How We Raise Honey Bees and Process Honey: A Chronology
Bees are fed daily or as needed during the winter with an organic sugar syrup mixture containing wintergreen oil, sea salt, and garlic. We continue to feed the sugar-herb-garlic mixture to the bees on a monthly basis from early spring until frost (when daily feeding resumes) to help ward off parasites and viruses. No chemicals are used in or around the hives.
Nectar and pollen flows begin around mid-March or earlier. NASA research is showing that nectar flow has been advancing by 0.58 days per year since 1970 (in Maryland) due to earlier plant flowering in spring as a response to global warming. Early pollen and nectar sources around here include red maple, red bud, ash, apple, willow, peach, plum, chickweed, dandelion, blueberries, huckleberries, and blackberries.
The sources of nectar and pollen increase with the seasons. By April, the bees are foraging tulip poplar, honey & black locust, wild cherry, and other native plants as well as clovers in the pastures. During June and July, they are pollinating our vegetable gardens as they collect pollen and nectar. Here is Brian examining one of the 2010 honey supers in late July.
When the honey frames have been filled and capped by the bees in late summer, a "Bee Escape" board is placed below the honey supers and above the brood super for two days. The funnel on the board allows the bees to leave the honey super but they cannot get back into the honey super until the Bee Escape is removed. We do not use chemicals to expell the bees.
The supers are removed from the hive and the honey is extracted. The first step is to remove the wax cappings. Here Brian is using a heated knife to slice off the caps. The caps, which also contain honey, fall on a screen in the de-capping tank, and the honey they contain drains to the bottom of the tank, to be strained later.
Next, the de-capped honey frames are placed in the extractor, four frames at a time. This is a hand-cranked extractor; the honey is spun out of the honey comb by centrifugal force and collects at the bottom of the extractor. NOTE: We graduated to a new motorized, 9-frame extractor in 2013, but I do not have pictures yet.
The honey frames are periodically inspected and their positions rotated so that all of the honey is expelled outward.
There is a honey gate at the bottom of the extractor from which the honey flows into a double walled strainer to catch wax debris. The strained honey is collected in a 60-pound honey tote for storage.
After all of the honey is drained, the remaining wax from the de-capping tank and strainer is put outside for the bees to clean. The honey frames and supers are returned to the hives and the cycle begins again, just in time for the fall honey flow from milkweed, goldenrod, sweet pepper bush, soybeans, and other fall flowering plants.
The final product .. here are jars of honey in recycled containers. Note: Recycled jars vary in size and shape, but hold between one and two 1/2 pounds depending on customer perference.
Jars of honey in new containers