Tag Archive | honey

Flavorings for Homemade Cream Honey

Sunday, February 26, 2017

Sure, cream honey is delicious “as is”, but if you’re already putting in the effort, why not split the batch and add some flavors?

If you’ve never heard of or made cream honey, then revert back to my recent post on Making Cream Honey, then come back here and learn how to kick it up a notch!

The following provides an overview of popular flavorings and additives for cream honey, as well as recommended amounts and online sources for purchasing these ingredients.

Freeze Dried Fruit

Photo from Nuts.com - their website offers a variety of dried, powdered organic fruits.

Nuts.com offers a variety of dried, powdered organic fruits that make great additions to cream honey. (Photo from Nuts.com)

Powdered freeze dried fruit mixes well with cream honey to add a whole new dimension of flavor.  A little goes a long way, so start with a very small amount and add as you go.  In fact, that’s good advice when adding any kind of flavor additive – you can always add more, but you can’t take it out once it’s been added.

  • Suggested Ratio: Start with 1/2 tsp per pound and go from there.  Better to add less than you think you’ll need since powdered freeze dried fruit will absorb moisture and expand, resulting in a harder product that may be difficult to spread. Use honey that has an 18% moisture content.  Higher moisture content will allow for some absorption while still producing a balanced and spreadable product.
  • Suggested Flavorings: Taste your honey and think about compatible flavors.  Darker, heavier flavored honeys might work better with darker, richer fruits, like cherries or blackberries.  Lighter, fruitier honeys might go well with brighter flavored fruits like mango, apricot, or raspberries.
  • Sources:

Flavor Oils

Lorann Oils offers a wide variety of quality flavor oils that work great in cream honey.  Shown are three of my favorites.

Flavor oils can be very strong, and some are stronger than others, so only a very small amount may be needed.  Remember, you can always add flavor, but you can’t take it out.

  • Suggested Ratio: I use about 1/4 tsp per 1 pound of honey.  However, start with 1/8 tsp, taste, and repeat until you’ve achieved a flavor level that you’re happy with.  For very strong flavors, consider using a dropper to test even smaller amounts.
  • Suggested Flavorings: All honey tastes different, so use flavors that are compatible with your honey.  Some of my favorites include:  Vanilla Nut, Blackberry, Cinnamon Roll, and Orange Cream.  Consider using food grade essential oils, like lavender, orange, geranium, or chile oil.

Stir a drop of flavoring with a tbsp. of honey to test new flavors and combinations.

  • Sources:
  • LorAnn Oils. I get all of my flavor oils from LorAnn Oils because they are top quality, food grade.  Even their essential oils are food grade.  They also have a huge selection of flavors.  Let them know you’re a beekeeper, and the folks at LorAnn Oils will provide a code to access their wholesale prices.

Ground Nuts or Nut Meal

Photo from Pecans.com - A quality online source for pecan products, including pecan meal.

Pecans.com is a quality online source for pecan products, including pecan meal.  (Photo from Pecans.com)

Nuts used for cream honey are typically ground into a meal, then mixed into the honey for even flavor and distribution.  Then some larger pieces may be mixed in for aesthetics and added crunch.  Keep in mind, this will be spread on toast or pancakes, so keep the larger pieces to a medium chop – not too fine, but not too course.

  • Suggested Ratio: Start with 1 oz. of nut meal + 1 oz nut pieces per 1 pound of honey.  Adjust as you go.
  • Suggested Nuts: Pecans are the most popular; however, walnuts, almonds, hazelnuts, cashews or pistachios might also make good additions.  Again, match the nut flavor to the honey flavor.

If making your own meal, then enhance the flavor by toasting the nuts in a 350 degree oven for 5-10 minutes (watch them closely!).

Bring toasted nuts to room temperature before grinding, and be careful not to make nut butter.

  • Sources: Most honey professionals leave the nut grinding to the nut professionals.  It might be a good idea to start with purchased nut meal.  Nut meal can be ordered online from any of the following sources:

Ground Spices

Penzey's has top quality spices and a HUGE selection. (Photo from Penzeys.com)

Penzey’s has top quality spices and a HUGE selection. (Photo from Penzeys.com)

Dried, ground spices can be delicious in cream honey.  Imagine stirring cinnamon cream honey into your morning oatmeal.  Yum!

