Sweet Rewards

Last Sunday, my dad and I inspected the hives to check the honey production.  It was a hot, sunny afternoon and the bees were happy and paying no attention to us.

The super we’ve been watching has filled up slowly over the past several weeks.   Here’s a frame from a couple of weeks ago.

There are 10 frames to one super. This is one side of one frame.  The top half is capped honey.

There are 10 frames to one super. This is one side of one frame. The top half is capped honey.

I was a little concerned that with all the rain we’ve had, although great for the gardens, washes off pollen from flowers.  Also, flowers and veggies that should’ve have been blooming had not started yet.  So if pollen is not available for pollinating flowers, and nectar is not available either, what’s a bee to do??  In other words, I didn’t know what to expect.

bee and frame

Beginning honey production at the top of another frame. This frame also has brood (baby bees) in the right hand corner

This is what we saw last Sunday.

honey harvest bee

This frame is full of honey on both sides.  Nine of the ten frames were full.  The tenth frame was half full and we decided to leave it alone based on the fact that we weren’t sure what to do.  We did decide though it was time to have our very first honey harvest.

We harvested on Thursday which was predicted to be very hot.  We decided to get started around ten o’clock.  I lit the smoker, we donned our gear and took the necessary equipment to the hive.

One thing I did not have was a fume board.  A fume board is used to drive the bees off the honey super.  When we looked at the super last Sunday, there were very little bees in it.  This was not the case on Thursday.  Maybe (probably) it was the time of day but bees were everywhere and they Did. Not. Like. Me. taking their honey.  I got my first sting(s) that day and mentally put a fume board on my list of necessary equipment to have.

A full super (I used a medium-sized super) weighs about 50 pounds full of honey.  Too heavy and bulky for me to lift.  And since there were so many bees in the super anyway, we decided to remove the frames one at a time and put them in an ice chest to transport them.

My dad built a canning kitchen inside his barn a couple of years ago.  This turned out to be the best place to do the honey harvest. We had all the equipment set up and ready to go.

He has a friend that gave us a honey extractor.  This is by far the best invention ever.

honey harvest bee

It only holds 2 frames at a time.  If we had more hives it would be nice to have one that held 10 frames but this one was fine for our nine frames.  It is a hand cranked model with a honey gate at the bottom.

Before extracting the honey, though, you have to uncapped the frames.  Before bees cap (or seal) the honey they fan the honey to change the moisture content.  Too much moisture, the honey will ferment.  Believe it or not, bees know when the correct moisture has been reached.  Studies have shown that the moisture content of capped honey is a consistent 17%.  Another reason to be amazed at this creature.

This was our setup for uncapping.

bee frame honey

A plastic tub I found in the storage closet cleaned thoroughly.  A piece of wire mesh placed in the tub to catch the cappings, and a stick to go across the tub to hold the frame.  Cappings hold honey as well so the wire mesh helps separate cappings from honey.

honey harvest bee

honey at bottom of cappings tub

The same friends that gave us the extractor also gave us a heated uncapping knife.

honey harvest bee

We stood the frame on its end and, starting at the top, slid the knife down the frame.  For the areas the knife didn’t cut, a uncapping tool was used.  The uncapping tool has several separate, metal projections that when scrapped across a frame will open the caps.

honey harvest bee

Dad’s fast at uncapping

after uncapping tool was used

after uncapping tool was used

The uncapping tool would work fine is you didn’t have the knife, but I can tell you the knife is nice.  Very quick but expensive to buy and I am so very grateful to the friends that gave it to us.

When that was completed, we placed  two frames in the extractor and began to crank.

bee frame extractor

extractor in motion

We cranked a total of ten minutes to remove all honey from the frames.  Five minutes for one side and then we took them out flipped them to the other side and five more minutes.  After twenty or so minutes of this, my assistant (a retired electrician and also my dad) began thinking of ways to  power this baby up.

dad honey harvest 2015 bee

And believe me we discussed this at length.

After four frames, we could feel and see honey pooling in the bottom of the extractor.  We set up a bucket (also equipped with a honey gate) under the extractor and opened up the gate.

honey and beeI should also mention we put 2 different sizes  of strainers over the bucket.  These filters sit on top of each other and filter out any debris that came off the frames.

honey harvest bee

honey harvest bee

We repeated with the remaining frames.

