CHAPTER XI Edit
HOW TO PRODUCE EXTRACTED HONEY Edit
method of producing extracted honey differs so materially from that employed for comb honey that we treat it under a separate chapter.
When the colonies are run for comb honey it becomes almost a necessity to resort to the "shook swarm" plan to keep down swarming, and this compels us to handle the brood body of the hive in an entirely different manner.
The matter of swarm control becomes easy when we run our colonies for extracted honey, as we can extract from time to time and thus keep the bees from feeling crowded, with the consequent swarming.
The extracting supers differ from the comb honey super cases in that, instead of being shallow and filled with little section boxes, the bodies are full depth, and have in them the same size of frames as the brood nest. When the colonies are strong and the tops of the combs in the brood nest show the presence of newly gathered honey, we are ready for the extracting bodies. When the honey flow comes on with a rush, happy is the man who is the possessor of a lot of surplus combs, as this means the immediate storage of the surplus, and does away with the attendant waste and delay when frames with but full sheets of foundation are at hand. This, however, is not a serious matter, and only prevails for the first season, as at the end of the season after the surplus is gathered, the fully drawn combs are in hand for the next season's crop, and for a number of seasons, for that matter, as these combs are capable of being used for a period of years. Many beekeepers make it a point never to use in the extracting supers combs that have ever been used in the brood nest, as they claim that such combs invariably result in a somewhat darker honey, owing to the darker color of the brood combs; but in my experience I have found that it makes but little difference, and a host of beekeepers use their frames interchangeably with the brood body and the supers.
Imbedding the wire. One thing, however, is an absolute necessity, and should not be overlooked, and that is to see that the foundations in the extracting combs are properly wired in, full directions for doing which come with the hives from the manufacturers, as this prevents the combs from becoming broken as they are rapidly whirled around in the extractors, a breakage that is almost sure to occur in the case of new combs.
When the flow comes on, and the colony is strong, lift off the lid of the colony's hive and place on top of the hive a queen-excluding board, so that the queen cannot have access to the extracting supers, for if she is allowed to enter, the presence of her eggs and brood Zinc honey-board. will seriously interfere with extracting, more or less of the brood being thrown out. For many years these excluders were nothing more or less than sheets of zinc to fit over the brood body, and were perforated with oblong holes just large enough for the workers to get through, but small enough to keep the queen below.
Even at their best the edges of the perforated holes were more or less rough and to a certain extent impeded the workers, but they were the best we could get, and there was no choice in the matter.
With the advent of the Root wire excluder, the results in increased production of honey were marked, as the bees seem readily to slip through the polished edges of the wires, and are not interfered with in the least, while the queen is fully secured below as under the old method of stamped zinc excluders. These excluders are bound with wood, and with care should last a number of years. It has been a mooted question for years as to the proper size of hive to use in the production of extracted honey, and the tendency of late has been toward a large hive, certainly of no less than ten frames, which has become the standard, though there is an ever increasing number of extracted honey men who have made special hives of twelve and fourteen-frame size, claiming that swarming is more easily controlled, and that the queen has ample laying-room.
The beginner had better adopt the regulation ten-frame size hive, as the expense will be considerably less, as these goods are always carried in stock by the supply houses ; and as experience is gained, the larger hives can be tried out according to one's own ideas, but these experiments should be very carefully made, for it is a waste of time and money to try out hives of one's own invention when the very ideas may have been tried and found wanting many years ago.
Now that you have the queen-excluder in place, proceed to put on top of it a full-sized body filled with extracting combs, and, if combs are not at hand, then use frames with full sheets of foundation wired in. The extracting super will of course be of the same size as the hive body, but it will be best not to crowd the former with its full capacity of frames, as experience has proved that it is best to use but eight frames in a ten-frame extracting super, pulling them a little apart from each other so that the bees will have ample space to cluster while storing their surplus and working on the combs.
I cannot tell why, though I know from experience, that a colony likes to build a certain amount of comb, and this may have a great deal to do with their desire to swarm, as by swarming they have ample opportunity to build new combs in their new homes, and by spacing the frames apart it enables them to satisfy this propensity by building the combs in the super out to a point where they are decidedly fat and bulky, thus holding swarming in restraint.
When filled with honey these fat combs are not an encumbrance when it comes to extracting, but on the contrary they render their uncapping particularly easy, as the capping knife can be sunk deep into the comb, and when the honey has drained from the cappings that are thrown into the uncapping boxes, it can be drawn off, and a fine lot of wax thus secured each season, Now that you have your super in position place on it its covering board, replacing the lid, and treat in like manner all colonies that are ready for supers.
