Honey Harvest 2011

Cap Removal

Honey Harvest 2011 finally arrived on Saturday! My mentor Carolyn and I took eight honey supers out to Harriton House in Bryn Marr for extraction. We pulled in three buckets of dark amber honey and are estimating our haul at over 150 pounds. We’ll have a better idea of the actual weight once we get the honey bottled.

Honey harvest is the biggest day of the year for beekeepers. A week or two before harvest day we go through our hives to see what our honey stores are like. For beekeepers, greed is not good; take too much honey and you get to feed the bees sugar twice a week for 6 months. This year’s harvest was a little different since all our honey was pulled from hives that had not survived the winter. The eight supers we brought with us came from 3 different apiaries over a 2 year time frame. Five were from our old apiaries in Delaware County and three were pulled from our West Philadelphia hives. The former had resided in a freezer where they were kept safe from heat and insects. We had some concerns that the 24 hours we gave them to thaw may not be enough to allow the honey to flow properly. Fortunately we had nothing to worry about; their ride in the extractor went off without a hitch.

Extracted honey

A big part of why things went so smoothly is because the extractor at Harriton is a beast. My previous experience is limited to three-frame tangential hand crank model. With tangential extractors the frames go in with their sides facing the wall of the barrel. You turn the crank by hand, extract from one side of the frame and then flip the frames over when the first side is done. Makes for a long day. The extractor we used over the weekend is a motorized 20 frame radial. The tops of the frames face the outside, allowing for both sides of the frames to be extracted at once. This works because the bees actually build their comb with a slight upward angle to keep honey and nectar from dripping out into the hive. It’s a win-win for bees and beekeepers.

When all was said and done it took about 4 hours to get through extraction. Now that the honey is out of the frames we’ll wait two weeks for it to settle before jarring. Big thanks go out to Carolyn for all her help with harvest, Essene Market for storing our honey and to Harriton House for the use of their extracting equipment.

Pouring honey into storage tank