Thursday, September 6, 2012

Extracting Our Honey

Garrett's been beekeeping for a couple of years now, but since he's been able to grow the apiary (that's fancy for "bee yard") so quickly he hasn't harvested honey from his hives, instead leaving it for the bees so they would be well nourished to build up their new homes. To date, we've never taken more than small tastes from each hive (all in the name of quality control, of course...).

But this year, perhaps in response to his wife's *ahem* desperate pleas for some raw, local honey that doesn't cost us $16 per pound, and in recognition of the fact that we use honey and maple syrup almost exclusively to sweeten our food, Garrett has put off growing the apiary and focused on harvesting some honey.


So tonight I share with you the scenes from my kitchen yesterday afternoon, but the photos can't justly describe the experience. All five of us were positively giddy as we filled the extractor with frames heavy with golden liquid, pumped the turnstyle to exact just right amount of centrifugal force to pull honey from the comb, and dipped our fingers into the dulcet mass flowing with the grace of a ballet dancer into the five gallon bucket below.

And we got five full gallons before the night was over. 

We were sticky, messy, and jubilant as each of us took turns holding the filter nets, turning the extractor and munching on the fresh bees wax as if it were chewing gum.

Such heaven, this lovely day. 
Garrett pulled an entire box from his hive- a box containing 8 frames full of capped honey.

A tool called a cold knife is used to carefully cut the top layer of wax, or the "cap" off the honeycomb, revealing the finished honey underneath.

This shot is taken looking down into the extractor, (commonly known as the "frankencrank" by our local bee club) with one loaded wooden frame of honey on the right side.
This is the machine, fully loaded with two frames of honey.
Then, pure muscle power must be applied to the crank, which turns the frames inside the drum of the extractor, pulling the honey out.
The moment of triumph as the first stream of honey is released from the extractor. This moment was years in the making!

Pouring down into a food grade 5-gallon bucket, fitted with a filter net to catch wax particles.

This view is a frame of honey just removed from the extractor. Garrett will put it back into the hive, where the bees will finish cleaning it out and will re-draw the honeycomb.

Ava samples. :)

This is a close-up of the honey in the sieve. Particles of wax can be seen, trapped on the surface. I'll be collecting those for lip balm.

Happy boy. (Picture by Ava)

Total family effort. (Photo by Ava)

The sieve being removed from the top of the bucket at the end of the night, full of wax particles I'll soon be using for other projects.
We're done for a couple of days, while the rest of the cappings (wax caps we cut off the comb to get to the honey, which can be used to make lip balm and candles) drain and the bubbles come out of the bucket of honey. In a couple of days we'll begin to bottle!

By the way, my whole house smells like honey- right out to the driveway. Love.


  1. This looks incredible! We're aiming to move out to the country in the next year, and we're hoping to have some bees among other things. It's so neat to see how it's done! Thanks for sharing.

    1. Hi Eddie, I am sure the country won't disapoint; neither will bees! Everything about them is pretty amazing, as a matter of fact, and I'm sure you will enjoy them as much as we do! Thanks for the comment!

  2. Lucky you. My grandfather was a bee-keeper and although I'm allergic to bees, I always enjoyed the honey, special treat of honeycomb and fresh beeswax.

    1. It's so sad that you're allergic to bees, but at least you can still partake in their efforts- both honey and the wax. I am thrilled to have so much wax this year as I have done lip balm exclusively in past years, but I intend to try my hand at crayons and candles this year. So fun!

  3. Awesome! We still haven't done ours yet. We have two hives. This is our first year. I bet you can't wait to cook with all that honey! Yum. Looking forward to seeing what you make. Thanks for sharing!

    1. A visit from a fellow beekeeper! Wonderful! Will you harvest at all this year, or will you leave the honey for the hives to establish themselves?

  4. What an experience that your children will always remember, thanks for sharing for us to see too.



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