  • Suggested Ratio: Again, start very slowly when adding dried spices – maybe a pinch per pound to start, then taste and adjust from there.
  • Suggested Spices: Again, compatibility is key.  Don’t use overpowering spices in a light floral honey.  Try a very small amount of spice in a small amount of honey and taste before plunging it into the full batch.

Use only fresh, high quality spices.  Honey is too precious to skimp!

Great additions might include ginger, dried chilies, ground cinnamon, ground powdered vanilla, mint, allspice, anise…or a carefully crafted blend.

  • Sources:
    • Penzeys – Trusted name in spices and awesome selection!  I’m a huge fan.

Some final notes:

  • Consider combining flavors, like vanilla pecan, or dried peach w/ cinnamon.
  • If you add too much of any flavor type, just add more honey to balance it out.
  • When selling cream honey products, remember to include ALL ingredients on the labels, and consider adding an allergen warning if nuts are added.
  • Properly processed cream honey can be stored at room temperature. However, it will break down at higher temperatures.  Especially on hot days, consider keeping it in a cooler location (i.e. basement or pantry).
  • If you have plain cream honey on hand, you can add flavoring by simply whipping it with a blender and adding your flavors.  Store the cream honey in a cool (ideally 58 degree) location to allow it to reset.
  • Take copious notes and write down your recipes!  Note what works, what doesn’t work, additives to honey ratios, and the processes used to make the cream honey recipes.  That way every batch will be perfect and consistent.

I hope this info gets you excited enough to experiment with making your own cream honey!  It’s delicious, a fun science project to make with kids, and a unique homemade gift for friends and family.

Thanks for visiting, and do share your recipes and pics!

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Making Cream Honey (not just for beekeepers!)

Wednesday, January 31, 2017

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What IS cream honey? 

Oh my, if you’re a beekeeper or a simply a honey lover, then you must learn how to make cream honey.  It makes a delicious and unique gift for friends, family, co-workers, teachers, mailpersons…even kids!  And if you’re looking for a good way to use up the hard, crystalized honey that’s been sitting in your basement for the past three years, then look no further – cream honey is the answer.

How it works…

Honey never goes bad, but it does crystalize.  The crystals are very granular – the size and texture of granulated sugar or fine sand.  As the crystals grow throughout the honey, they maintain this granular size, resulting in a thick, rough, clumpy consistency that’s better dissolved in hot liquids than spread on toast or pancakes.

Now, imagine if you could dramatically reduce the size of the crystals so that, as they grow throughout the honey, they create a creamy, smooth, spreadable product that’s fantastic on toast or pancakes.  That’s cream honey!  Wait, it gets better!  Imagine a smooth spreadable honey that’s flavored with cinnamon, vanilla, dried fruits, toasted pecans, or any flavorings you like.  Exciting, right?

What’s more, cream honey is simple to make once you know the process.  So now that you know what it is, let’s make some cream honey!

Plain Cream Honey

Ingredients

9 parts regular pure raw honey

1 part plain, pure raw cream honey (either purchased or homemade)

  1. Measure out the honey.

Use a food scale to measure out 9 parts of regular honey and 1 part cream (or seed) honey by weight.  You want 90% liquid honey, and 10% cream honey (no more than 10%, and no less – any more and you’re wasting good honey).

Example: 16 oz.  honey à 16 x .10 (10%) = 1.6 oz. cream/seed honey

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Seed Honey:  The 10% cream honey is called “seed” honey, which acts as a starter for creating a larger batch of cream honey.  With that said, always set aside a jar of plain cream honey from each batch to use as a starter for future batches, or if you’re just starting out, use purchased cream honey (raw, pure).

  1. Liquefy the regular honey (no crystals).  (9 parts only, do not liquefy the cream honey)

To liquefy the crystalized honey, simply place the honey in a pot over low heat and gradually warm it, stirring constantly until all crystals are eliminated.  DO NOT HEAT TO OVER 120 DEGREES, or you risk cooking out all of the honey’s beneficial properties.

I bring the honey to temperature, then pull it off the stove and stir and stir.  When it begins to cool, I put it back on the stove, bring it to temperature again, pull it off the stove and stir again.  I repeat this process until the honey is fully liquefied, or clear and liquid in appearance.  Might take about 15 or 20 minutes.

