1. Honey starts out as nectar in the flowers.
2. The bees collect the nectar and bring it back to the hive where they fan air over the nectar with their wings to bring it from about 90% water content down to about 18% water content.
When the nectar is first stored in the combs by the bees, it is high in moisture content and the honeycomb cells are open and uncapped.
3. After the bees have evaporated the water from the nectar down to about 18% moisture content, they cap the cells over with a thin layer of beeswax.
4. That's when we know the honey is ready to harvest. All of our honey is harvested the last week of July and the first two weeks of August. Honey that the bees bring in after that is left for them to raise healthy winter bees.
We use a bee blower to gently blow the bees from the honey boxes.
This is the most gentle way to remove the bees from the boxes. Other methods include using strong smelling chemicals that run the bees out of the boxes (We don't like to use chemicals that may impart a flavor to the honey) or brushing the bees off of the combs (Time consuming and bees can be injured by the brush. Bees also get very angry when brushed off of the combs.).
When the bees are blown out of the boxes directly in front of their hives, they quickly run right back in. Here is a video of the scurrying bees.
5. The boxes, called supers, filled with honey are brought back to the honey house for extracting. Extracting is the process of spinning the honey from the combs.
6. To remove the honey from the combs, we use a machine called an extractor which is basically just a centrifuge. Before we can spin the honey from the comb, we need to remove the wax cappings that the bees placed over each cell. To do this we use a machine call an uncapper. This is what that looks like:
7. After the combs go through the uncapper, we scratch off any additonal cappings that the machine missed.
8. From there, we slide the combs into the extractor to spin the honey from the combs.
9. The extractor can spin honey from 28 combs at one time. Each comb holds a little over 3# of honey.
10. The combs on the left side of this picture are empty and can be reused next year. Reusing the combs saves the bees all of the work and resources of having to build new combs each year. The beeswax in the combs is made by the bees and it is estimated that it takes 7# of honey to make 1# of beeswax.
11. After the honey is extracted, it goes though a strainer to remove the large chunks of wax. These course strainers allows the natural pollen in the honey to pass through with the honey. We do not filter our honey.
12. We let the honey settle over night to remove air bubbles and it is ready for bottling.
13. We take great care in bringing your honey from the hive to the bottle to insure that all the goodness the bees put in the honey, stays in the honey!