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Early Extracting Adventures

This year has really been a banner year for honey in most of my outyard’s. As posted previously, I have been having a devil of a time keeping up with my hives. This weekend, I was already down to the last 4 Mediums from the 20 that I ordered a few weeks back. I also found a hive that had just swarmed because they had simply filled up 3 Mediums and a Shallow and were starting to fill the bottom two supers (the brood nest) – I simply dropped the ball on this one. It was time to take a new tactic. I decided to extract now, instead of waiting until late June. Taking honey from the oldest supers on my hive (capped only), I could return the next day and give them empty supers to refill (well, that’s the plan…)

Pulling 1 Medium and 4 shallows, I ended up with a little over 10 gallons of honey and a big mess in the kitchen (I’m still trying to get this process down to something that is more ‘wife friendly’…) In the process, I experimented with the ‘leaf blower’ tactic. Basically, you pull the full super off of the hive, set it up on its side and then hit it with a leaf blower to get all of the bees out of the super. I am somewhat neutral on this.

On the one hand, it was much quicker than my normal ‘take one frame at a time, brush off the bees and stick it into a sealed holding tank in my truck’. On the other hand, I did NOT get all of the bees out of the supers. When you blow them, a bunch of nurse bees (who really don’t fly) end up on the ground in the outyard. I hope they made it back to the hives. On the other hand, the bees that CAN fly simply fly back into the super as fast as you can blow them out. So, in the end, I took a bunch of bees from that yard and had to hand brush them off anyway, before I could take them into the house to extract. This would probably make more sense for someone who was extracting from a hundred supers.

The actual uncapping process probably took the longest. Since I have been in an ‘increase’ mode (this is where you split or create nuc’s from strong hives, before they can really store much honey, with the overall goal of increasing your hive count, not extracting honey), I really had mostly foundation at the start of this year. So, most of my supers required a fork to uncap, with is a bit of an arduous/tedious process. The good thing is that I put the wet supers back on with evenly spaced 9-frame setups. If they happen to fill them up again, I should be able to use my heated uncapping knife and make short work of it.

The other thing of interest was the temperature. Last year, I took honey in late-June/early-July (and again in the Fall.) It was much hotter. On the day that I extracted this weekend, the temps got into the low 50’s at night. I was worried that the honey wouldn’t come out well. Honey at lower temperatures has a higher viscosity and simply does not flow well. I could really amp up the extractor, but this was the first year that I had a bunch of frames without wires. I was already worried that they might ‘blow up’ in the extractor. It seemed a certainty if I had to really turn up the extractor to a high speed.

But, it all ended up simply being a bit of a longer process. I was able to get the honey out at lower spin speeds by simply letting it spin longer (I had plenty of time, as I had to uncap so many daggone frames with that accursed fork!!) All of the wax frames came out perfectly with no damage.

The real challenge comes later today, when the wife and daughter return from their Mother’s Day trip to her family. There seems to be wax and honey in a lot of places in this daggone kitchen and I have my doubts that I’ll get it up in time…this may be my last blog post…

4 comments to Early Extracting Adventures

  • Hah! Are you still alive?
    When I pulled off some frames, I set them in an empty hive body, covered with a pillowcase. By the end of the inspection, all of the bees had left the frames. Very handy.

    Question: if you’re harvesting honey frames why are you blowing off nurse bees?

  • @Anna,

    I did survive, with minor injuries!

    Re: Nurse bees – the first question is ‘were they nurse bees’. I can only say that they refused to fly and walked around on the ground in a patch for each of the 3 hives that I pulled honey from. Second question, why? I really don’t know. Some of the frames were not fully capped (and thus not extracted), so maybe they were working on the wax there?

  • gary conway

    uncapping not necessary unless you want wax. quickly use heat gun with no mess.

  • I’d love to know what you mean by ‘quickly use heat gun’

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