Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Uncapping the Honey

Once the frames of honey have been removed from the bee hives, they are taken to a facility, usually called a honey house, where the honey can be removed. Honey houses are clean work areas housing the equipment for handling the honey. When the supers of honey first arrive in the honey house, they may be held for a day in a warm room to ensure the honey will flow freely. Honey readily absorbs moisture from the atmosphere, so it may be necessary to have a dehumidifier running to dry the air in the room. When the bees make the honey, they ripen it by evaporating the water in the honey. When the water content reaches 18 percent, the honey bees cap the cells of honey with beeswax. Once the cells are capped, the honey is in a condition that will last indefinitely. It is important that the honey be handled soon after it is brought into the honey house. If small hive beetles were brought into the honey house in the frames of honey, the beetle larvae can damage or destroy the honey, beeswax, and frames of honeycomb.

The first procedure performed in the honey house is the removal of the beeswax cappings to expose the honey. The cappings may be removed by machinery, or they may be cut off by hand. Beekeepers often use a heated knife to remove the cappings. Caution should be observed when using a hot knife, as any heat applied to the honey can alter its color, aroma, and flavor. At Peace Bee Farm we prefer to use a sharp, serrated, unheated knife. In today’s photo, Rita holds a frame of uncapped honey, ready to be placed in the honey extractor. After the honey is removed in the extractor, the frames are stored over winter to be returned to the hives in the spring. The cut-off beeswax cappings hold some honey which is collected when it is allowed to drip overnight into the uncapping tank.

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