Monday, September 18, 2006

Extracting honey

is a lot of work. I never knew. I guess I need to learn more specialized bee vocabulary to talk about it accurately, but the gist of it is this: bees make honeycombs full of honey in open rectangular frames. After they fill up the combs, they seal each end, so that the frame is full of honeycomb that has a thin surface of beeswax. So to get the honey out, you need to take off the cover (or cap) on each side, using a knife or a comb, or something.

The thing is, you don't want to destroy the walls of the honeycomb, because it is too hard for the bees to build it back up. So there you are, honey dripping everywhere, holding on to the frame with one hand while trying to gently remove the thin covering of wax from one side and then the other. It is slippery work, and much hotter than I would have expected.

Once the honey is exposed, the frames are put into contraptions much like salad spinners that use centrifugal force to remove the honey. Obviously, any sane person would be using electricity for this job, but as part of our hands-on learning experience, many parents were using the hand-operated models. I hate to say this, but the only ones who were really any good at getting the honey out were the dads. Whereas I was much better at the fine-motor task of uncapping. Hmm .... Not too PC, but there you have it.

After the honey is spun out, it is filtered, to get out remaining bits of wax and the numerous dead bees that somehow had gotten mired in it. After more than 20 people working for at least four hours, we had made only the smallest dent in the number of frames ready to be uncapped, but there was honey everywhere. Massive quantities. We brought home four jars.

The lovely smell of warm beeswax stayed with me well into the evening.


Blogger Lesley said...

at least you didn't get stung!

10:06 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hi Sarah. Just a quick "hello" before I start my day. I hope to come to San Jose SOMETIME. I'm in two book clubs and will send some titles to you and Lesley when I can figure out which ones were any good. I already forgot most of them.

Take care and wishing you well.
Toni Brandt

6:58 AM  

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