Spring has arrived and I’m thinking about my blogs and what to write. It occurred to me, I’ve been trying to keep some semblance of truffle related products alive on social media by cooking and experimenting with our truffle honey – enter a Bee Blog! What better topic to write about in Spring than gathering honey?? Almost as good as hunting truffles in Winter!
Technically it’s referred to as ‘robbing’ the hive but that seems unnecessarily violent, rude and unpleasant and our bees so far don’t seem unduly outraged. Still, possibly a honeymoon period for us all …. (so funny). Well, except for that one time when David angered the bees and a lengthy visit to Goulburn Base Hospital ensued. But it cannot be counted.
The prospect of harvesting honey is certainly a huge (arguably the main) attraction in keeping bees. And bottling your own honey is magical. The smell of the honey as you’re working with the frames and spinning them out is surprisingly pervading and compelling.
But to go back a few steps …
Weather is a critical consideration when planning on gathering your honey; ideally a warm and still day is desirable as you want your bee hives happy and content. There’s something very relaxing about being out with the hives on a warm sunny day listening to the gentle humming of the bees. And as we found out, the converse is equally true.
The hives are smoked to calm the bees and the chosen frames are removed from the hives to work on at the shed. The number of frames taken depends on the strength of the colony, the amount of honey currently existing in the hives and nectar available to the bees. At the risk of stating the obvious, frames loaded with honey are surprisingly heavy – a box of 8 frames can weigh over 30kgs.
Extracting the honey – The Process
A heated knife is used to slice through either side of the capped frame and the frame is then loaded into the extractor (a centrifuge). At Ganymede, we use an extractor that takes 3 frames at a time and it’s a matter of spinning the frames so the honey is forced from the comb into the holding tank for filtering and bottling later.
Each season I’ve been expecting fabulously toned arms because after spinning for 5 to 6 strenuous minutes, the frames are switched to the opposite sides and spun again for another 5 to 6 minutes or until the combs are empty.
Unlike our honey, the arm toning is proving elusive though we did discover the hard way one cold autumn day that working the centrifuge is MUCH easier and quicker when the weather is warm and the honey flows freely. Far less spinning involved! If ever there was going to be a toned arm in sight it would have been then.
We leave the honey to settle overnight for any air bubbles to disperse and then it’s just a matter of bottling the honey into jars. And the fun truly begins – making truffle honey and experimenting!