Harvesting honey has not really changed much since the 1850s. At the end of August, we carefully assess each hive to determine if there is enough surplus to allow us to harvest any excess honey. We always leave at least one full box of honey (called a super) for the bees to feed on through winter and top up any weaker hives with sugar syrup. To remove the excess supers, we place a cloth sprayed with burnt almond oil on the top of the hive. The honeybees hate the vapour and move away down into the hive. After a few minutes, we remove the full supers weighing up to 25Kg each (and now empty of bees) and take them away for extraction.
Back in the extraction room, we test samples to confirm that the honey has less than 17% water content (to prevent fermentation) before we take each frame from the supers and slice off the thin beeswax cappings from each side before placing the full frames into the stainless steel extractor which takes nine frames at a time and spins them at high speed. The honey is flung out of the individual cells, hitting the side of the extractor and collecting at the bottom. When full, we open the tap and run the honey through an initial set of filters to remove any bits of wax etc before we then transfer it into our honey warmer at 30C which makes the honey much more liquid, and it’s left there for several hours so that any remaining wax settles to the top where we can remove it. The warmed honey is then put through a set of very fine filters to remove any further bits of wax and then left to settle again before we place it into either food-grade buckets for storage or directly into jars, depending on our needs.
The wet frames are put back into the supers and put back on the hives for about 48 hours where the bees completely remove any remaining honey, allowing us to either store the frames for next spring or to melt down the beeswax for filtering and subsequent use in our products. At no time do we add or take anything away from the honey and it’s never heated beyond 40C which might degrade it to ensure its purity as some of the best quality honey in the world—Made by our beautiful British Bees!