After waiting more than a year to harvest honey from the hives we have on the farm, we were busting at the seams to see what gifts awaited us from the honey bees. We started out slowly as it took us some time to understand how to use the borrowed extractor. (It turned out to be much quirkier than the one we had borrowed previously!)
To prepare the combs for the extractor we first “uncapped” them by taking a serrated knife and just barely cutting the caps off of the comb. This is where the bees have stored the honey and it flows much freer once you remove the waxed cap!
After uncapping both sides of the combs (we used 2 at a time, because we had an extractor that only supported two combs at once), you slip them into the extractor. Now comes the fun part–give the extractor a whirl by rotating the handle for about a minute and a half. We found that it’s best to have one person rotating the handle while the other sits or applies weight to the extractor to stabilize the equipment. Make sure that you flip the combs for another go around so that you have harvested honey from both sides of each comb. (This was only important for the type of extractor we used for this specific harvest.)
Repeat the capping and extracting process until all of the honey-filled combs have been harvested. Don’t forget to return the combs to the hive as the bees will do a thorough cleaning, restoring all damaged combs and rebuilding the hive throughout the next few seasons.
Once you have finished harvesting the honey, you can begin filling your jars. You may want to pack some combs into some of your jars at this point if you are one who likes wax. If you don’t like the wax, you can grab a filter to place between your jars and the spicket to make sure you get the wax out–we skip this part, because we enjoy having a little bit of wax in our honey. The closer you get to the end of filling your jars, the more the wax will come out with the honey.
Of course the whole process is quite sticky, so remember to bring a warm, wet cloth to your harvest area–but most importantly, enjoy the bounty that nature has provided! The whole process is quite beautiful and the end product is a magical and sweet gift from the bees.