Honey Production is a year round process. The beehives require constant maintenance and servicing throughout the winter to guarantee their health and survival. Starting in the fall, we treat the hives for mites, to help the bees build resistance against the parasites, which commonly plague bee colonies. During the winter, we often feed the bees a sugar-water solution, to help the bees stay strong. Some hives need more support than others. Weak hives will need more feeding than strong, self-sufficient hives. In addition, the weather plays an important role in the health of the bees. A long, cold winter and a warm winter can both be detrimental to the bees. Bees are very sensitive to weather conditions.
In April and May, the bees really begin to start flying. They start to scout for food sources and begin to produce honey. Not all beehives are on the same time scale. For instance, some beehives will be done making honey in late July, whereas others do not finish until late August.
In July, we begin to open up the hives to check on progress and bring in some honey. We start by opening up the hive and coaxing the bees downward, using a smoker. Then we assess how much honey the bees have produced. On average, a full super of honey can weigh around 25 pounds. After smoking the bees, we select individual frames and pull them out to look at them. Once we've found a box that is ready to remove, we have to get the excess bees to leave the box. After most of the bees are gone, despite a few stragglers, we load the box onto the truck and proceed to the next box, or hive.
The first step in extracting is to remove the wax cappings from the individual frames. We use a heated electric knife to do this (but we save the wax caps to be melted for candles!) Then, we put the frames into an extractor, which is basically a large cylindrical device that spins the honey out. After this step, we strain the honey through a number of strainers. Finally, once the honey has been strained, we are able to put it into bottles to sell!
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