Saturday. Despite getting a honey extractor, I feel unsure what to do next to extract the honey. So I was pleased when an email arrived in my inbox from Adam Fuller at A&Z Apiaries, saying that the next Eastern CT Bee Association Meeting was coming up this Saturday, and he was going to demonstrate how to extract honey from honey supers. Yay!
There was only one problem. It was to start at 1:30 on Saturday afternoon at A&Z Apiaries in Hampton, and at 1:30 on Saturday afternoons, the Scott-Danner family are about an hour south, down in Ivoryton, selling our farm produce at the Ivoryton Farmers market.
So this required some planning. In the end, we decided that we would all drive down to the market at 10:00 as usual, but then at around 11:45, I pile the kids in one of the cars with less room for carrying farmers' market stuff, and drive them north to Portland (next to Middletown) and leave them to have a playdate with a friend, and leaving Norman back at the market with the other car. This would only work if I also took some of our farmers market gear because not all of it would fit in the car Norman would be driving when he packed up to go home. Then I continue on to Hampton for the meeting. This all worked pretty well, though I still managed to arrive late. Adam was already starting his demo by the time I arrived.
When I got there, it was about 95 degrees and 88% humidity and I was about ready to pass out. Adam and half the spectators were standing in the full sun. Sweat was pouring off him and he had to periodically break off from his presentation to go inside for a bottle of water. Fortunately, there was a little shade, and I retreated to it with some other people, even though it was farther away. He was explaining that the hives he was examining had very little stored pollen, I guess because there were not that many pollen producing flowers out right now. He suggested putting pollen patties in the hives right now to make up for the deficiency.
Then he showed us something I've never seen before. One problem with extracting honey is that the bees think its theirs (silly things) and aren't about to move aside so you can steal it from them. To get the bees to move away from the honey supers down into the hive body, he used something called BeeGone. What you do is, take off the hive lid, and put on one with felt attached along the inside, onto which he had sprayed a nasty bee repellent liquid that smells awful. The bees move downwards away from this as fast as they can. After 1/2 hour or so (or 5 mins for the demo) he takes it off again, and 99% of the bees are now gone from the supers. Then he can take frames of honey out and not have to worry about how to get the bees off. I was quite impressed! The only problem, he explained, is what to do with the smelly lids when you store them for the next time you need them. You don't want to store them in your garage or shed because they are really unpleasant!! Adam said he banned his to the back woods.
As it turned out, extracting honey was apparently extremely simple. He showed us a hive that had honey supers ready to extract, pulling out a frame filled with honey. For some reason, the frames he showed us were thinly filled and easy to pull out, unlike mine that are so thickly encrusted with wax cells and honey that last time I tried pulling them out, they were so heavy, they kept dropping back into the hive and squashing bees, leading to that bee attack (see July 4th Bee Blog). I wonder if that is because he had 10 frame hives and I have 8 frame hives. Eight frame hives seem to have more space, which allows the bees to build much further out from the frame.
For the next step, we all filed into the honey house, which was a room inside his A&Z Apiaries building. It was hot and humid in there too, and even more so when 30 of us filed into the room! The room was full of huge extractor equipment, but he had borrowed a small extractor that we amateurs were more likely to be using. It was so simple. He took a capping knife, scraped off the wax along the top like slicing a cake, and placed the frame in the extractor, then turned it on. You also put a bucket under the tap at the bottom and eventually honey starts to ooze down into it. That was it. Simple. Very sticky, though.
Then you can pour it into jars. What I wasn't too sure about was whether we are supposed to heat the honey so that it doesn't end up crystalizing.
Alright, I thought, I can do that! As soon as I get home....