Driftless Prairies: Native Habitat Restoration

Nature inspires awe!

Harvesting the Honey

The first step is to get the honey from the bees, which is not always easy – just ask any bear. With only 2 or 3 hives to harvest, I use a hands-on approach. The smoker calms the bees by masking their pheromones that otherwise would put them into attack mode, then I brush the bees off the frames and cover the frames with a wet towel.

A wet towel is placed on the bottom of a frame.

A wet towel is placed on the bottom of a frame.

Honeycombs should be capped (as shown here).  As a rule, this indicates that the honey has the appropriate moisture content, preventing fermentation.

Honeycombs should be capped (as shown here). As a rule, this indicates that the honey has the appropriate moisture content, preventing fermentation.

After brushing the bees off of the frame, place in box and cover with a towel.

After brushing the bees off of the frame, place in box and cover with a towel.

Here’s the assembly line with some friends helping me – Heidi and her daughters Maia and Lily

Here’s the assembly line with some friends helping me – Heidi and her daughters Maia and Lily

I use a two-frame hang cranked centrifugal extractor.  Commercial beekeepers use much large extractors with electric motors.

I use a two-frame hang cranked centrifugal extractor. Commercial beekeepers use much large extractors with electric motors.

First, you scrape the capped honeycombs on both sides of the frames with a capping scratcher.  You could also use a serrated knife.

First, you scrape the capped honeycombs on both sides of the frames with a capping scratcher. You could also use a serrated knife.

 

Then put the scraped frame into one of the baskets in the extractor.

Then put the scraped frame into one of the baskets in the extractor.

And another scraped frame into the other basket.  The load needs to be balanced.

And another scraped frame into the other basket. The load needs to be balanced.

Then you starting cranking as shown by Lily.  Then you flip both frames to remove honey from the other side.

Then you starting cranking as shown by Lily. Then you flip both frames to remove honey from the other side.

Most of the honey has been extracted from this frame.  You won’t get it all.

Most of the honey has been extracted from this frame. You won’t get it all.

As the extractor gets full it becomes more difficult to crank, so you need to empty the extracted honey into a food quality storage bucket as you go.

As the extractor gets full it becomes more difficult to crank, so you need to empty the extracted honey into a food quality storage bucket as you go.

At the end you have quite a mess to clean up, so I let the bees do the work.  The bees take this honey back to their hives.

At the end you have quite a mess to clean up, so I let the bees do the work. The bees take this honey back to their hives.

After a day, the frames look like this.

After a day, the frames look like this.

It's a very impressive cleaning job by the bees!!

It’s a very impressive cleaning job by the bees!!

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