Life in the Beehive: Part 3by Bradon Coy on December 1, 2018
Welcome to the third and final part of the bee series. Thank you for tuning into these past few blog posts and if you missed the last two, go check them out.
One of the most extraordinary things about honey bees is that they produce their own food source! They are one of the only insects that do that! We actually eat that sweet food that we call "Honey". Have you ever wondered how the honey gets from the hive to the jar? It is a very long process. Beekeepers typically harvest two to three times in a year depending on the size of the hive.
This is your typical honeybee hive.
The hive consists of any number of brood boxes and Honey Supers. The brood boxes are where the queen hangs out and lays eggs. The eggs develop in the brood boxes. The brood boxes are what the bees take from, and the honey supers are what we take from. Most of the hive consists of brood boxes so that the bees can survive. There are usually one or two honey supers on the top of the hive.
Inbetween the supers and brood boxes, there is a mesh-like material that keeps the queen in the brood boxes and out of the supers. That is called a "Queen Excluder". We don't want the queen going into the boxes that we harvest from and laying eggs in that honey. In the picture above, the smaller boxes are the honey supers and taller boxes are the brood boxes. Brood boxes have many names such as hive body, deep super, etc. Bellow is a good diagram of the rest of the hive.
Now that you know all the parts of the hive, let me walk you through the processing of the honey. Inside all the boxes, there are empty frames. The bees build comb on those frames that they then lay eggs in and make honey in. When its time to extract the honey, the beekeeper pulls out the frames in the supers and brings them to his/her workstation. When they get to their workstation, the combs have honey in them but they are covered in a thin layer of wax. We call this "Capped Honey". To get to the honey, we need to remove the caps. There are many different ways that people do this. Some people use a special heated knife, a scraper, or a special uncapping tool. The goal is to get the caps punctured so the honey can flow out. (Its actually very satisfying to watch.)
Once all the frames are uncapped, the frames go into something called a "Centrifugal extractor". This machine uses centrifugal force and spins to fling the honey onto the sides of the big jug and all the honey flows to the bottom.
The plug is pulled and all the beautiful honey starts flowing out into a mesh filter because there are little bits of wax and things that we don't want in our honey. Once it's all filtered, we have ourselves some gorgeous honey ready to eat!
I hope you enjoyed this series on bees and how their hives operate.
Thank you for reading!
~Bradon (Bug Boy)
Written by Bradon Coy on 11/30/18