As soon as the honeycomb in the hive is filled with honey and capped with beeswax they are ready to be harvested. Beekeepers regularly inspect their hives to see when the honeycomb can be removed. Honeycomb is removed from the hive and taken to a mobile extracting van or central extracting plant called a “honey house”. The wax cappings are removed with a steam heated knife or special revolving blade before the honeycomb is placed in the extractor. The honeycomb is then placed in revolving baskets where the spinning movement throws out the honey by centrifugal force.
Little or no damage is done to the delicate honeycomb by this process and when it is returned to the hive, the bees immediately set about removing any left-over honey plus repairing and polishing each cell in readiness for a new load of honey. Honey collected from the extractor is then strained and left to stand until air bubbles rise. Bubbles and any left-over wax particles are skimmed from the surface and the honey is ready for bottling. It truly is straight from Nature’s storehouse! Most apiarists (beekeepers) send their honey in bulk to city and country packing houses. Some have their own bottling equipment and sell the honey to retail and wholesale stores.
How does a bee find pollen?
Honeybees prefer to work close to their hive. Beekeepers move hives occasionally to give the bees access to a good floral source. Bees tend to work less than 200 metres from the hive, but can range up to more than 1.5 km away if necessary. Scout bees have the task of finding new nectar sources and head out to check all nearby vegetation. If they find nectar, they return to the hive and pass on the exact location with a remarkably intricate dance routine.
The dance of the bee
Once pollen, nectar or water is found, the scout bee returns to the hive and dances on the honeycomb to indicate where the source may be found. Many factors indicate to the worker bee the precise position. Wings vibrating swiftly as the scout bee dances in a circle indicates that the find is within 100 metres of the hive. If the source is further away, the dance will be a “wagtail” roughly in a figure eight with a straight centre section. The direction in which she runs the centre and the speed of her movements tell how far to fly and in which direction.
- Metal covers help to insulate bees from heat and cold.
- The “supers” or larder. Upper structure shows beeswax comb in individual boxes for surplus honey.
Lower structure shows full frames for storage honey which may be extracted from the comb or cut from it in chunks.
- Special frame or “Queen excluder” to keep the Queen in the brood chamber below.
- Deep “super” for the brood chamber or nursery.
- Upper picture shows the bees’ doorway, a small wooden bar that can be arranged so as to make the entrance small or larger. Lower picture is a stand to keep the hive from the ground.