by Texas Homesteader ~
Last week we talked about Preparing The Hive For Harvest. And in my Beginning Beekeeper’s Series we’ve talked about everything from becoming NewBEES, obtaining your bees, caring for them and more. Links to all of those articles are below for your convenience. But now? Oh now we’re going to take that sweet honey from frame to bottle!
Moisture Levels For Capped vs Uncapped Honeycomb
After the honey supers are removed from the hives they’re brought into the house. They’re inspected to determine the percentage of capped vs uncapped honey. Capped honey has a lower moisture content than uncapped honey.
In the photo below you can see examples of capped vs uncapped honey cells.
Your harvested honey needs to be no more than 18% moisture. Otherwise your honey stands a chance of fermenting. A good rule of thumb is that about 85%-90% of the honey on your frames should be capped.
But it’s always a good idea to test your harvested honey using a *Refractometer. This is an inexpensive little device that measures the moisture for you. Once you’re comfortable with your expected moisture level based on the visual capped vs uncapped percentages, it’s time to harvest the honey from the frames.
Removing Honey From The Frames
Beekeepers harvest honey in different ways:
Using A Honey Extractor
Most beekeepers like to use an uncapping knife to basically cut off the outside of the honeycomb to expose the honey.
When honey is removed this way it keeps the wax comb on the frames. This makes honey-making much easier for the bees next time since they don’t have to start over making the wax comb before filling it with honey. The comb’s already there!
Then they place the frames of open honeycomb into a *honey extractor. This spins the frames and slings the honey from them.
Scraping Honey/Wax From Frames
But there are considerations with storing honey supers filled with wax. How to protect it from wax moths? Where to store it? How to keep it cool? And there are potentially critters to mess with it if you store it outside. So many worries!
Because of that some beekeepers scrape both wax as well as honey off the frames. Then they store the empty frames in the box until next year.
Honey & Wax In Uncapping Tub
Whichever method you use, the initial uncapping or scraping is typically done into an *Uncapping Tank. It’s a special tub 2-part tub set up to hold wax cut from the frames and allow the honey to drip from the wax into the 2nd tub below.
If you’re just uncapping the comb, the frames will then be placed into the honey extractor. There the extractor will sling honey from the comb.
If you’re scraping the frames completely you need to allow time for the honey to drip from the comb that’s been scraped from the frames.
Allowing The Honey To Drip Slowly
Whether just uncapping or scraping the frames, the honey should be allowed to drip from the wax for a period of time. This takes very little time for uncapping method since so little wax is actually cut from the comb.
But when completely scraping the frames it needs to be allowed to drip for 1-2 days.
When as much honey as possible has dripped away, I’ll clean & Process The Wax for other purposes. But now our attention turns to bottling up our delicious honey.
(Note: When I have extra beeswax I’ll often sell it on my Online Store. Anything purchased from our online store helps support this blog. So thank you!
Filtering The Honey Through A Sieve
The honey that’s contained in the extractor (or in the bottom section of the uncapping tank) is now drained via a spigot & is filtered through a dual fine-mesh *Honey Sieve to remove wax cappings & impurities.
The honey is transferred through those sieves into a special *5-gallon honey bucket. This bucket also has a spigot on the bottom to make it easy to bottle up the honey. So now all that’s left to do is bottle it up!
Bottling The Honey
I never, EVER put our honey into those cute plastic honey-bear squeezy jars. Real honey will crystallize. And if your crystallized honey is in a plastic container it’s very difficult to melt those crystals back into that smooth honey you love.
But if it’s in glass it’s EASY to Melt Those Honey Crystals. So my honey is always placed in glass jars.
Although there are special jars made for honey bottling, all of our honey is jarred into canning jars instead.
Canning jars just seem to be more useful & reusable. Plus I hate buying a specialty jar that may or may not ever be used again. But canning jars? Everyone loves ’em!
So to bottle our honey we’ll buy new canning jars and then wash & sanitize them. To sanitize they’re placed in an oven that’s been set to 225 degrees Fahrenheit. (according to The Organic Prepper) We allow them to stay at that temperature for 20 minutes. Then we’ll allow the jars to cool completely before placing any honey into them.
When all is ready we place the 5-gallon bucket of honey onto an elevated surface. We tare a sanitized & cooled jar on a scale and then fill it to the weight indicated on our labels. Finally we slap on a new, clean canning-jar lid for each jar and it’s done.
Honey Harvest: Complete!
Links In This Post
Beginning Beekeeper’s Series
*Refractometer For Measuring Moisture Content
Purifying Beeswax From The Hive
*Stainless Steel Honey Sieve
*5-Gallon Honey Bucket
Don’t Throw Away That Crystallized Honey!
- Preparing For the Hives
- Obtaining Your Bees
- Inspecting Your Hives
- Feeding Bees With A Frame-Feeder
- Expanding The Langstroth Hive
- Performing A Walk-Away Split
- Performing A Frame-Swap Split
- 5-Minute Beehive Stand
- Adding A Honey Super To Your Hive
- Catching A Bee Swarm (With Video)
- FOUR 5-Frame Nuc Boxes From 1 Sheet of Plywood!
- Varroa Mite Treatment For Your Apiary
- Preparing Your Hive For Honey Harvest
- Purifying Your Beeswax
- MYO Beeswax Lip Balm
- Beeswax Wraps – A Natural Solution To Plastic Wrap
…And MUCH More!
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Honey Moisture Level – https://www.honeybeesonline.com/honey-moisture-level
Oven-Sanitizing Canning Jars – https://www.theorganicprepper.com/canning-101-jar-prep/