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A beekeeper's guide to extracting honey

Lorraine Chapman

Worcestershire Beekeepers' Association

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Bees are great for my garden as well as those around me, they are also incredibly clever and fascinating and then, of course, there’s the honey. There’s quite a ritual involved in extracting it.

Wearing a bee suit and carrying a smoker and hive tool, I head down to the hives. After smoking the entrance, I take off the roof and smoke through the holes in the crown board, removing it to see what’s going on in the supers. I’m looking to see whether the majority of the frames contain capped cells of honey ready to be extracted, just like Jill and Kirsty have been doing.

Lorraine Chapman at her beehives

Before extracting the honey, the bees need to be removed from the frames. Some beekeepers use a bee escape, which works like a one way valve, preventing them from re-entering the super once they have left. You simply put that on the hive the day before and the next day the super is clear. But you can just shake them off and brush off any lingerers with a bee brush. A super can be quite heavy containing around 30lbs (13kg) of honey.

I take my supers up to my house, closing all the windows and doors because the smell of the honey will attract opportunist bees and wasps looking for a free lunch.

  • Taking each frame out of the super in turn, I use a hot knife to remove the cappings – a waxy substance made by the bees to hold the honey inside the honeycomb.
  • Each frame goes into the extractor; a drum like container which is basically a centrifuge. The honey is forced out of the cells and collects on the floor of the container.
  • Using the tap at the bottom of the extractor, I pour the honey into a storage container passing it through two increasingly fine sieves, before putting it into jars, some of which are shared with friends and family.

Remember the cappings? I put them into a bowl and heat them very gently. After cooling, the wax floating on the top is removed and my husband and I enjoy the spoils. Freshly extracted honey on hot buttered toast!

Lorraine Chapman is secretary of the Worcestershire Beekeepers' Association which holds regular events

Find out more about beekeeping from the British Beekeepers Association

Lorraine Chapman's May 2017 crop of honey

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