Honey bees are quite the extraordinary creatures, and we’re reminded just how extraordinary they really are each Labor Day, as we, the Francois Family, gather down in Manchester, Iowa to harvest the pure and sweet overflow honey from my beekeeping father-in-law’s 7 hives. A weekend I look forward to all summer long!
After one honey harvest under my belt, check out last year’s harvest here, I felt as if I had a solid understanding of the amazing process: the bee colony teamwork, the formation of the honeycomb, and the transformation from flower nectar to honey, but I couldn’t help but find myself a little star struck again this year by the honey bee’s handy work. It’s just so cool, you guys, the way these self-sustaining, micro bee metropolises transform wildflower nectar into a healthy overflow of decadently sweet, non-perishable, all-natural honey!
In case you’re not familiar with how honey bee hives operate, here’s a little on their M.O.: Each colony, which consists of about 50K-60K bees (a queen bee, 3000 male drone bees and 50K female worker bees), work together in tandem to produce honey (their food source) by gathering nectar from flowers and mixing it with enzymes in their mouths. They then store the nectar in their hive’s honeycomb wax and cap off the combs with a wax seal until the colony needs it for food later. The extra honey they make is what we have on our toast in the morning!
The harvesting process is quite simple and far less awe-inspiring than the work of the bee’s! First we suit up in the bee suits and remove the frames from the hives out in the fields. The bee suits are clutch in protecting anyone from being stung. We bring the frames back to the cabin and use a heat gun or hot knife to open up the waxed honeycomb. Then the frames go into the honey extractor which spins the frames around super fast to whip out the honey. At this point, that sweet honey goodness is filtered through an extra fine sieve before being bottled up and brought into the kitchen for cooking!
Of course we’re all operating on robust sugar highs throughout the extracting and bottling process from sneaking our fair share of honey tastings. Because srsly now, how can one resist? #yum
I snapped a few short videos on my iPhone of two harvesting moments, and even though they’re non-edited, I think it’s still fun to see that sweet honey in action!
An electric heated knife peels back the honeycomb wax top layer, so the honey can be removed.
Filling bottles with honey.