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Monday, August 8, 2016

The "Honey Harvesting" Story

A bottle of "Hal's Other Honey."
It was an ordinary day.  Hal and his wife Jeannie had just arrived for supper and presented me with a bottle of his own honey which he told Carol is known as "Hal's Other Honey."  It was about two weeks ago that I went with Hal to his brother-in-law's home in York County, PA to harvest his honey from this year's hives.  Quite a few members of the York County Beekeeper's Association brought their supers loaded with honey frames to the basement workshop of Hal's brother-in-law George.  George owns a centrifugal extractor and the other necessary equipment needed which is used to extract the honey from the frames. 
Hal loading his supers into the rear of my car.
I had stopped at Hal's house near Lititz, PA and we loaded his supers into the rear of my car and headed to York.  After arrival we entered George's garage workshop to be greeted by the sweet smell of honey from the four to five dozen
 supers stacked along one wall of the workshop.  The floor was covered with layer after layer of newspaper which was to help keep the garage floor from becoming coated with honey.  Wasn't long before more keepers began to arrive and jobs were assigned to all in attendance.  My camera was busy documenting the process of honey harvesting which I would like to share with you by way of my visuals with some commentary as to how the process is done.

My friend Hal begins the harvest process by removing the frames from the super.
This is one frame that holds perhaps 5 pounds of honey after harvesting. 
The next step is to remove the caps over the honey.  These caps were placed on top of the honey by the bees to protect it.  This worker is using a long knife to remove the caps.
Another method of removing the caps is by using this roller which opens the caps so the honey can be removed.
George, on the right, is placing the frames in his centrifugal extractor.  He is trying to balance the frames by weight so that when the extractor is turned on, it will spin evenly.  Some frames carry more honey than others, so it is important to load the extractor with that in mind. 
You can see the extractor revolving the frames while the honey is removed from the frames.  The honey runs to the side of the extractor and down the sides to the bottom.
At the bottom of the extractor is a valve that can be opened to allow the honey to exit into 5-gallon food grade buckets. Wax scrapings from the uncapping of the frames may also be part of this honey. This will eventually be removed after floating to the top.
The busy bees all have a job to do during the process of removing the honey from the frames.  The extractor tank with valve is to the right in the photo so you can see the size of it. Notice the paper on the floor which helps collect the honey that falls from the frames as they move around the room.  A very sticky operation.  I had to be careful I didn't touch the frames or tools or I could transfer the honey to my camera.
There are naturally some bees which are still in the supers and they escape and tend to gather near any light source.
The caps that are removed from the honey can be turned into bees wax.
Behind George's house is this solar unit.  The cloth bag can be filled with the caps and when the sunlight melts it, the pure bee's wax filters through the fabric and drops it into the aluminum foil tray under it. The excess debris remains in the bag gets discarded. That tray will provide blocks of bee's wax to be used in the manufacture of candles.
The above procedure was fun and amazing to watch.  The days efforts yielded 13 5-gallon buckets of honey (800 pounds) that hold not only pure honey, but some debris.  The debris will surface over time yielding the pure honey that you buy at the grocery store. After watching the procedure I have a hard time understanding why the price of honey isn't much higher than it really is. After my visit today I have more admiration and respect for those who enjoy beekeeping as a hobby. You don't do this as a hobby to make money, but just for the enjoyment of seeing how nature really works.  It was another extraordinary day in the life of an ordinary guy.

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