I had such a fantastic day and came away with a fuelled ambition to have my own hive.
Since that beautiful sunny day that introduced me to the wonder that is a colony of bees, you will often see me stood over flowers, mesmerised by the beautiful striped insect busily gathering nectar. It is safe to say I have an above average interest in these amazing creatures.
So, can you imagine my delight when I received an email from Anna inviting me join her and Alf for their latest session of honey extraction. Without hesitation their invitation was accepted.
I am fortunate that I live a short distance from Upper Beaconsfield, it is not more than a fifteen minutes drive and the route is quite picturesque, which is typical of the Dandenong Ranges.
I arrive at the Honey House, where Alf is waiting. As I open the door the smell of sweet honey fills the air. Alf greets me and encourages me in with urgency in his voice. If the local bees, and Alf has many hives, get a whiff of the golden treasure within, they will arrive on mass and fill the honey house for a feeding frenzy. I hurry on in and the door is firmly closed behind me.
Once inside I am greeted by a stack of supers, the boxes in which the bees store their honey.
The Honey house is equipped with all a beekeeper needs to quickly extract large volumes of honey from multiple beehive frames.
Alf produces organic honey from their hives, which are scattered around the Victorian countryside. It is amazing how the honey from hives placed in different areas within Victoria can taste so different. Of course Alf knows which plant blossoms allow his bees to make the tastiest honey, so he choses his sites carefully.
Alf takes the first honey laden frame from one of the supers. The first step is to uncap the honey. This is simply the removal of the protective wax that the bees have laid over the honey, and the method is no more complex than an electric heated knive worked over the surface of the honey comb. Alf explains how preserving the comb is important as it saves the bees having to rebuild it when the frame is reinstated in the super and added to a hive.
To confirm that I would be buying the right hive for me, I ask if I could hold the frame, and sure enough it was pretty heavy when full. So, the next question to be answered was, could I lift the super. I grip the wooden box and heave. With the super full of frames packed with honey, the answer was a definite no!
We try the same test, this time with the much shallower super of an “Ideal” hive. Success, I can lift a full super and the frame full of honey was easier to handle too. This was a worthwhile test, I would have got myself into a complete pickle if I had purchased anything other than an Ideal.
Alf sets about uncapping frames, as the hot knife glides through the honey the scent of honey in the air intensifies. He works quickly, allowing the capping to drop into a grill bottomed crate, from this any residual honey is strained through and collected for harvest.
With this process done the Frame is inserted into the “Spinner”, a machine that uses centrifugal force to spin the honey out of the frames.
Once the Spinner is full of frames, Alf switches it on and leaves it to do its work. He puts his ear against the drum to listen for the reducing sound of honey splattering onto the side of the spinner. After a few minutes, the machine is switched off and when a frame is lifted, it is now visibly void of honey.
The empty frames are removed from the spinner and after a quick inspection are reloaded into the super box ready to go back out onto the hive.
With a large container placed under the tap of the spinner, Alf flips open the tap and out flows the golden, viscous fluid.
From here the honey must be filtered and allowed time to settle, this lets the air bubbles clear.
The only step left now is to package the honey. All this takes is a twist of the tap on the filtration unit and the sweet harvest pours into the container with ease.
With that all done the beeswax is not wasted, it’s over to Anna to work her magic.
Not only can you purchase super tasty honey from Alf and Anna, but you can also spend a day on one of their Beekeeping courses.
If bees fascinate you, as they do me, even if you don’t or can’t have a hive, the day is a fabulous experience. You will learn about bees and get to don the beekeepers suit and see inside a hive. I had a truly memorable day and as soon as spring comes, my bees will be on order!
Keep life sweet honey!