Sunday, 11 August 2013

Harvesting honey the simple way - Part 2: Harvesting honey from natural comb

The box of honey (still sitting on the bee escape equipment, covered in towels) was left in the dark shed for 2 days - as per the description in Part 1.  I then bring it inside for processing. 

To process the honey we use the following equipment:
  • A 20 litre food grade plastic bucket with lid (available at Bunnings for around $20)
  • A metal sieve/strainer. Mine is a double sieve which I bought from a beekeeping supplies shop. There are cheaper options out there - some people use muslin very successfully.
  • A honey bucket with a honey gate. Again, I bought one, but there are instructions on the web for making one at a lower cost using a food grade plastic bucket.
  • A knife
  • A potato masher
  • A styrofoam broccoli box for putting the sticky frames in once they have had the comb cut out  (free from your local greengrocer)
  • A bucket of water
  • tweezers
  • A deep spoon or ladle 
We have a very small kitchen and an outside laundry, so the best place to do the initial processing steps is in the bathroom (door closed) where drips can be easily cleaned up.  The processing room must be bee-proof as bees from outside will be attracted to the honey and will try to get to it. 

The first step is to remove the towels, take the lid off and see if there are any bees still inside the box. Do this by taking one frame out at a time and inspect it. Use the tweezers to gently pluck the bees off the comb and drop them in the bucket of water. This shouldn't be hard to do as they will be very slow moving. Do this for each frame in the box. When all the bees are in the bucket, take it outside and empty it on the garden. After a little while those bees will dry out and be able to fly away. 

Back in the bee-proof room, use your knife to cut the comb off the frame and drop it into the 20 litre plastic bucket. Do this with all frames, putting the empty frames into the styrofoam box.  Then get out the potato masher and mash the comb in the bucket. It will end up looking like this:

Place the strainer on top of the honey bucket (make sure the gate is closed!). Use the ladle to scoop the mashed comb into the sieve. Then let it drip through the strainer. The warmer the weather the faster the honey will drip through the strainer so it's best to process your honey on a warm day.

The comb will look like this when the honey has dripped out: 

Once strained, the mashed comb will still be sticky as there is still some honey in it but no longer enough that it will drip through the strainer. Scoop this crushed comb out and store it in a plastic container with a lid.  Add more crushed honey comb from the 20 litre plastic bucket to the strainer and repeat the process until the plastic bucket is empty. 

Here's the processing in action at our house.  You might notice that the window is open - we have flyscreens on our windows which makes them bee-proof, otherwise the window would have had to remain closed for the duration of the honey processing.  When the strainer is on, unfortunately the lid of the stainless steel honey bucket  I have no longer clips on - I just sit the lid on top of the strainer and cover the whole lot with a plastic bag and a big rubber band to keep things nice and clean. The plastic containers hold the mashed comb that has already been strained.


It looks like this:

More honey can be extracted by heating this strained comb ...but I'll describe that in a later post.

When all of the mashed comb from the plastic bucket has been put through the strainer the honey is ready to bottle.  I do this over the kichen sink and use clean, recycled glass jars to store the honey in.  Simply open the honey gate on the honey bucket and let the honey flow into each jar. Close the gate, get the next jar ready and repeat the process until all the honey is in the jars.



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