"We must achieve the character and acquire the skills to live much poorer than we do. We must waste less. We must do more for ourselves and for each other. It is either that or continue merely to think and talk about changes that we are inviting catastrophe to make. The great obstacle is simply this: the conviction that we cannot change because we are dependant on what is wrong. But that is the addict's excuse, and we know that it will not do."
—Wendell Berry

Friday, 19 February 2016

Time to harvest the honey.

It has been blisteringly hot this week. 37 degrees Celsius yesterday (I think that is something like 98 Fahrenheit). Even though we are in the tropics, we live at altitude and out summers rarely if ever even break 30 degrees. I am definitely getting soft. I grew up in Townsville where anything under 40 degrees is considered lovely and over 45 is "a bit warm". 
Anyway, my point is what better time to don a full head to toe bee suit and go life heavy weights in the sun? Believe me if there was an option I would not be doing it but the bees have filled their supers and are getting crowded. If this is not attended to they will soon swarm out. So I borrowed an extractor and an uncapping knife as I have not yet bought my own and today I went to work. As soon as I had thrown the feed at the various livestock I donned my bee suit and lit the hive smoker. I had already laid out all the extraction gear the day before. I then went down to the hives and first cleared the long grass from the entrances with the scythe before smoking the hives. Unfortunately the lady wife and son were out for the day so photos are limited- hands covered in honey, wax and propolis are not a good thing for cameras.
I then did a quick inspection of the new hive and found it is growing nicely. Very pleased. Then came the heavy lifting where I had to remove the supers loaded with honey from the second hive. Now each super weighs about thirty kilos when full and care must be taken when lifting. This is when I came unstuck. *Thinks to self*... "I shouldnt have picked this up like this"... TWANG... "ARGH @$#%%&*$$" and my back was well and truly "stuffed" as we say in Australia(at least this is the most polite description I can use).
Well now I was in a bit of a pickle, the honey had to be extracted today (as the supers needed to go back on the hives same day) and I had absolutely no one to help. So I dragged the supers up to the house and went off to find painkillers and a lie down for an hour.
The uncapping station. Frames are perched on the board over the tub and the hot knife is used to remove the wax cappings
Once the painkillers kicked in I got back into action. I boiled a pot of water for the uncapping knife (it is an unheated type so needs to be dipped in hot water) and began gently slicing the cappings off the cells. The scent of honey like this is just amazing, totally unlike the scent of honey in a jar. The cappings go into a tub for later sieving and draining and the combs go into the extractor two at a time.
The combs are then spun, very gently at first to remove about half the honey on one side, this reduces the weight on the comb. They are then turned around and fully spun out on the other side, then turned back and the final spinning removes the last of the honey. These combs are now empty cells and are known as "stickies". The process continues until the entire super of ten frames is done.
Time for a cuppa. Let the collected honey finish draining through the sieve and pour into the holding tank.
Repeat the whole process. Another cuppa and clean up. Return the stickies to the hives. Bees are a bit pissed off but they will get over it.
All up I think I have about thirty litres once the cappings are drained. The honey is a dark gold with a wonderful floral scent and a mid sweet floral taste. No bitter aftertaste. I am very pleased. 
I will take some honey to my neighbours, it is important to honour old traditions and a beekeeper should always see that his neighbours have honey.


  1. Love it mate! Have you seen the FlowHive setups? Twist the tap and out comes the honey?

  2. Yes I have. I like the idea but they are a bit pricey for me at the moment.