We often get asked how the honey gets from the hive to the jar and usually we give the short version. It’s not a complex process but this is what happens in a bit more detail.
For those who don’t know, it’s useful to know how the honey is stored by the bees. In most modern hives, it’s stored on removable wooden frames. The center part of which is made from a sheet of wax that the bees extrude into hexagonal cells ready for use. They do this on both sides of the frame. These cells are then filled with nectar which is turned into honey by removing most of the water. They then seal it with a cap of wax. The beekeeper will have several boxes called honey ‘supers’ on their hives, each with 10-12 frames. The frames that are filled with honey are first checked for stray bees, then removed to an empty super and taken off to the honey house.
The first thing that needs to be done is to remove the wax cappings that seals the honey inside. This needs to be done as methodically as possible so the maximum amount of honey can be removed. Once both sides of the frames are done, they are slotted into a centrifugal spinner called an extractor. This is essentially a big stainless steel metal drum with a motor, that spins the frames at high speed, flinging the honey out of the cells and onto the sides of the drum. The honey then slides down the walls of the drum to the bottom where it is removed via a tap. We drain ours through a sieve and store it until ready to jar. Simple as that.
We would normally do all this just once a year, in late July or early August but some commercial beekeepers might have 2 or 3 harvests a year depending on the forage available near their hives. Both our London and Summer varieties are harvested around the same time but the Heather comes slightly later in the year. More about that another time.