Honey Harvesting

This week I've been in the middle of harvesting honey, including finishing last year's honey harvest. I was trying to remember why we didn't finish the honey harvest last year but honestly, 2020 was just such a horrific nightmare that anything I got done was a victory.

Our honey strainer was loaded with honey and we'd put it out in the sun which was a minor disaster. Basically, the wax melted and a bunch of slumgum -- bee cocoon sheaths and other gunk -- got stuck to the strainer. Step one was to clean it out by straining the honey out from the wax and other crud:

Straining honey into the bucket

Fortunately this is actually pretty easy and involved just running the honey through a double sieve into a honey bucket. It takes a while if you don't have a room heated up to make the honey run faster, but I just set it up, made sure it wouldn't overflow, then went into my office to work.

Blobby melted comb straining

After a while, the blobs of wax were plugging up the honey gate, so I scooped them out and put them in the sieve to drip off.

All told, more than 30 lbs of honey was easily salvaged. Maybe another pound or so was crystallized onto the wax and not worth trying to save.

The honey bucket has a leak

I thought I'd leave the honey in the bucket until I could get jars, but the next morning it was clear I could not do that, because the honey gate on the bucket was leaky.

Two dozen jars of honey

So I ended up just decanting it into pint jars. This is the size I prefer for honey jars, anyway. But I do have more jars on order.

Cheapo homemade wax melter

After all that, I rinsed the blobby wax out in the sink to get the honey off it, at least as well as I could. Then I made a cheapo wax melter with a cooler, a piece of glass, and a foil roasting pan.

As you can see, this is an AMERICAN wax melter. As such, it does not really work very well and tends to make a big mess. If you try to adjust it, you get burnt. The jokes just write themselves.

With the old honey out of the way, I was ready to start working on this year's harvest. I have four total boxes of honey to deal with. And let's see our first candidate.

Honey comb built sideways across the frames

These bees make me crazy sometimes. The comb on these frames is build sideways, making it impossible to pull one frame out and deal with it. So I turned the entire box of frames upside-down into the strainer.

The same sideways honeycomb, on the other side

This is the other side of the same box of frames. They made a herringbone of comb.

In the middle of breaking the mess apart

So how to deal with that? A knife, a willingness to stick your hands in honey up to the elbows, and a bit of patience.

Chunks of comb ready to be crushed

Here's the comb cut out of the frames and ready to be processed.

We mostly process honey with crush-and-strain, which is exactly what it sounds like. That means combs like these crazy combs are not a huge problem: we just cut the comb out, crush it, and strain the honey out. It's time-consuming but it works OK at the small levels of production we have.

Crushed comb

And after I went at it with the potato masher for half an hour.

Honey straining out of the comb

After crushing it, I let it drip through tray overnight at least. Then I can go back to the beginning of the post and decant it through the sieve into a bucket. Of course, I can't decant it into our bucket because it has a leak, but once the replacement honey gate arrives I can get this back on track.

Waste brood comb

At the very center of the mess of comb was some brood comb. I don't crush that into the honey, but I will wash it off, then send it through the wax melter.

One box down, one more in the back hall to go, and two more still outside. We are going to have a silly amount of honey.

posted by ayse on 08/08/21

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