Sunday, May 29, 2016

Straining honey and buzzing bees

When we got our hives set up a couple weeks ago, we were tasked with gleaning the honey from last year's bees.

Our beekeeping mentor, Mike, has an extractor and said he would be happy to do it for us for a modest fee. All we had to do was bring him the frames.

To do this, I took a plastic tub that used to contain potting soil...

...and gave it a good scrub.

The frames fit neatly inside.

Most of them, that is.

Fascinating stuff, honeycomb.

The total weight of the frames, comb, honey, and crate came to 53 lbs.

We brought the crate to Mike when we picked up our bees. A week later, he called to say the extracted honey was ready.

I don't know what I expected, but it sure wasn't this mess:

It was a glutinous mix of honey and wax, and frankly looked revolting. Ewwww.

It needed to be filtered. Duh.

After consulting some YouTube videos, we set up a crude initial filtering system with double colanders.

This got us, almost literally, nowhere over the next 24 hours.

Clearly we were doing something wrong. A bit more online consultation, and we realized we needed to heat the honey. Again I say, duh. (Can you tell we're new at this?)

So I set up two large pots, nested, to make a double boiler, and gently heated the honey. I was careful not to get it too hot since I didn't want the wax to melt. I just needed the honey to soften.

All the difference in the world. I did an initial crude straining through a mesh colander.

It filtered through very readily and took mere minutes.

Then I put the rough-filtered honey back in the pot to warm...

...and set up a finer filter using cloth.

Once again, it took mere minutes to go through the entire batch of honey in this manner.

I made sure to capture every drop!

Then came the fun task of decanting the filtered honey into quart jars, which would allow us to more accurately measure how much we got.

It's just so durned pretty, isn't it?

Final tally: two gallons.

Afterward, I took the messy bucket and rough colander...

...and set it next to the hive for the bees to clean up.

However we had a spate of cold, windy, nasty, rainy weather, and they never got around to it. In fact, there was so little activity around the hives that we wondered if the bees were okay. After several days, we smoked and opened the hives to top off the feeders, and saw the bees were fine, just sluggish with the cold.

The ugly weather took several days to run its course. On the afternoon of the first warmer day, Don came into the house and said, "There are bees all over the rose bush." I grabbed the camera and hurried to see. Sure enough, the large wild rose bush growing next to the chicken coop was thick with bees. What a glorious sight!


  1. I always just decapped the comb and set it up to drain. What tiny bit didn't drain out, I just set outside and let the bees clean up. It didn't take long (but don't let it rain on the combs). What little wax there was floated on top and could be skimmed off.

  2. Yea! Nice haul! And you don't need to smoke them if you are suited up and it is cold. A couple guard bees might fly at you, but they mostly stay balled up for warmth. I either suit up and don't smoke them, or I skip the suit and do smoke them. I try to avoid smoking them because they lose a day's nectar haul that way, (they load up on their own nectar stores like they think they'll have to abandon the hive due to fire or something, and then it takes hours to put things to rights again).
    I'm so glad you are into bees, too - they are just fascinating!

  3. Those jars of natures bounty look just beautiful! It was to bad that you lost the original colony but you live and learn. I just love seeing all of your trials and tribulations. Thanks for sharing.

  4. We have to wait for days when it is above 70 degrees for ours to filter on its own (we prefer not to heat it). And I am so careful to catch every drop you would think I made it myself!!

  5. I had a beekeeper harvest honey right after the wild roses were done blooming, and that was a treat! The honey was of very high quality and now, about 6 years later, the honey still smells of roses! Maybe not this year, but next year with a good hive you might try extracting at this time.

  6. Get a new mentor, he should of told you to keep your brood honey in with you nuc frames.. The girls would be that much further ahead and would of concentrated on making more brood faster. Bad Mentoring...