Harvesting excess honey is a sign of a good year with enough rain to keep the flowers blooming, but not too much so the bees keep flying. With excess honey you eventually want to bottle— what to do? There are several ways you can harvest your honey, uncap your frames, extract the honey from the frames, filter the honey, and contain it for bottling. In addition, you may want to process excess wax you’ve collected. Here’s a breakdown of what’s what with the honey harvesting and processing process:
Harvest: There are three main ways to harvest your honey: with a bee brush, one frame at a time, with an escape board or with a fume board. An escape board is essentially a “door” you put on your hive. The bees walk out of the honey super and cannot find their way back, clearing it of bees in about 24 hours. A fume board has a more immediate effect. Lined with a cloth insert, you spray one of two bee repellents (Bee-Quick or Bee-Go) onto it. The bees hate the smell so they leave the honey super within a few minutes.
Uncap: “Uncapping” refers to removing the thin beeswax covering off your honey frames to expose your honey. When uncapping you want to do as little damage to the frames as possible, as the drawn comb can be reused to help give your bees a head start on refilling the box. The layer of wax that you scrape or cut off your honey frames is called cappings. Be sure to strain the honey from the cappings and add it to your honey harvest (it can contain a lot of honey!). The beeswax you strain out can be rinsed with water and saved to later melt into beeswax cakes.
Extract: This is the process by which you remove the honey out of the frames, either by draining in a warm place or by using centrifugal force with a honey extractor. The latter is by far the fastest method if you have more than a few frames to harvest. Beekeeping clubs often have harvesting and extracting parties or an extracting kit you can borrow to extract your honey with minimal monetary investment. We carry a large variety of equipment, some of which can be upgraded later. We have something available for every budget!
Filter: With uncapping and extracting you will get more than just honey. Beeswax, propolis, and even a couple bee parts are typical. Unless you prefer this in your honey you will want to strain or filter them out. We use two stage filters or cheesecloth over a larger gauged sieve. This filtering process still allows much of the pollen to pass through.
Bottle: Now that your honey is strained you are ready to bottle. By far the easiest way for the beginner to bottle is to use a plastic bucket with a gate at the bottom. Using gravity you can easily fill the containers you wish to sell, give away, or keep! When your honey sales have grown, consider buying a heated bottling tank and perhaps, an automatic filler.