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Extracting honey took so much effort it may never be worth it again

 
pollinator
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Peoples, that took FOREVER and the pay off, I don't know. We probably have 1-2 gallons of honey from what is going on 3 days of work now. Of course, it's not 3 days of constant work it's a lot of waiting for things to filter and drip down.

I borrowed a 2 frame honey spinner. I think I had 10 frames that were spinnable. I had some frames that I didn't use plastic foundation with and the bees didn't go straight down and I couldn't spin the honey from them. So, I removed the comb from them, put them in cheesecloth and squished them up so the honey would drip down into a bucket.

Anyway, just took a lot of time and effort and I'm not sure it was worth it.

So I must be doing it wrong or something stupid because it just was terrible!
 
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just imagine what it must be like for the bees: it wasn't 3 days of work for them, it was months. and then it just disappeared one day.

I try to make it a sort of social event. invite some friends over for help. I don't spin, though, just crush and press with a juicer/sausage press. I wouldn't call it fast, but it's really not bad. in time, you'll learn the ins and outs of however you choose to get the honey out and it will be a smoother process. in the end, though, only you can decide if that's how you like passing your time. if you really don't enjoy the process, maybe you'll leave it to other folks, which is fine. but maybe it'll grow on you as you get some experience.
 
elle sagenev
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tel jetson wrote:just imagine what it must be like for the bees: it wasn't 3 days of work for them, it was months. and then it just disappeared one day.



Unfortunately my bees died. We were sad.

Ugh it's so messy. Cleaning up all the little drips off the floor is probably the worst part.
 
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I'm very interested in having bees, and I've been reading about it, and have talked with other beekeepers. One of my wife's coworkers' husband is a beekeeper and even teaches beekeeping classes. I am unsure if what follows always happens or if this is a less common situation, but I've read and also heard from other beekeepers that if the honey extraction can be done outdoors, during the warm months when the bees are active, and the equipment and everything can be left outside for several days, the bees will come and clean up the drips, blobs and runs and take that honey back to their hive, doing nearly all the cleanup.
 
tel jetson
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James Freyr wrote:...if the honey extraction can be done outdoors, during the warm months when the bees are active, and the equipment and everything can be left outside for several days, the bees will come and clean up the drips, blobs and runs and take that honey back to their hive, doing nearly all the cleanup.



that's true, but it's not without drawbacks. if harvest is done during a nectar dearth, leaving honey out for bees to clean up can lead to robbing of hives, which isn't great. fortunately, if the honey mess is left far from any hives, the risk of triggering robbing is pretty much eliminated.

good planning and practice will reduce the mess considerably, but there will always be some equipment that's got honey left on it. I use a silicone spatula to squeegee as much honey out of my press and into honey containers as I can, for example, but there are some nooks and crannies that I let the bees address. if it's winter and there aren't any flying, I just rinse things off with hot water. my press is small enough that it fits in my sink, though. maybe not as easy with a spinner.
 
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James Freyr wrote:during the warm months when the bees are active, and the equipment and everything can be left outside for several days, the bees will come and clean up the drips, blobs and runs and take that honey back to their hive, doing nearly all the cleanup.



You are right about that. My knowledge is minimal.  I took one comb off my top bar late last year. The leftovers were put in a pot and set outside. It did not take long.

I liken these "chores " as yearly things. Canning pears once a year to last a year. Processing deer sausage once a year to last a year. Canning tomatos, making jerky,  making wine, slaughtering sheep, etc, etc, etc. It is a lot of work but it is efficient when you look at the end quantity of each chore. I could say all of those are not worth it cause I can buy a can of pears. My lifestyle choice is why and that choice comes with many benefits.
 
elle sagenev
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I don't like to clean. Perhaps I should have said that first. So having a bucket of steaming hot water next to me and a rag so I can scrub and scrub and scrub the honey bits off the floor was pretty much the worst thing to ever happen to me (over dramatic for sure).

I'm happy for the honey. I have little adorable jars everyone is going to get full of honey for Christmas. I'm thankful for it. It was just so so so much work. When you add the cost on, cuz bees aren't cheap as we all know, it just wasn't worth it to me. I like having bees about. I've got a lot of plants that need pollinated and trees that could use the bee attention. So will I do this again, maybe, probably. It super sucks though.

