How Sweet It Is…

Last night, the SR Apiculture Collective and SR staff conducted the first 2013 honey extraction of both the SR and McGill hives.

Before honey supers can be brought indoors for processing, they must be emptied of bees. There are multiple methods to remove the bees, but we prefer to use a bee escape board. Bee escapes are devices that allow bees to head down and out of the hive, but not back in the same way. We use a triangular escape, which consists of a wooden cover with two, interlocking sets of triangles in the center, which are covered over with wire mesh. It is installed in between honey supers and supers that will be left with the bees. We leave the bee escape board installed on the hive for about a day or two, and voila!, no bees (except for maybe a few stragglers), just pure liquid gold.

Well, actually it’s not entirely pure liquid gold quite yet. We actually have to go through multiple steps to make the honey look like the honey we all know and love. First, we have to collect the honey supers. This is a group effort, as the honey supers become extremely heavy when weighed down with honey. Here’s Tim collecting one of the supers from the rooftop at SR:

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“Experts” say that honey is most easily extracted if the room temperature is between 26.6 and 32.2 degrees, so we were lucky to be in the middle of a Montreal heatwave today. To ensure one stays hydrated, it is highly recommended to ensure that there is plenty of ice cold beer available:

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Once a frame of honey is at least three-quarters sealed with wax cappings, it is ready to be removed from the hive and processed. The wax cappings on the filled cells must be removed before extracting the honey. Once honeybees completely fill a cell with honey, they cap it with an airtight wax seal. If the cap is not airtight, the honey will abosrb moisture form the air, making it susceptible to bacterial or fungal growth. The frame below has mostly capped honey around the upper half of the frame and a small section of uncapped honey at the bottom of the frame.

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Here’s a closer look at the capped honey:

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To uncap the honey,we cut away the top layer of wax with an uncapping knife or a fork. We cut the cappings off both sides of the frame, letting then drop into a plastic container.

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The uncapping procedure means that beeswax is an automatic by-product of extracted honey. Moreover, capping wax is the very best beeswax because it is virgin wax from this season and relatively free of accumulated debris and contaminants. When rendered, premium beeswax has a pleasing aroma and lemon-yellow color. Here’s some beeswax that the bees have built on top of some frames of honey that we are about to extract:

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After it is uncapped, each frame is loaded into the extractor. Below is our honey extractor…actually it’s all of us hanging out around the extractor discussing the evening’s game plan:

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The extractor we use holds two frames, and it works better when the weight is balanced equitably to prevent the extractor from walking across the floor as we spin it. Here is our creative way of ensuring that the extractor doesn’t jump away while being spun:

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Once loaded, we begin to spin the frames slowly, then gradually faster. Centrifugal force flings the honey out of the empty cells on the walls of the extractor, where it drips to the bottom. When the first side is done, we reverse the combs and begin spinning the other side.

Honey requires straining to remove bits of wax and other debris. We used a sophisticated bucket and mesh system (note the clothespins to hold the mesh!) to strain out the debris from the honey.

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Once the filtering process is over, we pour the beautiful honey into glass jars:

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We will let everyone know soon when, where, and how much this beautiful honey will be for sale.

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