Two dozen bears are left so it is time to plan the next harvest.
There are 5 boxes of honey on the hives that I can harvest. It is too hot to do it this weekend. Monday, though, seems like it will be cooler. I will clean the equipment Sunday night (scrub everything with a bleach solution to make it sanitary). I will set up everything so I can go grab a box and process it.
A honey super (one medium sized box) fits on top of the hive with a queen excluder. The queen excluder keeps the queen from going upstairs to lay her eggs. The bees like to fill the top box with honey.
A honey super contains 10 frames with 3 or 4 pounds of honey on a frame. They never fill the ones on the sides, but they pack the ones in the middle.
I open the hive and use my smoker to convince the bees that there is a fire so they hide in the middle of the hive and they eat honey in preparation of running from the flames. When the are full of honey, their stomachs are so fat that they can’t bend their tails to sting me.
One by one I pull out the frames. I gently brush off the bees with soft brush and put them in a box. As I go I replace the frame with an empty one from the last time I harvested honey. These frames have honey comb all ready for the bees to fill so they don’t need to work hard to make more honey.
I use two pieces of damp cloth on the top of the hive to cover the area that I am not working on. This keeps the bees from charging up to protect their honey.
When I am through, I reassemble the hive, and if I did it right, the bees are not very upset and I did not get stung. (one fool bee always finds me though).
I bring back the box of honey to where I will extract it. I gently scrape the surface of the frames with a fork to take off the thin wax that seals the honey in. I then put the frames in my spinner and I use centrifugal force to force the honey out.
My spinner can handle about 40 pounds of honey before I have to empty it. That’s one reason I do only one box at a time.
I drain the honey out of the spinner through a fine sieve that filters out the wax and bee parts in the honey. It takes two hours to drain out most of the honey. I let the bees clean out the equipment the next day.
I then filter the honey again through a finer sieve and the result is clear honey without too much wax. The last bucket has a spout on it, and I set that on the counter for Erica to bottle up the bears.
The honey flows slowly so bottling 50 bears takes two or three hours.
We tie on the labels that I make, and the honey is ready for sale.