I'd rather butcher something or can something for sure! Honey is just so....sticky!
 
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Yes, honey is a significant investment for bees. They say each teaspoon of honey is the equivalent of 12 bee lifetimes. One pound of wax is the bee energy equivalent of 8 pounds of honey.

Honey drains a lot faster & easier when it is warm. Everyone has different techniques. It does take some practice. I prefer smaller batches, a few frames at a time. It just seems easier to handle & there is less potential for a huge mess. Speaking of huge messes, do any wax cleaning & melting outdoors. Wax mess is worse than honey mess. Neither can be prevented but both can be minimized with some planning & experience.

Winter is harsh on bees. Some losses are to be expected. You already have the hives so I suggest trying again at least one more time. Maybe look into the Minnesota hygienic bees. I'm still on the winter learning curve too. Lost more last year than ever before. More than all previous combined years maybe. Haven't given up. Too stubborn for that. You could also not harvest any honey & just let the bees do their thing. I'm an overly cautious harvester who is sitting here eating pancakes with sourwood honey from 2 years ago. In my opinion it's sooooo worth it. The smell alone is worth it.

I think my point is ... bees need all the help they can get.
 
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Crazy thought...
gently melt the honeycomb in a container until the wax has floated to the top and then leave it to cool. Remove the wax, pour out the honey.
 
tel jetson
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elle sagenev wrote:When you add the cost on, cuz bees aren't cheap as we all know, it just wasn't worth it to me.



depends on how you go about it. the first colony I had was entirely free, but that was because an old beekeeper left his equipment on my grandparents' place and either forgot about them or died. a swarm moved into a jumble of hive bodies that were tossed in a shed. I just had to stack them up better.

the next one was also free, if you don't count an emergency room visit...

after that, hives generally cost less than $50 to build using rough cedar mill ends. for a couple years, folks would pay me to remove colonies from their property. and swarms are free. I did buy a second-hand veil and gloves eventually. and I guess the epi-pen cost a few bucks.

point being, keeping bees can be pretty cheap. there are certainly expensive ways to do it, but those are optional.
 
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James Freyr wrote:...  I've read and also heard from other beekeepers that if the honey extraction can be done outdoors, during the warm months when the bees are active, and the equipment and everything can be left outside for several days, the bees will come and clean up the drips, blobs and runs and take that honey back to their hive, doing nearly all the cleanup.



Oh heavens!!!

My family extracts in the garage. We can wash the drips away with a garden hose when we are done. We wash the equipment with a garden hose on the driveway.  Sometimes, we  put cardboard on the floor to make washing easier. That doesn't prevent honey from getting on the doorknobs, light switches, fridge, stove, faucets, toilet handle, etc. Those wipe off easy enough with a wet towel.

We keep the garage sealed, so that bees can't get to the honey, report back what they found, and bring reinforcements.

One time, my daddy allowed a neighbor to use his equipment to extract honey. When I pulled into the driveway, the garage was filled with a cloud of perhaps ten thousand bees!!! He had left the door open, "So that the bees can get out." ROTFLMAO! Every bee that got out brought many back with them in exponential acceleration. Couldn't even breathe without inhaling one. Certainly couldn't pick up equipment, or frames without brushing aside many bees.

Another time, I left a box on the back porch, because it had wax moths in it, and I didn't want to store it with the rest of the boxes. A couple days later, my daddy got stung when he went outside. Because there were thousands of robber bees in the box, and buzzing all around it in the air.

If I were to do extraction outside, it would only be after dark, when bees are not flying, and a good hundred feet away from normal traffic patterns.

I think that I might be done with honey as well. It is a lot of work. This is 7 days work (without other tasks): 4 days for me, and 3 days for a collaborator. About half of that was robbing, the rest was extracting.

honey.jpg
honey
Robbed some bees.
 
tel jetson
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Joseph Lofthouse wrote:I think that I might be done with honey as well. It is a lot of work. This is 7 days work (without other tasks).



hah! on the other hand, there's a lot of daylight between extracting ~575 lbs of honey and none at all. scaling back a bit seems like a better option to me than hanging it all up, but I may be biased.
 
Joseph Lofthouse
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I'm certain that Elle spent more time cleaning than I did.