If the flow is good, an examination of the super body will tell how rapidly the bees are filling it, and if you find that about twothirds of each comb is filled and capped over, the frames are ready for extracting. Some beekeepers never use more than one extracting super for each colony, and by frequent extracting, keep the colony from being crowded for room, but there is another class who prefer to tier up, and in some cases as many as three or four supers are used.
Where tiering up is to be resorted to, it requires that the beekeeper, as soon as he finds that the first super is nearly filled, shall gently lift it and place between it and the hive brood body another super with eight frames of combs or frames of wired foundation sheets, leaving the excluder still over the brood body. When the second body is nearly filled, and the indications point to a continuance of the flow, a third body may be added under the second, and all left in place until the flow is ended and operations for extracting begin. Running the bees for extracted honey has this advantage over the production of comb honey, namely, there is no risk of having a lot of unfinished sections on hand if the flow should suddenly cease, as it often does, for in producing extracted honey it matters not at all if a lot of cells should be uncapped if the bees have possession of the combs long enough to thoroughly ripen it.
Whether the extracting is done frequently with the use of but one super, or done all at once about the last of July, it is a waste of money not to extract the early white honey and keep it by itself, as it is sure to be more or less mixed with the inferior and cheaper fall honey that comes from the fall flow if the supers are left on from spring till fall. For this reason it is wiser to extract during or at the close of the flow from clover, basswood, and early bloom, and give the empty combs back to the bees for the later flow.
When your supers are ready to extract, it becomes necessary to free the combs of the bees, and, as it makes little difference if a few combs should be uncapped by the bees when we smoke them down, we need not use bee escape boards as in the case of comb honey, for in the matter of comb honey there would be a noticeable loss in the appearance and salability of the combs if the bees should in their fright at being smoked at the time of emptying the supers, uncap many cells on what would otherwise be perfect sections.
To get rid of the bees on the extracting frames, open the hive and smoke them until they run down into the body below; what few bees remain can be shaken from the frames in front of their hives and the frames of honey placed in an empty hive body on a wheelbarrow handy for the purpose.
To prevent robbing, cover the body on the wheelbarrow with a large cloth thoroughly wet, for the robbers are very chary about crawling up under a wet cloth, and as soon as the carrying body is full, cover it immediately. When two or more bodies are filled, take them to the extracting room for extracting. Do your extracting in a room the doors and windows of which are securely screened, and in the top corner of the screen door or window screen have a bee escape, so that any stray bees that may be carried into the extracting-room may escape without possibility of returning.
There are a good many extractors and uncapping knives on the market, and the novice, after reading the various catalogues, will have to make his choice, but there are certain principles that go to make up an effective extractor, and these should not be overlooked. By all means secure an extractor that is reversible
- this will save much work and trouble
in the matter of extracting, as it is a nuisance to have to take out each frame after one side of the comb has been extracted, and turn it around by hand to put it into the extractor again. There are extractors on the market that reverse automatically by a lever pressure, so that when one side of the combs is emptied, they are, at the will of the operator, reversed in a second, and the opposite sides emptied also.
While the two-frame extractors will perhaps do for the novice having a half dozen hives, yet the four-frame extractor is decidedly preferable, as it can be used just as effectively in a small apiary, and as the number of colonies increase, it is ample for the increased output.
There are a few beekeepers, whose colonies are numbered by the hundreds and whose surplus runs up into the thousands of pounds, who use an extractor of eight-frame capacity, and have it geared to a small gasolene engine. Where the size of the apiary warrants it, this is a decided saving in time and labor, but where no more than one hundred colonies are kept, the four-frame hand-power extractor will meet all the requirements, and it is astonishing how much honey can be extracted in a day with them.
The Bingham improved uncapping knife is about the best that can be used, as its square wooden handle and projecting metal shoulder on the blade enable the operator to secure a firmer grip than with the old style round handle knife. A small oil or alcohol stove is a positive necessity, and on it should be a pan filled with water kept hot, so that while one knife is being used, the other is resting in the hot water, being heated and cleansed of adhering honey and particles of wax. Personally I use an alcohol stove of special construction, and thus avoid all danger of spoiling the delicate flavor of the honey by the fumes of an oil stove. As one knife becomes cool it is placed in the pan of hot water, and the other used until it coolf. The constant heating of the uncapping knives makes all the difference in the world, and renders uncapping a comparatively easy task. Another necessary fixture is an uncapping can or tank, and it is unwise to attempt to make one, for the homemade affairs are sticky and unsatisfactory at best, and the patented ones are more effective and not expensive. We will suppose that everything is now ready, that all the adhering bees have been shaken and brushed off the combs in front of their hives, and the combs in the extractingroom ready for the extractor.