Note:  Crystalized honey works well for making cream honey because it will re-crystalize faster and better than uncrystalized honey. If your regular honey is liquid and you’re certain it does not contain crystals, then skip this step and go straight to step 4.  If you’re uncertain whether your honey contains crystals, then follow this step to be safe.  If the honey has been sitting for several months, then there’s a good chance crystals have begun to form but may not be visible yet. 

  1. Cool the liquefied honey to room temperature.

  2. Combine both the liquid and cream honeys in a mixer.

Add both honeys in a mixing bowl.  Use a mixer to whip both honeys thoroughly for 3-5 minutes.  The final mixed honey is very pourable and resembles cake batter, as shown in the photos below.

Mixing Notes: 

  • Several methods can be used to mix the honey.  I like to whip my honey in a mixer.  This method ensures that the honeys are well combined, and it adds air for a lighter colored, creamier final product.  If this doesn’t appeal to you, then simply combine manually until very well incorporated.
  • The seed honey must be thoroughly and evenly incorporated throughout the liquid honey to ensure that the crystals grow evenly throughout the honey.  Do not skimp on this step, especially if mixing by hand.
  • For larger batches (e.g. 5 gallons batch), the honey can be mixed in a dry, sanitized, food grade bucket using a drill with a clean, dry sanitized paint mixer attachment (for food only).

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  1. Optional – Add flavorings and additives.

This is the time to add flavorings, spices, nuts, dried fruit, etc.  Since there’s quite a bit of information to be shared on this topic, I’ll cover additives and flavorings in a separate, follow-up post.

  1. Pour finished cream honey into containers.

Glass, plastic – it doesn’t matter.  When selecting containers, keep in mind that this honey is not pourable once it sets, so pour into final containers.  For example, if giving as gifts, then pour the honey into the containers that will be gifted.  Transferring the finished cream honey between containers will be a ridiculous mess.

7.  Optional – Remove the bubble layer from the surface.

Whipped honey contains lots of air, so as the honey sits for 12-24 hours at room temperature, the bubbles travel up to the surface, as shown in the photo below.

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This layer can be scraped off, or overlay a piece of plastic wrap and smooth out the bubble surface.  Since the purpose of this step is purely aesthetic, feel free to skip it.  The bubbles won’t affect the taste or quality of the cream honey.

8. Set the honey in cool location at around 58 degrees for 13 days.

A temperature controlled fridge is ideal, however a regular fridge (top shelf) should work fine, or a cool location in the basement or a cool garage would also work well.  Just test the temps and keep as close to 58 degrees as possible.

13 days is the magic number!  After 13 days, voila, you should have spreadable cream honey.

Below are the jars of cream honey that I made from two pounds (32 oz) of regular honey + 3.2 oz of cream “seed” honey.

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Visit my follow-up post called “Flavorings for Homemade Cream Honey”, and learn how you can add fruit, flavor oils, spices, nuts and more to make your cream honey even more delicious!

Ants, Swarms and Honey

July 23, 2016, Saturday

Wow, this summer is flying by.  Unreal.  As much as I’ve think about updating everyone on the bees, we’ve just been so stinking busy this summer.  We’ve had several more swarms since early summer, but other than that, the girls have been working hard gathering nectar and food and making honey.  There’s hasn’t been much more to tell until now.  So here’s a few bits to catch you up.

Ants

I can’t say I’ve experienced ant problems.  We add a base to the bottom of each hive with PVC cups that I keep filled with water.  They really help keep the ants  and crawly critters out of the hives.  But the other day I saw a TON of ants collecting at the base of one hive.

Hubster repositions and levels GH1 base and adds ant deterring frame.

Base frame with ant-deterring PVC cups that we keep filled with water.

I thought of several options for removing them, but most are not good for the bees.  What I came up with was cinnamon.  I added several tablespoons of cinnamon to an old spice bottle and shook the cinnamon over the ants and around the base of the hive on the ground and on the cinder blocks.  Worked like a charm.  They picked up and moved someplace else that’s not around my hives.

Swarms

I received a frantic call from my neighbor this morning…one of those “your bees are swarming!” calls.  Ugh.  I ran out and watched a large swarm of bees buzzing their usual 30+ feet up into a pine trees.  I ran to my hives to see if I could tell which hive was the culprit.  No signs whatsoever, just business as usual.  Usually they all go nuts when one of the hives swarms.  But they were quietly going about their business.  So I have to wonder if it came from one of my hives, or maybe it was one of my swarms still looking for a place to live.  To bee honest, I’m not sure how long swarms hang around before they find refuge or meet their demise.