By the time I travel to the apiary, suit up, and get a smoker going, it's only incrementally more work to check on 20 colonies instead of a couple. It takes the same amount of time to clean up after extracting one box of honey as it does to clean up after extracting 30.

In any case, my life is unraveling. I've become a food elder. My time is better spent teaching the next generation, than doing farming myself. I feel sad about letting go of the bees. To do bees right, would require time, resources, and network connections that I don't want to spend right now. Perhaps I'll revisit that decision at some future date.
 
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Has anyone looked at the "Flow Hive" https://www.honeyflow.com/? I had read some articles before that the plastic frames inside that the bees are supposed to fill might be harmful to bees. But it does seem like a much easier process for any that want a very small scale operation. I've thought about getting a hive, not really for the honey (we use 1 jar a year or less, but could gift a few more) but to have more bees around--and it seems to be pretty novice-friendly. In our state you do have to be registered to maintain a hive, and, of course, if I did ever go that route I would learn enough to be a responsible steward. So, I just wanted to see if there were any users of the flow system, because much like Elle, I would not want a giant messy, sticky chore to deal with, which would kill the hobby fun for me quickly!
 
tel jetson
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Denise Kersting wrote:Has anyone looked at the "Flow Hive"



there's some good (mostly civil) discussion of the Flow Hive® elsewhere on permies, so I encourage you to search the forum rather than rehash it in this thread.
 
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To my understanding the Kenyan Top Bar Hive eliminates the need for all this, since the bees just build comb onto the bars and you can just slice it off throughout the year.

I love honey comb. I prefer it to liquid honey, and where I live so few people are interested in it that it’s either really expensive or it’s cheap.
 
tel jetson
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Tim Kivi wrote:...and you can just slice it off?



I'll give you a dollar if you can do that without spilling any honey.

but sure, leaving it as cut comb does simplify some aspects of the harvest. storage is a bit trickier, though you could potentially just remove individual combs as you're ready to use them. horizontal top bar hives can sometimes be pretty fussy, too, particularly if you want straight comb that follows the bars and is easily removable. there's still a lot to recommend them, though.

entirely off topic: do you speak Finnish?
 
Tim Kivi
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tel jetson wrote:

Tim Kivi wrote:...and you can just slice it off?



I'll give you a dollar if you can do that without spilling any honey.

but sure, leaving it as cut comb does simplify some aspects of the harvest. storage is a bit trickier, though you could potentially just remove individual combs as you're ready to use them. horizontal top bar hives can sometimes be pretty fussy, too, particularly if you want straight comb that follows the bars and is easily removable. there's still a lot to recommend them, though



I don’t have any practical experience yet and my local beekeeping society’s a little expensive to join. It’s good to hear from people with actual experience. My taking up the hobby seems off in the never-never.
 
tel jetson
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Tim Kivi wrote:Yeah, I speak a little, but I've never lived there. And you?

I don’t have any practical experience yet and my local beekeeping society’s a little expensive to join. It’s good to hear from people with actual experience. My taking up the hobby seems off in the never-never.



only a little. my grandma was Finnish.


can you go to meetings without joining? or buddy up to somebody who's already keeping bees?

I never did get around to joining my local association. from the outside, though, beekeeping organizations appear to mostly be purveyors of orthodoxy that I think is largely rubbish. I'm not suggesting that beekeepers with more conventional practices than mine don't know what they're doing, just that their approach and relationship to beekeeping doesn't often have a lot in common with mine. so their knowledge, while extensive, isn't of much use to me. as ever, there are plenty of exceptions to this.
 
elle sagenev
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Nick Kitchener wrote:Crazy thought...
gently melt the honeycomb in a container until the wax has floated to the top and then leave it to cool. Remove the wax, pour out the honey.



So I did this over a water bath, on very very low heat. Worked like a charm. Thank you so much!!!
 
elle sagenev
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Joseph Lofthouse wrote:

James Freyr wrote:...  I've read and also heard from other beekeepers that if the honey extraction can be done outdoors, during the warm months when the bees are active, and the equipment and everything can be left outside for several days, the bees will come and clean up the drips, blobs and runs and take that honey back to their hive, doing nearly all the cleanup.



Oh heavens!!!

