The Sweet Side of the Honey Harvest
All spring and summer, honeybees have been busily collecting nectar and bringing it back to the hive to turn into honey. Beekeepers can harvest honey all season, but August is last call for collecting honey from the hives. Stopping the collection of honey in August allows the bees plenty of time to continue collecting nectar and have adequate stores of honey tucked away for winter. In addition, goldenrod will begin blooming soon in Ohio. The nectar and subsequent honey flow has a pungent order that is offensive to humans, but not bees.
First, the beekeeper needs to collect the honey without the bees! The bees store most of the honey in the upper boxes of the hive called honey supers. To remove the honey supers without the bees, a bee trap or maze is placed between the brood boxes (the bottom two boxes on a hive where the larva are raised and the bees overwinter) and the honey supers. The maze or trap is left on overnight, and the bees find their way down from the honey supers to the brood boxes, but have difficulty reversing. The next morning, the beekeeper can remove the honey supers mostly bee-free.
Inside the honey supers are frames the bees have made cells on to store the honey in. The next step is to remove the wax covering the bees have placed over each honey cell. This is done using a knife and a wax scraper. The tops of each cell are cut off to the release the honey.
After the wax caps are removed, the honey needs to be drained out of the cells. The frames are placed in a honey extractor. This is a large container with a wheel inside holding each honey frame in place. The frames are then spun in a circle, which applies centrifugal force to the honey, flinging it to the sides of the honey extractor.
Gravity causes the honey to run down the sides of the container and a tap at the bottom opens to allow the honey to flow out into strainers and a bottle bucket. The strainer removes small bits of wax from the honey. The bottling bucket also has a tap at the bottom that is then used to drain the honey into bottles.
Nature Interpreter, Parky’s Farm