The second instalment in my Organics photo project is here! It’s been over a year since my last post about the Daybreak Mill in this on going project looking at various aspects of Organic farming. This time around, we are looking at harvesting honey.
Most people are unaware that the majority of human civilization depends not on new, cutting edge technology, iPhones or indoor plumbing. What we do depend on are tiny, buzzing, stinging, pollinating insects known as bees. Yes, bees. They have an enormous part to play in the human food supply and it turns out we need them a lot more than they need us. And they are in trouble. Read on…
In recent history, bees have been dying at an alarming rate. Some debate about why this is happening has gone on. The long and short of it is covered in this TED Talk by Marla Spivak.
At the same time, more and more interest has been shown by homesteaders, farmers and even city folk with backyards about keeping bees and harvesting the honey. It is a developing trend. And few trends can be more delicious than fresh off the comb, unprocessed honey!
The first stage in the bee game is getting your hives setup and going. Once they are established with a good queen it doesn’t take these industrious little buzzers long before they have filled the frames in the super. On August 8th of this year, I was able to go and see the process first hand out at Glenys and Mark Neuman’s farm. They have begun keeping bees and have a small “beginning” setup like what most enthusiasts would have. It is truly an amazing process! They let the first two layers of supers fill up as a food pantry for the hive. Any supers on top of that are up for grabs to harvest.
After smoking the hive and gently brushing away any bees that might still be in the super box, the full honey frames are then brought in for harvest. It’s a straightforward process of de-capping the combs with a special tool that looks like a hair pick. You gently pick your way across the frame and remove the end cap that the bees put over the comb, making it easy for the honey to spin out in the extractor.
The 45 gallon drum has two frame holders inside that are attached to a hand crank. Centrifugal force spins the honey in the frame out into the extractor drum. This photo shows the honey spinning out in long strands:
From there, the separated honey simply pools at the bottom and drains out through a tap where it is filtered and made ready for jars. The empty frames are then ready to go back into the supers where the bees will quickly refill them. This honey harvest, where two supers were cleaned out, produced 10 gallons of honey (5 per super). And it only takes 7-10 days for the bees to fill them up again!
Honey is a super food in that it is the only food source on earth that will never ever go bad. It has no expiry date. And more and more studies are showing that it contains many healing properties as well from being chocked full of antioxidants to providing relief from sour throats and coughs. And it tastes great! I can’t overstate this enough. There is absolutely nothing like eating this pure honey straight from the comb. Two words: flavour country! 😀 More and more resources are becoming available for bee keeping for beginners all the time. Give a quick search on YouTube if this is something that might be up your alley. And finally, a big thanks to Mark and Glenys Neuman for being part of this project. And . . . I only got stung once! 😉