After the honey is strained into the bucket, you can either bottle it right away or let it sit overnight.  When it sits overnight, air bubbles move to the top and can be skimmed off.  Air bubbles do not affect the taste or quality of the honey, it is just a cosmetic issue.  I decided to let mine sit because 1) I had no jars ready and 2) because I was tired.  They say people get into bees because of the honey and they get out of the bees because of the honey.  It takes time and it was a days work for me and my dad to do only nine frames.

But I forgot about all the hard work when I tasted it.

honey and bee

Oh my.  The honey is very dark so it’s probably not all from the clover in the fields.  It has a bold flavor so I can’t say what it’s from.  Bees have a 3-mile radius from the hive and I don’t know of any particular crops around this radius.   My neighbor told me his Linden tree was full of bees when it was blooming so maybe a variety of tree blooms?  I don’t know.  I do know that I have 45 pounds of pure raw honey sitting in my kitchen.

this is only half of the honey harvest

this is only half of the honey harvest

honey harvest bee honey harvest bee

In the bee classes I took 2 years ago, we were told that one bee makes 1/12 of a teaspoon of honey in its lifetime.  45 pounds of honey equals 2882 teaspoons.  That’s a lot of bees working very hard to give us this sweet treat.

Really makes me appreciate them even more.

bees 3/12/15

Now excuse me while I go find a biscuit….


I am happy to link with the Chicken Chick at


About the blonde gardener

I'm an Arkansas girl born and raised. I garden in the beautiful Northwest part of the state (zone 6b or 7) surrounded by the Ozark Mountains. My favorite part about the area is we have 4 distinct seasons and are able to enjoy a variety of activities. My main passion is gardening but I also enjoy hiking, birding, 4-wheeling and motorcycle trips. Basically anything outside. Thanks for stopping by! Brenda
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30 Responses to Sweet Rewards

  1. Pingback: Sweet Rewards | The Blonde Gardener | WORLD ORGANIC NEWS

  2. Alex says:

    Great write-up of your harvest.
    I have always wondered about the claims of “this honey is from this or that”. I believe you would have to have an extremely strong colony to be able to harvest after each bloom event.
    We discovered creamed honey this year. If you’ve never tried it, I highly recommend it.
    It can be a long journey to that first harvest, but a highly rewarding one. Amazing creatures!
    Once again, congratulations on your harvest.


  3. My grandpa, my mom’s dad was a beekeeper when he was alive. He taught me a lot of valuable lessons about bee keeping. There are lots of crucial facts about how to protect bees and not being greedy to take too much of their hard working honey. You have lots of wonderful photos, thanks for sharing! 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  4. I’m glad you went into detail. My first dumb question was — do the bees cap the honey — and that was later explained. I’m so glad you still have your Dad. Miss mine.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Lovely and so informative. You make me wish… 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  6. bittster says:

    Congratulations, that’s a lot of honey! Your bees have done very well and it’s great to have this success under your belt. Here’s to may years of healthy hives!

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Buffy says:

    Wow! that looks yummy!

    Liked by 1 person

  8. ericrynne says:

    My friends The Honey Ladies, definitely approve of this message! Lol and so do I, looks great!

    Liked by 1 person

  9. Gosh, that is incredible! 45 pounds is a lot of honey! Will you use all of it? Hope things are drying out for you Brenda. Happy Fourth!

    Liked by 1 person

  10. What sweet sticky fun and yummy treats…worth the effort and oh that dark honey looks amazing!

    Liked by 1 person

  11. Your first honey harvest – how exciting! And I can believe the honey is so much better than what is bought in stores. Here’s hoping your dad figures out how to motorize the harvest!

    Liked by 1 person

  12. Does honey weigh about like water? I mean would it be about eight pounds to the gallon? So 45 pounds would be about 4 or 5 gallons?!


  13. The Lite Rider says:

    Nice to be reading again. A couple I know kept bees for many years. They finally sold their remaining hives last year. It was great to read about your success with all of this! 🙂


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