Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Harvesting Honey

In the wild, honey bees build a nest of beeswax honey comb in a shape to accommodate a tree cavity, a crevice, or the walls of a house. Many of these natural honey bee nests have similar structures. The entrance is usually low. Above the entrance is the brood area surrounded by a thin layer of pollen and a thicker layer of honey. The pollen and honey are kept close to the brood for ease of feeding the developing larvae. If a strong nectar flow occurs and there is surplus of honey to be stored in the hive, the bees usually place it above the brood nest. As the bees make more honey, they expand the storage area upward. Modern bee hives borrow this natural honey bee nest design. The entrance is at the bottom of the hive. Above the entrance is the brood nest area, and above that the honey storage area. The honey is stored in boxes which can be superimposed one on top of another. The boxes are thus called “supers.”

There are numerous ways to remove the honey from the bee hive. Some beekeepers wait until all of the surplus honey is ready and then remove it at one time. Here at Peace Bee Farm, we prefer to continuously remove frames of honey as they become fully ripened by the bees. We can tell that the honey is ready to be removed from the hive because the bees cap the cells of honey once they have evaporated the honey until there is only an 18 percent water content. At this concentration of sugars in the honey, the liquid honey can be extracted mechanically; and the honey will last forever. In the photo, Rita gently brushes the bees from a frame of honey ready to extract. Handled in this manner, the bees hardly recognize that they have been robbed of their honey.

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