday evening the husband donned his bee suit again and went out to take all the frames of honey from the hives.

Here he is carrying one of the supers filled with frames of honey.


This is what the frames look like when they come out of the hive. You can see the honeycomb sections which have been filled with honey and then capped with wax. When the bees have capped the honey you know it is ready to extract.

That's the frames with a pound honey jar to let you see the size.

In order to get the honey out of the frames we first remove the wax cappings. This is done using the heated blade of a knife.

The white containers in the background are used to feed the bees their sugar solution that replaces the honey we extract.

One determined bee remained in one of the frames of honey and stung the husband on the end of his thumb. That was the end of the bee; they die after stinging.

Now, two at a time, the frames go into the honey spinner. The lid is put on and a lot of effort is employed to spin the honey out of the frames. It basically works like a centrifuge. We only have a very basic machine that is operated by turning a handle on the outside. It takes a lot of man/woman power to get it going! When one side is done, the frames are turned and the honey spun out of the other side.

We both ended up with using-the-honey-spinner blisters. Here's mine! It was very sore and stingy; still is, in fact. It had me yelping every time I touched it over the weekend.

At this stage the honey is building up in the spinner. It gets harder and harder to spin out any more honey so what's in the spinner is drained out into a food grade bucket with two special sieves on top. Everything has to be scrupulously clean and dry. Honey plus water equals fermentation; the method for producing mead.

The honey has to be left overnight to drain through the sieves. This has to be done somewhere warm. In fact, the whole honey extraction process needs to be done in a warm place.

The next day the honey can be poured into the clean jars; there's a tap at the bottom of the bucket for doing this. Each jar is inspected to make sure it has no cracks or chips.

And here is the finished product!

There was a good harvest this year and we managed to extract nearly ninety pounds (weight) of honey.

Sometimes there are honey frames that are particularly suited to being used for section honey. This year we had a couple. You can really see the defined honeycomb pattern.

The honey is cut from the frame with the honeycomb and stored in jars. We didn't have anything else suitable though I think section honey is usually kept in a box.

It's so rewarding to have our own home produced honey. We know how and where it has been produced and it tastes really delicious.

Washed and dried wax cappings are also very useful. They can be chewed to help relieve arthritis. Or melted down to make bees wax polish and candles. We intend to make bees wax candles this year. We have intended to make them for several years but so far haven't actually made any. But this year we will make bees wax candles. The candle making equipment has been brought out so it will happen.

So that's this year's honey harvest finished. Now the bees will be 'put to bed' as the husband says. They get the honey frames back into the hives to keep what bit of honey is still left on them and they are fed a sugar and water solution. They use this to build up their stores of food for the winter.

Here are some interesting bee facts:
  • During the summer months each hive will hold approximately 60,000 bees and 1,000 drones
  • All the bees are females
  • The drones are males
  • During the summer the queen lays about 2,000 eggs a day
  • The life span of a honey bee is about six weeks during the summer but six months for the 15,000 or so who make their way into the winter months
  • There is normally only one queen in a hive. There can be more than one when the bees sense that something is wrong with the old queen and they produce a new one by feeding a larva with royal jelly. Also, when there are too many bees in a hive they will produce another queen and the hive will split or swarm. One queen flies away with half the bees who have filled themselves with honey to keep them going until they can set up a new hive. Bee keepers do everything they can to stop a hive swarming
  • Honey bees don't hibernate over the winter
  • When the drones are no longer required they are thrown out of the hive and left to die. New drones are bred the following year
  • The queen has a sting but she won't sting a human. The queen's sting is used to kill another queen
  • The drones don't have a sting
  • When a honey bee stings a human it dies
I'll finish with a picture of me holding some drones. They'd been dumped out of the hive and were crawling about on the ground hence the bits of grit on my hand.


  1. Fascinating! I love to read about beekeeping. I hope your blisters are better soon. You got a lot of honey! It looks lovely.

  2. How lovely and such a lot of honey. What do you do with the jars you don't eat? I remember having honey straight form the comb as a child and it was delicious.

    1. We give some to family and friends, sell some and eat all the rest. There's never any left.

  3. Wow, that is an amazing amount of honey, no wonder you had a blister by the end of all that work, you must have been exhausted, so must the bees!!! You are definitely set for all your honey needs for the next year aren't you. I hope that you get to make the candles this year! xx

  4. This is a real interesting post. I do love honey very much and I even use it for baking. I buy mine from a local beekeeper, as well. I think that this is the most healthy honey you can get. Thanks for your explanations. Viola

    1. I want to use honey more in my baking instead of sugar.

  5. What a very interesting post. what a great process thank you for sharing. Whilst, I adore honey I am terrified of bees, did you like bees when you where little??

    1. Yes, I've always like to watch bees but I'm not sure they like me! When I was little - about 4 I suppose - a bee stung me on the forehead. It has left a tiny scar. A couple of years ago I tried helping with the bee keeping but I got stung 18 times on the 1 occassion so decided I will keep a safe distance from now on.

  6. ~sigh~ fresh honey, looks so nice. I bet it smells great, too. :^)

  7. That was interesting - and so much honey! Do you sell any?
    Caz xx

    1. We sell some of the honey but like to keep most of it ourselves. No point having to buy honey if we run out!


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