My family extracts in the garage. We can wash the drips away with a garden hose when we are done. We wash the equipment with a garden hose on the driveway.  Sometimes, we  put cardboard on the floor to make washing easier. That doesn't prevent honey from getting on the doorknobs, light switches, fridge, stove, faucets, toilet handle, etc. Those wipe off easy enough with a wet towel.

We keep the garage sealed, so that bees can't get to the honey, report back what they found, and bring reinforcements.

One time, my daddy allowed a neighbor to use his equipment to extract honey. When I pulled into the driveway, the garage was filled with a cloud of perhaps ten thousand bees!!! He had left the door open, "So that the bees can get out." ROTFLMAO! Every bee that got out brought many back with them in exponential acceleration. Couldn't even breathe without inhaling one. Certainly couldn't pick up equipment, or frames without brushing aside many bees.

Another time, I left a box on the back porch, because it had wax moths in it, and I didn't want to store it with the rest of the boxes. A couple days later, my daddy got stung when he went outside. Because there were thousands of robber bees in the box, and buzzing all around it in the air.

If I were to do extraction outside, it would only be after dark, when bees are not flying, and a good hundred feet away from normal traffic patterns.

I think that I might be done with honey as well. It is a lot of work. This is 7 days work (without other tasks): 4 days for me, and 3 days for a collaborator. About half of that was robbing, the rest was extracting.



I do indeed think it would have been smarter to do outside. Unfortunately we didn't do anything with the honey frames all summer. I decided to do it in front of our wood stove so we could heat the whole thing up for easier spinning. It did make the spinning easier but cleaning drips of everything else up was indeed a pain in the butt!
 
elle sagenev
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Tim Kivi wrote:To my understanding the Kenyan Top Bar Hive eliminates the need for all this, since the bees just build comb onto the bars and you can just slice it off throughout the year.

I love honey comb. I prefer it to liquid honey, and where I live so few people are interested in it that it’s either really expensive or it’s cheap.



We had comb not on foundation that we just broke off. Of course, this was after our bees were dead. I can't imagine doing that when they were around to see it.
 
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I am wondering why you are extracting your honey now, Elle?

Here in our cold climate we extract one or two times a year, once end of May, once end of June/in July, more or less. Right now the bees are hopefully sitting in their (three) hives and feeding on the sirup I have given them from July (after the last extraction) to beginning of October.
I am a beginner but I am very glad that I got the professional extractor (Logar for four frames or eight small frames that I am using) and other equipment for a moderate price form a lady that quit beekeeping.
Frankly the honey harvest is one of the most relaxing tasks about beekeeping, as opposed to swarm control for example!

We choose a warm, sunny day (the honey is hydrophilic and would "suck" humidity from air) for the extraction. The night before I would have put in those one-way separators between normal hives and super (sorry, don't know the English technical terms).
So when we open the hive, there are almost no bees in the honey super.
We put the honey frames in a big box with a lid, and carry it to the kitchen (the hives are in my backyard).

The kitchen is cleaned up and the floor covered in newspaper sheets. I uncap the frames in the special contraption and put them in the extractor. Husband and kids give the crank lever a good swing, we change direction of the frames once or twice and work till all frames are done.
I clean the kitchen and things, husband hoses down the extractor in the yard (which usualy attracts some bees, but once the scent is diluted enough it is ok).

Then we move the extracted frames back to the bees who will clean them in one or two days.
Immediately after the bees are done with cleaning I remove the honey frames (which have a different size than the normal hive frames) to store them in a dry place until next year.

We consume a lot of honey in our family of five, and the honey makes excellent and prized gifts, and friends and neighbours beg to buy some glasses (for a good price!) from us - I could sell more if I had more honey! So I really hope we will be able to have at least two full colonies next spring to keep going.

