The Harvest.


The little darlings! This is the hive entrance. Bees are still collecting pollen. You can see the little blobs of yellow on their hind legs.

Harvesting honey in October is late. I would normally be doing this in august or September at the latest. I was at sea and had to wait until I got home to enlist the help of my cousin Steve to get the honey. The danger of leaving it this late in the year is that the honey can crystallise on the comb and make it very very difficult to extract if at all. Late flowers include ivy which makes honey that is very prone to crystallisation and we did end up with some. I will point it out on the photos as we go. All is not lost. I will leave honeycomb with crystallised honey as food for the bees over winter. They will eat it. So this is how it is done.

Honey harvest October 2014 - 03

A few puffs of smoke calm the bees ready to open up the hive.

Honey harvest October 2014 - 06

The roof is taken off. The crown board is removed. This is the very top of the hive. The bees are underneath this.

Honey harvest October 2014 - 08

Under the crown board lies the boxes holding the frames of honeycomb in which is the honey. Here Steve uses a flat blade to lever out one of the frames that hold the honeycomb to check that there is indeed honey to be harvested. Each box contains 12 of these frames and we have 3 boxes.

Honey harvest October 2014 - 09

Here is the first frame taken out. Its not looking good. The light yellow area is crystallised honey. We can’t get that out. The darker area nearer Steve is the capped honey in the comb with a light wax capping. A lid to keep the honey in and fresh. That is what we are looking for.

Honey harvest October 2014 - 14

This is a much better frame.This comb is full of honey that we can extract. We need more of these.

Honey harvest October 2014 - 15

Much better. Another full frame. Incidentally the feathers are the wing from a bird. We use it to delicately sweep any remaining bees off the comb without hurting them. Traditionally a goose wing is used. This one is from a duck.

Honey harvest October 2014 - 16

Now we have all the frames collected we retreat into the garage and close the door. The bees can smell the honey and will try to get it back! Here a capping fork which is a basically and long tined implement scrapes the wax caps, the lids off the honeycomb to let the honey held with ooze out.

Honey harvest October 2014 - 17

A spinner holds 9 frames of comb. All have been scraped to start the release of the honey.

Honey harvest October 2014 - 18

The spinner rotates the frames at high speed to spin the honey out of the combs.

Honey harvest October 2014 - 19

Here is a frame that has been spun showing all the empty honeycomb cells. We can use this frame again next year. The bees will refill it.

Honey harvest October 2014 - 20

Once all the frames have been spun the honey is then passed through a sieve to remove any remaining wax. The bottom bucket contains pure honey.

Honey harvest October 2014 - 21

Voila! The finished product. Once we put the honey in jars we apply an anti tamper seal and a label. On the back of the jar is a small label bearing our names and address. Our neighbours always get a jar. After all it is their flowers that contributed to this. The rest we sell to cover our costs. We keep some for ourselves. It is simply divine.

There you have it. Next time you see a jar of honey on the supermarket shelf spare a thought for the bees that gave it too us. The total number of trips the bees have to fly to make this harvest is colossal. The miles flown too and from the flowers are incalculable. But they do it. Each and every year. Bless them. My little pilots.

Mark Dexter 2015