Lift up one of the combs and rest its end on the bar of the uncapping can, and with the knife proceed to cut just under the cappings with a backward and forward motion, like sawing, from the bottom upward; don't be afraid to cut deeply, as any damage to the combs, if not too great, will be repaired by the bees when the combs are returned to them. Do not be afraid to cut well under the cappings and make the comb nearly its normal thickness, and as the cappings fall into the uncapping can, scrape the blade of the knife across the rack for the purpose and clean it of honey and wax that are sure to adhere to some extent. Now reverse the frame of honey and uncap the opposite side, and when it is all uncapped, place it in one of the wire baskets of the extractor, and proceed to uncap another and place it in another of the baskets. When the four baskets are filled, extract by turning the handle of the extractor, and don't be afraid to get up considerable speed, for there is little danger to the combs if the original foundation was wired in. If you have widely spaced your combs in the extracting supers, you will find uncapping a pleasure. As the baskets whirl about, the honey is thrown out by centrifugal force, and there is no more pleasant sound than the rain of well-ripened honey against the sides of the extractor. The extractor should be elevated at least a foot above the floor of the extracting-room, and two feet would be better, so as to permit the placing of some vessel to catch the honey as it runs from the honey gate on the extractor,
A piece of cheesecloth made into a bag about six inches long can be tied to the honey out let gate of the extractor, and as the honey runs out it is strained of all sediment or dirt, and is in first-class condition for putting into cans, kegs, or vats, as the case may be. Some large beekeepers, like Mr. Alexander of Delanson, New York, place the extractor on the floor, running a large tin funnel through the floor and permitting the honey as fast as extracted to run through the funnel into a pipe that conveys it to a vat in the room below. At the end of the pipe just over the vat is hung a pail made of wire cloth; the honey is strained through the pail into the vat holding about five thousand pounds, and when one vat is filled, another section of pipe is slipped on and the honey carried to another vat.
Where the output does not run over five thousand pounds, it is just as well to elevate the extractor, using the cheesecloth, and run the honey into pails from which it can be poured into whatever vessels are to be used to siiore or market it, or it can be run directly into the vessels in which it is to be sold. We have seen a good many receptacles used for storing extracted honey, from old milk cans to stone crocks, but there is nothing so satisfactory as the square five-gallon tin cans made for the purpose, two of which come packed in a reshipping case.
These cans, if new, and second-hand cans should never be used, are the very best receptacles, as there is no danger of contaminating the honey, and no fear of leakage. Moreover, when put up in this shape they are just right for the buyer who bottles honey, as honey, which is almost sure to granulate, can be conveniently liquefied by simply placing the cans in hot water. Where the honey is so packed, it often brings a considerably greater price than honey run into kegs and barrels, which has to be scooped and shovelled out to be liquefied. Again, honey in these cans can be packed in storage compactly, and when the caps are screwed on, there is no leakage or danger of robbing being started by the bees.
Shall we return the extracted combs to the bees as soon as they are emptied? That will depend upon the chances of robbing being started by the bees getting at the empty combs. If the flow is well on and care is exercised, it will do no harm to return them at once, but there are a number of beekeepers who prefer to wait till toward evening, when the bees have stopped flying, and return them all at once. Local conditions will guide the beginner as to which method he had best pursue.
When all of the early light-colored honey has been extracted, the empty combs can be allowed to remain on the hives until the late flow in late summer and fall has been gathered, when the same methods of taking the surplus that were used for the early flow should be followed as soon as the late flowecs cease to secrete nectar. After the late flow has been extracted, the combs may be set outdoors in their bodies and the bees permitted to have access to them to clean them up, and then they should be set away in a safe place where mice or rats cannot destroy them as they are an important asset for the coming season. My plan is to fill each super body with its full quota of combs and to pile them five or six high on the barn floor, closing them securely at the top with extra lids and placing a weight upon each lid; and if the nights are frosty, there is no danger from the ravages of the wax moth.