ETA: My honey frames look exactly like the ones in that link, and the process we use is quite the same (expect that we use a more professional uncapping device): http://www.talkingwithbees.com/beekeeping-how-to-guides/harvesting-honey

BTW, a saying here is that people start with beekeeping because of the honey, and give up on beekeeping because of the honey ;-)
 
elle sagenev
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Bottled the honey last night. Took like 3 hours. lol 25 perfect tiny jars for Christmas and 6 large jars for us. I'm happy with it.
78126058_10157664750513633_8162091051146805248_n.jpg
honey jars
honey jars
77143161_10157664750613633_6274430960092053504_n.jpg
filling with honey
filling with honey
 
elle sagenev
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Anita Martini wrote:I am wondering why you are extracting your honey now, Elle



The bees died, we removed the frames and put them in a plastic tub. I had a lot of projects in the spring and summer and I got pregnant. Honey extracting just got relegated to the back burner. I wanted to give tiny jars for Christmas though, so that's why we extracted now. Otherwise it'd probably still be sitting in it's plastic tub in the living room, maybe forever. lol
 
elle sagenev
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I can't tie a nice bow to save my life but here are some finished present examples. I'm in love!
76695156_10157665077468633_2842914298617921536_n.jpg
amber honey
amber honey
74718066_10157665077623633_5850020584167047168_n.jpg
honey for Christmas
honey for Christmas
 
Anita Martini
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elle sagenev wrote:

Anita Martini wrote:I am wondering why you are extracting your honey now, Elle



The bees died, we removed the frames and put them in a plastic tub. I had a lot of projects in the spring and summer and I got pregnant. Honey extracting just got relegated to the back burner. I wanted to give tiny jars for Christmas though, so that's why we extracted now. Otherwise it'd probably still be sitting in it's plastic tub in the living room, maybe forever. lol



Oh no, that was really a lot on your plate. Anyway, congratulations to you, and the honey presents look awesome! Your friends and family can call themselves lucky.

Bottling the honey is where I sometimes get delayed. When my husband is around to help, we are quite quick, but we also had a batch that started to cristalize and it was some more hassle.
 
wayne fajkus
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I have this picture. It shows one comb that i set outside after straining the honey. Look close. There are a lot of bees scavenging. My hive is barely visible from this area. It's far away.  

20191120_123430-756x1008.jpg
bees cleaning comb
bees cleaning comb
 
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I have just seen this thread.

Honey can be very very very slow to drain through a filter if it a) cold or b) partially crystalised.

For the latter; when you make a pot of coffee and then push the plunger down a  layer of coffee grounds builds up below the filter. As that layer gets thicker it gets harder and harder to strain. Same thing happens with honey. It looks liquid, but has small sugar crystals in it. As the liquid flows the layer of crystals against the mesh gets thicker and thick and the flow gets slower and slower. Fortunately there is a solution - gentle heat will melt the honey crystals and drastically reduce the viscosity.

For the cost of around £15 in parts and a few hours I converted an old chest freezer into a thermostatically controlled honey warming and wax melting cabinet (different temperatures!). I can bring a bucket of set honey to the ideal temperature to break down crystals, hold it there for a few hours then bottle it or strain it.


Not my cabinet, but you get the idea. You can even strain your honey IN the cabinet.
 
Michael Cox
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Adding to my post above...

You need to be careful when warming honey. You want to use as little heat as possible. Over heating can damage honey, harming flavour and converting the sugars to caramelised forms.

Honey melts at between 40 and 50 degrees C. Holding it at 40 for 12 hours is better than 50 for less time.

Wax melts at between 60 and 66 degrees C. Heating beyond this can discolour the wax and should be avoided.

Temperature, Honey and Wax
 
Michael Cox
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And another option is making mead directly from the crushed honey/wax mixture. Once the honey dissolves the wax floats to the top and can be easily skimmed off with a slotted spoon. And mead is lovely :D

I tried to find my picture of my son "helping" me make mead. It is one of my absolute favourites; his facial expression when I told him he had to stop eating the honey comb was priceless!
 
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Elle, no offense, but you must have been doing something wrong. Review how much time you actually worked. I don’t have big fancy equipment, just a hand crank three frame extractor and manual uncapping knife. Still, myself and a helper can extract several hundred lbs in as many hours. He sets up the extracting equipment while I pull supers. Then one of us uncaps while the other spins. We trade off as needed and both work together to move full buckets, empty supers, etc.

I agree though it seems to take almost as many hours to do 50# as it does 500#. There is definitely an efficiency of scale to consider. I’m trying to get my operation a bit bigger, to maximize what we can do with just manpower, and not feel like we have to start investing in bigger machines.
 
Michael Cox
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She was working with partially crystalised honey
 
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