Extracting honey is such an exciting time. Everything we do all year is in preparation for this one day. Here is how it all went:
The first step was to pull the supers off the hives. Last year I rigged up a fume board with some plywood and a piece of felt, sprayed on some "Bee-Quick", and tried to drive the bees out of the supers. I failed miserably. With the bees remaining in the supers I set them on the basketball court in the backyard and waited for evening. I figured that when the evening cooled off and the sun went down the bees would leave the supers and go home. That didn't work either. So I spent a couple of hours in the dark taking each frame individually over to the hives, brushing the bees off and then taking the frame inside the house. This year I tried a different approach.
On September 3rd I took out a large plastic tub which had been covered with a sheet out to the hives. I removed each frame from the super one at a time, brushed the bees off, put the frame in the tub, and replaced the sheet. When all the frames were removed from one super I brushed the remaining bees out and took the super over to the back door where I covered it with another sheet. I dragged the tub of frames over to the house, put the now beeless frames back in the super and replaced the sheet. I did this for 3 of Virginia's supers that evening. I repeated the process for 3 of Georgia's supers the next morning. It sounds like a lot of work, but it really wasn't too bad. If a had more hives I would probably figure out a different method. I did have four supers on each hive, but the most recent addition to each hive was far from ready. I decided to leave them where they were and let the bees fill them up with honey this fall- a little extra insurance for their winter stores.
After running errands etc. on the morning of September 4th we got everything ready to go at about 3:oo pm. Here is a photo of the set up. We later moved the whole thing to the other end of the kitchen where it was a little warmer. The honey wasn't flowing very well sitting right next to the air conditioner.
At 3:00 on the 4th we got busy uncapping, spinning, and filtering. I figured it would take several hours to get it all done. We were up pretty late that night. Extracting 60 frames in a 3 frame tangential extractor took longer than I had anticipated. Next year's extraction day might turn into a 2 day event. Or maybe I just need to get a bigger extractor.
I will say this- The heated uncapping knife made all the difference in the world. It was so much faster and easier than last year when we used an unheated knife which had to be warmed up in hot water before uncapping each frame.
The homemade uncapping tank worked but could have been better. The following improvements will be made next year: a larger tub will be used (60 frames make a large pile of caps. It needed a larger surface area.), the cross beam will be moved to one end to provide a larger area for the caps to fall off the knife, the wire mesh will be redesigned to be lifted straight up out of the tub, and a honey gate will be installed. Or I could just take Chris' suggestion and order an uncapping tank from a beekeeping supplier.
Here are a few photos of the process. In this first photo I am uncapping a frame of honey. Here is a pile of caps in the uncapping tank. I'd say about half a gollon of honey dripped out of the caps and into the tank. We let it drip overnight and into the next afternoon.
We misjudged the number of 5 gallon buckets we would need. Since filtering is such a slow process we had to extract the honey into one bucket and slowly filter it into another. By the end we were catching honey in various pots and pans. In the end we had almost 15 gallons of honey- not bad! We finished filtering the next day. Here is a photo of the final product.
We have been selling it in pint and 1/2 pint jars and advertising just by word of mouth. It is mostly gone now- I plan on taking it to a farmers' market this week. We'll see if I can sell the rest of it there.