My Adventures during the Fall 2011
Honey Extraction
by Donald Ray Burger

The water bills erased any doubt about whether we were in a drought. Dead trees in Memorial Park provided visible confirmation, and the 100 degree temperatures could not be ignored. And then we got 4.4 inches of rain on October 9th. Flowers bloomed. A fall honey flow flowed. The bees were happy.

But cold weather eventually arrived. We extracted on Sunday, October 30, 20ll. The low that morning was 47 degrees. We took a leisurely morning to allow everything to warm up and started getting the garage ready about noon.

We were in the beeyard at one o'clock sharp. I popped the lid on the forward hive and sprayed the fume board with Fischer's Bee-Quick. I use Fischer because the smell is actually pleasant, at least for humans. Unfortunately, due to the fact that the temperature was in the 70s, the product took a few minutes to work its magic.

Finally, the bees were off the top super of the three supers on the first hive. I pulled out a middle frame to inspect. It was heavy with honey.

Oops. That golden glistening was not what I wanted to see. The cells were all full, but uncapped. Ugh. Ditto for another frame. And another. At least there were no small hive beetles.

I replaced the frames (in order) and headed to the garage to grab an empty hive box. Apparently, the fall honey flow had allowed the bees to fill up the top super, but there hadn't been enough time for the honey to become fully cured. Thus, no caps.

In the garage I grabbed the first empty hive box I came to. Unfortunately for me (as would become clear later), it was a spare deep. I headed back to the beeyard. I sat the hive body down and one by one I removed each frame in the top super, placing the frames into the empty box I had placed next to the hive. This allowed me to avoid lifting the full medium onto the ground.

When all the frames were out, I sat the now empty medium aside, re-sprayed the fume board and placed it onto the middle super. That super was full of capped honey except for the end frames. We repeated the process for the bottom super, which looked excellent.

We took the two medium boxes of frames to the garage. I then returned to the beeyard and, ignoring good back safety, I heaved the hive box of uncapped frames back onto the hive. Unfortunately, just after lifting it, I realized that the empty box I had grabbed was a deep, not a medium. I had medium frames in a deep, and that would surely violate bee space, and be a total mess of burr comb shortly. Double ugh.

I had to find an empty medium box, lower the deep back onto the ground, place the medium on the hive and move the frames from the deep to the medium. Fortunately, the Buckfast bees took it all in stride, without aggravation.

After this interlude, we went back to rob the rear hive. It was the same story. The top medium was full, but uncapped. The bottom medium contained fully capped honey. I left the uncapped medium on the hive.

Extraction went fine, albeit slowly. Honey doesn't flow readily in the low 70s!

We looked at each frame before uncapping it. Of the twenty-seven frames we took back to the garage, I rejected nine of them as possessing too many uncapped cells. Some of the frames had all capped cells on one side and all uncapped cells on the other. I put the "rejected" frames outside (away from the hives) for the bees to clean. There was some concern that the bees wouldn't get the honey in the capped cells. Not to worry. By Monday afternoon all the cells were totally clean, whether capped or not.

Lessons learned:
(1) make sure you have some painted empty medium boxes around because you may need them.
(2) 80s are better for extraction than 70s.
(3) Don't harvest uncapped honey and don't worry about putting frames with both capped and uncapped cells out for the neighborhood bees to clean up. They will do fine.
(4) Relax and enjoy the experience.

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