Farm Focus: Harvesting Honey
It's August and our harvest crews are working hard to bring in all of the delicious bounty of late summer. But fruit and veggies aren't the only thing being harvested at Frog Hollow. It's honey harvest season too! Kelly, of Miss Bee Haven Honey, who keeps hives throughout our farm, has been buzzing through the orchard inspecting and collecting the liquid gold.
Last week, Rachel and Alex spent a couple of days with Kelly to help her bring in the harvest. All geared up in their hoods and veils, they went out in the morning and started the process of inspecting and gathering. First, to mellow the bees out, Kelly puts smoke around the hive. Following that, they crack open the lid of the first super( bee box) using a tool that resembles a small crow bar. The lids aren't always easy to crack because they are often sealed shut with sticky propolis. Then, to make inspection and extraction of the honey frames easier, a "push" strategy is applied where a fume board, which is kind of like another box with an open bottom that has been lightly sprayed with almond extract, is placed on top of the first super. The bees don't like the extract, so most of them fly down to the bottom of the hive away from the super that holds the honey frames. It makes it a lot easier to extract the frames when they aren't swarming with bees!
With most of the bees hanging out at the bottom of the hive, each frame is inspected. The frames sit inside the top super kind of like files in a filing cabinet. The frames which are full of honey are removed and placed in an empty super on the back of Kelly's truck. Those that are half full of honey or that are housing larvae yet to be hatched are left in the super for another time.
For every frame that is removed, another is put in its place. Kelly uses two kinds of frames in her hives. Those that have preformed combs inside the frame which the bees will fill with honey (or larvae) and frames which are empty inside. The bees will make their own combs within the empty frames. The comb that comes from the empty frames is what Kelly uses for her cut comb honey (or honey comb /chunk honey).
After two days of hard work in the orchard, Kelly is off with truckloads of frames to a colleague’s place who has a centrifuge. The centrifuge will spin the honey out of the frames and then be jarred. Lucky for us, Rachel and Alex were sent back to the offices with two bee formed frames that were slightly broken. We don't have a centrifuge, so we all got to take several chunks of comb straight from the frame and then we squeezed the rest out into a colander and let the honey drain into a bowl below. Oh, how sweet farm life can be!
Stay tuned for when Miss Bee Haven’s Frog Hollow Blast and chunk honey become available. You DON'T want to miss these sweet treats!