The Honey Collection Process




Filtering for Botteling

    Honey collection is one of the main reasons most people think of when it comes to tending to honey bees. We have discussed in previous pages that there is so much more; but this being a large part of business, we would like to try and help you gain a better understanding of the process that brought you the honey that sits on your breakfast table.
    We have touched on the workers role of gathering nectar, putting it into the comb, evaporating the water from it so it turns to honey, and capping the cell to preserve it. This description could be much more pointed, but that is the long and short of it. After this, we as keepers come in and remove any extra honey that the bees might have stored while leaving more than enough for the hive to sustain itself through the winter or until the reserve can be rebuilt. This process not only allows us to gain honey for our own use, but it puts a small amount of stress on the hive so that it will continue to produce and grow.
    The collection process begins with the keeper gathering all needed equipment and supplies, putting on protective equipment, and getting a “smoke” going in his smoker. Then as he approaches the hive, he “introduces” himself to the hive by forcing smoke through the entrance into the hive and begins to take the cover and inner-cover from the top. The first box he comes to is the honey super. Here the keeper goes through each frame and if there is enough honey stored he will set it aside for future processing. While in the hive and after going through the supers, the keeper will closely examine the frames, wax, bees, and queen of the brood chamber to ensure good health and no disease or infestation in need of treatment.
    After reassembling the hive and replacing any full supers with empty supers, those that are full of honey (Approx. 40 or 50 lbs.) will be taken back to extract the honey from the comb. Here the keeper will take a knife, usually an electrically heated knife, and cut the capping off to expose the honey within each cell of the comb. This is done over a collection vessel that will allow any honey that has escaped to be collected and captured. After this, the frames are put into a machine called an extractor. Using centrifugal force, the honey then is slung out of the comb and collected in the bottom of the machine to be strained and bottled. This allows the comb to be saved, placed back on the hive, and gives the hive a head start in restocking their honey reserves by not requiring comb to be rebuilt. Any wax collected during the process that is not eligible for return to the hive is melted into a block, shipped to a manufacturer, processed into foundation, and returned to the keeper for future use.
   Depending on the water content of the gathered honey and the classification that is wished to be achieved will dictate any further processing such as pasteurization or crystallization. At Culpepper Apiaries we deliver only the best raw, organic, least processed honey available. Our product is as close as possible to the honey as it was in the hive. It is largely agreed that the best preservation available for honey is for it to be left capped in the comb, but most customers prefer not to have to extract the honey themselves.
   I hope this explanation and site as a whole has lessened the information gap and has allowed you to better understand the honey bee. The next time your attention is drawn to a bee or you are adding honey to your favorite dish or meal I hope you remember the irreplaceable role they play in our way of life. Thanks for visiting!