Friday, February 8, 2013

Bee Keeping 101 (Finale!)

Wow! We've done it! I've made it through my first ever week-long series (yes, I know it was technically a little longer) and you've read them as fast as I could post them (and if you need to catch up on any, here's parts 1, 2, 3, 4 and 5!).

This final installment will be on the best part of beekeeping...harvesting, and ending with links to some of my favorite recipes.

Harvesting the Honey

The main nectar flow is between April and June with another (smaller) flow in the fall. Follow the pollen counts on the news/weather and when pollen is high, that is when bees are making the most honey.

Do not harvest until the honeycomb in capped. The honey has an18-20% moisture content before it is capped and it will go rancid if harvested. The bees will quickly flap their wings to dry the honey and then they know when it is at 16% moisture and then they will cap the honey. (I don't know about you but this fact amazes me!)

Smoke the bees. Pull out the frames that are capped and tap on the ground to remove bees and place in empty box away from the hive.

Take to the honey house at Brown’s Orchard ($5 to use). (Note: The floor is very sticky and it is recommended to take a sheet to lay on the floor so your feet are not stuck all the time!) Warm the caps with a heating gun or warm knife.

Put frames in centrifuge to spin the wax and honey out of the frames. The honey will then come out of a spigot at the bottom of the tub. Pour into bucket with strainer over it to catch wax and debris (such as dead bees). 

1 hive= 15 frames = approximately 5 gallons= 65 lbs (40-60 lbs is average for one hive per year and honey is heavier than water).

Allow the honey to sit in the bucket for a few days. Any impurities will float to the top and can be removed. Then store the honey in glass jars. Honey never spoils (they have even found edible honey in Egyptian tombs!) but it can crystallize.  If this happens, just put the jar in a warm water bath and it will liquefy again. Once honey crystallizes it will re-crystallize faster so you may wish to use it a.s.a.p.

You can purchase your own equipment to harvest the honey but you are looking at hundreds of dollars. There are hand crank varieties that are cheaper than electric but a lot of work! You can make the hand crank ones go with a drill, but I don’t fully understand how that all works :P

It IS legal to sell honey from your home provided you have sourced it yourself and are not selling it at any public location (market, etc.), just your home or stand.

Once you are done harvesting for the year, leave the frames out so the hive is smaller for the winter. You do need to be careful when storing used frames so that other critters do not take up residence on them and they will most likely need cleaned before usage the following year. (I need some more information on the best storage methods.)

Every 3 years get new frames as the bee’s wax absorbs pesticides from the pollen and nectar and will turn black.


Honey is great for soothing coughs, warding off colds and I've read taking raw honey can also help reduce seasonal allergies. Personally, I take raw honey whenever I feel run down or like I may be getting sick. Add some cinnamon for extra disease-fighting power, without any horrid antibiotics (honey is a natural antibiotic)!

I've also read that raw honey on cuts and wounds can help them heal faster and without infection although I have not tried it.

Use as a sweetener in drinks and recipes instead of sugar.

Use as a spread on toast, bagels or English muffins instead of (or in addition to) butter.

Coconut Muffins/Cupcakes (I eat these almost daily!)
Chocolate Chewy Granola Bars (I love these! They are my go-to snack when I am hungry or just need something a little sweet, and oh so healthy!)

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