Harvesting our first honey

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Getting ready to harvest honey from the hive.
Getting ready to harvest honey from the hive. (Photo courtesy of Sarah Bosett.)

With the very warm weather in Sydney, our bees have been very busy laying down comb, and filling it with honey. So when I added some empty boxes to the bottom of the hive, I was very surprised to find the top box very heavy indeed (and therefore filled with honey).

With the able help of Sarah, a fellow beginner natural beekeeper, we went up onto the roof last week to harvest our first honey.

I had put a “clearing board” on the frame the day before, which is a sort of one-way gate for the bees. In theory, this should clear the top box of most bees, although it didn’t work all that well in this instance.

There’s no particular magic to harvesting honey: lift out a frame, check it’s full of honey, brush off the bees, and put it in a container. (Repeat as required.)

In the end, there were three frames of entirely capped honey, and the remaining frames were a mix of capped and uncapped honey. While we probably could’ve harvested all of it, we decided to leave the uncapped frames in the hive.

Our first frame of honey. Photo courtesy of Sarah Bosett.
Our first frame of honey. (Photo courtesy of Sarah Bosett.)
One frame of honeycomb, fresh and full of honey.
One frame of honeycomb, fresh and full of honey.

In Warré hives, frames aren’t wired. So to harvest the honey, you simply cut it out of the frames. (I then put the empty frames back into the hive, to fill the gaps in the top box.)

Honeycomb, ready for the honey to be extracted.
Honeycomb, ready for the honey to be extracted.

At a small scale, extracting the honey is pretty simple. Put the comb in a sieve that fits on top of a 20L plastic bucket.

Breaking up the honeycomb, letting the honey drain out.
Breaking up the honeycomb, letting the honey drain out.

Break up the honeycomb, and let the honey to drain out. A fine plastic filter sheet keeps the bits out of the honey (shown above). It only took about 24 hours for the vast bulk of the honey to drain out, with a small amount of mixing up throughout.

Pouring the honey into jars :-)
Pouring the honey into jars 🙂

Hornsby Beekeeping  (where I obtained the sieves, etc) kindly put a pouring tap (called a “gate”) into the storage bucket, which made it super-easy to pour the honey into jars, without spilling a drop.

The final haul - 2.5L of lovely home-made honey.
The final haul – 2.5L of lovely home-made honey.

These are the jars of honey we ended up with, complete with “Lewisham honey” labels. That’s a lot of honey for a small and very early honey harvest.

The final stats:

  • 3 frames harvested (out of 8 in the top box)
  • 6kg of comb and honey
  • 2.5 litres of lovely honey

That’s not a bad start, I think! Particularly with more harvesting expected soon (of the whole top box and probably the second box.)

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4 thoughts on “Harvesting our first honey

    Emily Heath said:
    October 21, 2013 at 3:23 pm

    I like how easy it is to harvest! It’s quite dark – how does it taste?

      James responded:
      October 21, 2013 at 3:46 pm

      Yes, that’s one of the advantages of Warre vs Langstroth — less equipment needed (at least for small scale beekeeping).

      And the honey tastes delicious 🙂

    Gerry Heaton said:
    October 21, 2013 at 4:39 pm

    James

    Congratulations on the honey harvest.

    I did the native stingless beekeeping course on Sunday. Organised byMilkwood. The honey tastes different to honey bee honey. Almost a lemony tang.

    Gerry

    Sent from my iPhone

    >

    Jonathan said:
    October 21, 2013 at 8:53 pm

    Hi James,
    We harvested 7 frames in total. 3 frames a few weeks ago and then 4 frames when we opened the hive 2 weeks later. We found on the sunny side (North) side of the hive a more rapid production of honey. Its slowly straining into a tub. Tastes great!

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