Anyway, I had to do something, so I made a quickie swarm trap, as follows:

  • I grabbed a copier box and cut a small hole in the bottom for an entrance.
  • Added one frame of old comb and one frame of fresh foundation.
  • Lined the inside with lemongrass essential oil.
  • Added the lid and lined the outside of the entrance with lemongrass oil.
  • Taped every possible opening to make it secure and ensure the entrance was the only place where they could come and go.
  • Then found the hubster’s old ladder, climbed the tree and placed it between some strong branches and secured with cable ties.  Not too bad, really.

Do I think it will work.  Heck no, but I have a better chance than not doing anything at all.  So we shall see.
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Honey

On the honey front, I’ve collected about 5 or 6 frames and plan to collect more this weekend.  They’ve produced lots of honey, but still a lot of capping to do.  Unlike past years, I’m collecting as I go then will extract around Labor Day weekend.

New Addition

One last thing, I have to introduce Pink Hive, our newest addition to the apiary.  Pink Hive is a split from Purple Hive, and next week I’ll be checking to make sure we have a good laying queen.  Purple Hive is my strongest hive, the one with the Pennsylvania queen.  Purple Hive is one that swarmed recently.  They are mite-resistant bees, they populate like crazy, make lots of honey, overwintered like a charm, and until now, haven’t swarmed.  Plus, they’re gentle to work with.  Polar opposite of my Texas queens.  I bought my queen from Log Cabin Bee Farm.  The mated queens aren’t cheap, but they are top quality and worth every penny.  You only need one good hive to get more hives going.  My goal is to get all of my hives transitioned to this amazing PA stock.
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So there you go, the latest and greatest.  The girls are doing great.  At least they’re getting their swarming out of the way before it’s too late in the season.  They still have time to build back up for winter.  Fingers crossed for a good honey harvest!  Happy summer everyone!

The Price of Slacking

September 7, 2015

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I did more spectating than inspecting this summer. All hives were well populated, honey production was high, and activity was high all summer. I figured they just do better when I leave them alone and that they would continue to do well until it was time to prep for winter. I’d even hoped for a fall honey harvest.  The bees, however, started going in a different direction…

Labor Day Inspection

On Labor Day I inspected the hives for the first time in probably a month and a half. No honey, which wasn’t terribly surprising considering we’ve had a dearth here since the end of July. They’d had plenty of stores, which they’d done a good job of consuming. I swapped frames around, removing the supers and adding honey frames back to the hives.

All hives had brood, but the numbers had dwindled in Purple and Green hives.  Even in Blue Hive the brood patterns were very spotty. That meant either (or both) the queens were weak, they were queenless, or varroa mites were in full force. From what I’ve heard, mite counts are high this year. But I have hygenic, mite resistant bees, and I don’t treat because I’d like for them to stay mite resistant.

I returned to the shop with frame filled supers, a collection of wet nectar and honey frames, dry untouched frames, and dry drawn comb. I separated the frames – dry, wet, honey. Wet frames were set outside so the bees could clean them up (farther than 50ft from the hives, of course). Honey frames were wrapped in plastic and frozen, and dry frames (including the frames cleaned by the bees) were stacked and stored with moth crystals.

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The Search for Three Queens

It was a busy afternoon, but at least I knew where the girls stood. Immediately, I began looking up sources for queens since I hadn’t seen any signs of varroa – the bees looked healthy, no wing deformity, no signs of mites on the bees or larvae. BeeWeaver is where I purchased my existing queens. The bees started out hot, but they are mite resistant, fast producers, and hardy in the winter. The problem was they had no queens available until mid-October. I can’t wait that long. I need queens now so they have some chance of building up their populations before the cold weather gets here. I hate to mix my bees again and would prefer to keep the BeeWeaver lines going, but I also don’t want to risk losing three hives.

The hardest thing about beekeeping is finding a queen when you need one. I can understand completely why people choose to rear their own queens. Or better yet, next year I might put together several nucs in July or August so I’ll have one or two queens and some extra bees available if needed.  Fortunately, I was lucky enough to find a private queen breeder in Pennsylvania, a retired USDA employee with vast knowledge and experience who rears his own hygenic queens. They weren’t cheap, but they’re in the mail.

