Beepeeking at Gisou is all about giving you, our community, a peek inside the world of bees & beekeeping. As our Beekeeper-In-Chief, Negar Mirsalehi is excited to bring you along throughout the bee season!
"We’ve officially kicked off Honey Month at Gisou as a celebration of beekeepers, honey bees and of course, honey. September is the month that marks the end of our Bee Season in the Netherlands, which means it’s time for the last honey extraction of the season.
After September, we no longer extract honey as the bees start preparing for winter and they need enough honey stored away to survive the cold months. Today I’m taking you along as I harvest and extract Mirsalehi honey from the Bee Garden step by step!"
Honey harvesting steps
Step 1: Gear up
Make sure to wear protective clothes, a hat with veil and gloves before opening up the hives. Make sure you have the right tools with you as well, such as a hive tool and an uncapping tool, smoker and bee brush. Don’t wear any perfume or any other scented products which attract bees.
Step 2: Open the hives & remove the bees
Choose your first honey chamber of the hive and open it slowly and gently. Working slowly reduces the risk of instigating bees that might assume that you’re a threat. Bees are very sensitive to fast movements. To get the bees out of the way, you can use a smoker or bee brush.
Want to learn more about bees and beekeeping? Take our free Bee Learning Course!
Step 3: Examine the honeycombs
Capping occurs when the cells of the honeycombs are plugged by the bees for storage purposes. A honeycomb at 80% cap is one in which at least 80% of the cells have been plugged. A honeycomb which has less than 80% capped cells is not ready to be harvested. A visual inspection is generally sufficient to know whether a comb is ready.
Step 4: Remove the frames
You will need to remove the bees from the honeycomb by gently shaking them off and use the bee brush to brush off the remainder of the bees. Not even one bee should stay behind on the comb. You need to work fast so preferably work together with another beekeeper. Which makes it more fun!
Remove the honey frames from the supers or honey chambers and place them in a closed container or separate super. You might have multiple supers to remove frames from, so do them one at a time. Store the honeycombs in a cold and dark place until you’re ready to extract the honey.
Honey extraction steps
Step 1: Uncapping the honeycombs
The extraction of the honey should take place inside, preferably in a kitchen. Never do this outside and especially not near the bees.
You’ll need the uncapping fork or knife to uncap the honeycombs. Use whichever uncapping tool you have to remove the caps on both sides of the honeycombs. From there, the open honeycombs go into your extractor. Only uncap as many honeycombs as can fit into your extractor to prevent any honey waste.
Step 2: Extracting the honey
A honey extractor is essentially a centrifuge. You place the honeycombs in racks inside the tank and close the extractor.
The tank will spin, utilizing centrifugal force to extract honey and deposit it in the bottom of the tank. Within 10-15 minutes, all the honey will be out of the honeycomb!
Step 3: Straining the honey
Your final step is to strain and bottle the honey. Use a double sieve or cheesecloth to catch the wax and impurities as the honey starts pouring out of the extractor.
You may want to pour the honey into a temporary jug where it can sit for 12 hours to let the air bubbles settle out.
Step 4: Bottling the honey
Next, store your honey in clean glass jars with airtight lids. You can use plastic containers as well, but make sure they have never been used before as this may contaminate the honey with residual flavors or odors.
Now it’s time to enjoy the bees’ magical labor. Enjoy the honey with your breakfast, in hot drinks, dressings or use it on wounds to promote faster healing. Sharing your honey with friends and family is mandatory!
If you have honey cravings and have no honeycombs to harvest and extract, fear not: you can always find a local beekeeper to buy fresh local honey from!