Harvesting & Processing Honey
By Glen L. Stanley
Thousands of colonies are utilized each year
throughout the United States for pollination purposes. Many of
that number are eventually moved to various areas for the production
of honey during the later months of the season. Others are moved
several times to other areas strictly for pollination services.
Such colonies are likely not to produce any surplus honey but
may store sufficient amounts for their own survival during months
NOW IS THE TIME as late Summer approaches that
the beekeepers heavy work of beekeeping begins as the task of
removing the surplus honey from each colony begins. The heavier
each honey super the more the beekeeper enjoys the task as this
means a bountiful crop. Such work can be a difficult and unpleasant
task unless steps are taken to make it a bit easier and enjoyable.
As the season comes to an end and there is little
or no nectar available for the bees to forage the most any maneuver
with colonies will create bees robbing. This leads to all colonies
becoming temperamental and the beekeeper in turn will be the same
as robber bees begin delivering stings.
TO AVOID THIS situation, and it is possible,
if there are no other bees in the near vicinity simply upon entering
the apiary- remove all covers and innercovers from all colonies.
To make it even more efficient- place all surplus honey supers
on the lids beside each hive. If there is time to spare the longer
the time waited to blow the bees from the surplus honey the better.
A lot of the bees will leave the honey and return to the hive.
Then comes the process of blowing the bees from the honey combs
and loading them to be transported from the apiary. A few seconds
of time is all that is required to remove the bees from each super
As soon as the honey is all ready to move out
then is the time to smoke the bees off the top combs and replace
the covers. If there are some partly filled combs, leave those
supers with the bees.Using this system you will find there is
NO robbing and there will be not more than a few dozen bees in
the supers of honey.
Many beekeepers use fume boards to drive the
bees from the honey supers. That can be quite successful but often
there are gobs of bees still within the supers and they will be
carried into the processing plant where they are not wanted. Using
this system often leads to a robbing situation IF there is no
nectar available for the bees at that time.
NOW THAT THE HONEY HAS BEEN COLLECTED the next
move is the processing of one of our most healthful foods. A very
small percentage of honey is produced as COMB HONEY. The major
crop is for liquid honey and care must be taken to preserve the
The removal of the capping is easy and simple
with a steam or electrical heated knife. About 20 percent of the
honey is cut away along with the cappings so it should be drained
from the wax caps and handled like the rest of the honey.
Should the honey be of high moisture as it I
is taken from the bees it is possible to dry it to some extent
while still in the comb. It can be placed in a room along with
a dehumidifier along with a circulating fan and that will do the
job. If the room is small and tight make sure the temperature
doesn’t rise above 90 degrees or the combs will drop the
honey in a melt-down.
If honey is reasonably warm as it is being extracted
it can be strained to eliminate wax particles then it can be stored
in the containers of your choice or buckets or barrels. All should
be food use containers.
Having applied no heat during the extracting
process means that such honey will be beginning to granulate probably
within a short time. All good honeys granulate with the exception
of the Tupilo honey.
The best honey on the market is honey that has
NEVER been subjected to high temperatures. We found that high
temperatures were not necessary to make honey marketable and by
not using the high temperatures the honey retained most of its
original color and flavor and the yeast and enzymes were not destroyed.
So if you have honey that has granulated just
place the containers in a small room or box (depending on the
quantity) keep the temperature at 118 degrees along with a circulating
fan until the honey is completely liquid. As soon as all is liquid,
place it in a container where the temperature can be maintained
at 118-120 degrees and agitated for about four hours. This assures
you that all the honey is of equal temperature. The straining
should have been done when the honey was placed in the agitating
container so no more straining will be necessary. Now the honey
is ready for the marketing containers. Using this method will
provide your customers with as neat and healthful product as possible.
It will cause you no trouble in granulating before it is sold
Granulated containers of honey when placed in
a warming room of 118-120 degrees should be placed on strips to
hold the bottoms off the floor. The circulating fan then can get
the air all around the containers.
For large amounts of honey a stainless steel
milk tank is ideal. It has an agitator and can be kept warm with
warm water around it. A temperature control should ALWAYS be in
the honey when dealing with liquid honey and in the warm room
when liquefying the honey.
You will be surprised at the difference in you
product as you begin to process by warming honey instead of really
heating it to the extreme. Seeing is believing.
As soon as the honey has completely turned to
liquid form in plastic containers, it is best to pour it into
stainless steel or tinned containers to hold the required time
at 120 degrees.
The Kelly Co, Clarkson, Kentucky has an ideal
tank for small amounts of honey. It is a double jacketed tank
with heat control and an agitator. The emersion type heater. In
all cases a temperature control should be used.
By the way, when warming each and every container
of honey make sure to first remove all the lids whether it is
barrels or buckets. When storing honey make sure all lids are
Forty years of handling honey in this manner
ADVERTIZING WAS NECESSARY.
It sold itself!
Glen L Stanley
Des Moines, Iowa 50310