Lesson learned – what looks good on the outside may not bee so good on the inside. A lot can change over the course of 2 or 3 weeks, so keep up with inspections at least every 3 or 4 weeks.

Gather, Extract, Bottle

Sunday, July 12, 2015


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You know that saying about something is attracted to something like bees are attracted to honey?  Unless you’ve actually extracted honey, you couldn’t possibly know just how attracted to honey they really are.

Bees smell honey. Then they go tell their friends where to find the honey…and they tell their friends…and they tell their friends…and within minutes the driveway, the garage, the pool, the entire front yard is enveloped in bees, like something out of a horror movie.  Then the hubster is unhappy because he can’t in the pool because it’s surrounded by bees, and I need to get the bees out of the garage…and don’t let them in the house cause the cats will chase them and get stung…then I’m pulling out the hose to squirt the bees away and wash the honey smell off the floor, the driveway, anything and everything’s that’s come in contact with the honey.  Not to mention, I kick into rescue mode and start fishing the little buggers out of the pool.  All of this is hypothetical by the way :o) Next year we’ll sneak everything out of the garage and into the workshop around midnight when the bees are sleeping.

The hardest part of extracting honey is not letting the bees know you’re doing it.  Stealth is key.  I learned my lesson last year, escaping with uncovered boxes down to the garage and leaving them outside for even a few minutes and attracting hoards of bees that hovered outside the garage door all day.

Based on that experience, I improved my process this year.  In fact, I was quite pleased with myself and how I managed to bypass the drama that we experienced last year.  At least until the hubster opened the garage door the next day while the honey boxes and some leftover honey were sitting on the garage floor.  Not to mention, they smelled the remnants from the day before.  Bees are smart!  But getting back to extraction day, I actually came up with a good process.  Not a perfect process, but a good one.

Step 1.  Prepare

Think smart.  Preparation is key.  Get the tools and brush ready, get the fume board ready, get a wheelbarrow ready, get top covers ready, have the smoker going, get the gear on, and have a completely enclosed facility ready to house the honey.

Step 2.  Fuming the Bees, One Box at a Time

  • Put a top cover top side down in the bottom of the wheel barrow.
  • Lightly smoke around the top edges of the hive and at the entrance to let them know you’re coming in.  But not too much.  You don’t want to smoke in the honey.
  • Spray the fume board 3 times with the almond scented fuming spray, and place the board on top of the hive.
  • Wait  5 – 10 minutes for the bees to clear out.

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Step 3.  Remove the box

  • Most of the bees should bee out of the top box by now, so remove the top box and place it within the top cover that’s in the bottom of the wheel barrow.
  • Immediately place another top cover securely on top of the honey box so that it is completely closed on the top and on the bottom.

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Step 4. Fume again and escape (bee stealthy) with the honey

  • Spray the fume board one or two more times, then place on top of the next box to bee removed.
  • While the fume board empties the next box, quickly run your honey super down to the garage or where ever you’re extracting.
  • Life the lid and brush off as many bees as possible – what’s left will go into the garage with you along with the honey box.
  • Close the door behind you!!!

Step 5.  Repeat steps 2-4

If successful, then you’ll have all honey supers safely in the garage, with a small amount of bee activity outside the door, and a small amount of bee activity inside the garage.

It’s gonna happen, some bees will bee caught up with the honey boxes.  Don’t open the garage door to let them out. TRUST ME on this.

We extracted over 100 lbs of honey this past weekend.  That’s from about 5 boxes.  Amazing bees!

Overall Apiary Status

So how have the girls been doing up to this point?  Well, other than finding bee activity in my swarm traps and discovering (after purchasing a new hive, new beekeeping britches, and setting up a new hive location) that they were not swarms but robber bees, we haven’t had much drama.  They’ve endured much rain, and much heat and humidity this summer.  I’ve left them alone, and they’ve been thriving (that should tell you something right there).  And so has the garden.  We have cucumbers coming out our ying yangs, and tomatoes are coming up fast.

