In London, the main honey flow is in July, and with reasonable conditions it should be possible to remove a honey crop in early August. In the countryside there will also be a spring flow, such as oilseed rape, but we don’t get that here.
Our bees have done pretty well, and mostly filled two super boxes full of honey. We went through the boxes and found the frames that were pretty much all capped honey – the wax cappings over the cells indicate that it is ‘ripe’ honey, having sufficiently low water content and therefore stable and not liable to ferment.
We set aside the frames that weren’t so full for returning to the bees – it is important that they still have enough stores to get them through the winter, and it is always a tricky balance as to how much to take and how much to leave behind.
We removed the wax cappings (with the yellow uncapping fork!) to expose the honey.
We then set about spinning the honey out of the frames using an extractor borrowed from our association. What an aroma!
As the honey started to flow from the tank, we ran it through a coarse sieve and then a fine sieve into the honey bucket, to remove bits of wax and the odd bees leg! We left it to stand in the honey bucket for 24 hours for all the bubbles to rise to the surface before putting the honey into jars.
Encouraged by our local association, we decided to enter our honey into the National Honey Show – why not? We entered into the Middlesex class for 2 identical jars of honey, in the medium category.
Our association has the required grading glasses, which you can use to determine whether your honey is ‘light’, ‘medium’ or ‘dark’. Ours was right on the boundary between medium and dark so I elected to enter it in medium.
The word ‘identical’ is also apparently key. The jars have to be identical, reportedly even any mark printed into them during the glass-making process, the labels have to be placed identically, the right distance from the bottom of the jar.
Alas, we did not win a prize. Was it not considered to be medium? Were the jars not sufficiently identical? Did they even taste the honey? (Many are disqualified before the honey is even tasted). We shall never know. Still, it was a fun experience to enter, and attending we got to see some great exhibits, listen to some interesting lectures and attend some useful workshops. All in all a good way to end the beekeeping year.