Yesterday was a day my wife and I had been eagerly awaiting ever since we got our bee hive last spring. We had our very first honey harvest! I made a hive inspection on Saturday, and saw that there were some frames almost ready for harvest. So my wife and I made a Wednesday date to harvest and process the honey. We’re using the crush and strain method to separate the honey from the comb. Atlanta area beekeeper Linda has a great tutorial that demonstrates crush and strain honey harvesting. It is a popular method for small scale beekeepers like us.
You get less honey with the crush and strain method than when you use a radial extractor, since the bees have to draw out the comb each time, but you do get more beeswax. With our small one hive operation, we can’t justify the added expense of an extractor, which would cost around $300-400. And besides, we are also interested in using the beeswax itself for lotions, candles and such. We’re going to construct an inexpensive solar wax melter to process the beeswax when we accumulate enough of it. As hobby beekeepers, we don’t need to maximize our honey production like commercial beekeepers do. We just want to maximize our beekeeping experience!
So, yesterday morning I fired up the smoker, got suited up, and went off to the hive. I took an empty super with me, and plenty of frames with foundation. The foundation is a sheet of beeswax with hexagonal honeycomb shapes imprinted on it, and it helps the bees draw out straight comb. I wanted to be well prepared for however much honey was ready! My plan was to use the empty super to hold the frames with honey, and then replace them with the new frames. And all went according to plan.
We didn’t get a lot of honey, but we were anxious to taste some of that heavenly sweetener that only bees can make. I knew that each shallow size frame should yield between two and three pounds of honey. I found two frames ready for harvest, and I figured that would give us four to five pounds of honey, which would be well worth our effort. The rest of the frames in the supers weren’t quite finished, so I left them for the bees to work on a bit longer.
Once I got the frames inside (leaving the bees outside), we cut the comb out of the frame with a sharp knife. This was the point I got my first taste of this honey, from my fingers. How sweet it is!
Then, we used a wooden pestle to crush the comb and liberate the honey inside. Doesn’t that sound like a fun thing to do? My wife and I both tried our hand at it.
After the comb was well-crushed, we dumped it into a plastic strainer to drain into a stainless steel bowl. We have a 5 gallon bucket with a honey gate on the bottom for future harvests, but we thought that was overkill for the small amount we were dealing with yesterday. That bucket will hold about 60 pounds of honey.
We wound up with a little more than 4 pounds of honey, plus a nice amount of beeswax. The honey was light in color and mild tasting, no doubt because much of the nectar came from clover, with a few herbs and flowers mixed in. It’s safe to say I don’t know exactly where each bee visits. I just know they have been working hard, and their efforts are appreciated.
I’ll check the hive again in couple of weeks to see if any more frames are ready. Now that we’ve had our first taste, we can afford to wait until the bees have more for us to harvest. I set the frames in front of the hive to let the bees clean them up and reuse any nectar and honey left on them. They were going to town on them in no time. By this morning there was nothing left but the wax, and they were starting to reclaim it as well!
I hope you’ve enjoyed hearing about our first honey harvest. We certainly enjoyed the whole process. Stay tuned, because you can bet I’ll be back before long with more beekeeping adventures here at Happy Acres!