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Plans for Using the Honey

So what to do with all that honey?  We’ll sell some of it, give some away as gifts, make alcoholic honey beverages, cook with it, make creamed honey for Christmas presents, I’ll use it in soaps and potions.  So many things we can do with honey.  So you can expect lots of tutorial posts in the coming months.  :o)

In the meantime, I’ve placed supers back on all the hives, and even added a third box to my little yellow hive, which is still taking syrup and is growing like crazy.  Let’s hope the big hives fill out and cap some unfinished frames and build out the rest of the supers before winter.  Trying to follow that 90% rule – only extract frames that are 90% capped.  We can use some late summer honey for overwintering the bees, and maybe they can spare a bit more for us.  We shall see!

 

Processing Beeswax

June 12, 2015

Several months ago I posted all about cleaning frames, removing the dark old comb so I could add fresh new wax foundation.  Of course, beneath all that old black crustiness is bee-utiful, golden beeswax that can bee used to make skin products, soaps, lip balms, furniture polish (yep), candles, and more.  So how do we get rid of the bad to get to the good stuff?  That’s what I’m going to show you in this post.

Equipment

First you’ll need some dedicated wax processing equipment.

  • 1 old bucket
  • 1 old large pot (I use an old crab pot)
  • 1 large colander (not plastic)
  • 1 long wooden spoon
  • Crockpot
  • Cheese cloth
  • Large rubber band
  • Half gallon cardboard milk carton with top arched section cut off.
  • Crockpot (optional)

Part 1 – Cleaning the Wax

I’ve never collected a ton of old comb at one time.  It’s something I collect over time.  When I have a bucket full, then I’ll melt it down.  But first you’ll want to clean your comb and cappings thoroughly so you don’t end up with sticky wax.   You don’t want honey in your wax.

1.  Place the comb and/or cappings in a 5 gallon bucket.

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2.  Fill the bucket with warm water.  Warm enough to melt the honey but not the wax.

3.  Dig in with your hands and stir the wax around so all the comb makes contact with the warm water.

4.  Allow it to soak for about 15 minutes, then drain most of the water off the wax through a colander.  (Interesting fact: back in old times, kitchen staff would clean wax combs just like this, and they would make table mead from the discarded honey water by leaving it out to collect wild yeast.)

5.  Refill the bucket with more warm water and repeat the process multiple times until the water runs clear.

Part 2 – Melting the Comb

1.  Fill your pot with the clean comb and add about 2 inches of water to the bottom of the pot.

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2.  Turn the heat on medium and watch the pot!  Do not walk away from the pot – this stuff can boil over and cause a horrible mess and it’s dangerous.

3.  Gradually the wax will melt down and you will have a yummy brood and larvae wax stew.   Stir constantly with the wooden spoon.

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4.  Once everything is melted down completely, place the colander over the bucket and pour the hot pot o’ wax stew through the colander and into the bucket.  I do this in the garage.

5.  Use the wooden spoon to stir the lumpy leftovers in the colander to help release all the wax down into the bucket.

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6.  Dump the colander filled with lump leftovers in the chicken coop or in a back corner of the yard where the wild critters can snack on it.

7.  Allow to cool overnight, then fish your first wax cake out of the bucket and scrape off and discard the loose, dirty layer on the bottom.  Well done!

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Collect 4 or 5 more buckets of comb and repeat this entire process for each bucket full so you end up with 3 or 4 wax cakes.  (The wax cakes preserve well in the freezer until you’ve collected enough for Part 3).

Part 3 – Melting the Wax Cakes

Your wax cakes, at this stage, a still filled with dirt and bee chunks.  So we’re continuing to melt and clean our wax.  We start this step once we’ve collected at least 3 wax cakes.  If you have more than 3 wax cakes, then one milk carton may not hold all of the liquid wax, so bee prepared if you have more wax.

1.  Break the thin cakes into chunks and add them to your pot.

2.  Fill the pot about 2 inches with water.

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3.  Turn the heat to medium and watch the pot!

4.  Stir with the wooden spoon until all is melted completely.

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5.  Place colander over the bucket, then dump the wax stew through the colander and into the bucket.

6.  Allow to cool overnight and in the morning, fish out your large wax cake.

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7.  Scrape off the bottom layer of dirt.

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Now at this point you should have an impressive, much cleaner single fat cake of wax.  You can repeat this process again, or move on to Part 4 for the last cleaning phase, depending on how dirty the wax still appears.

Part 4 – The Final Cleaning

I use an old crockpot for this phase.  You could also use a double boiler over the stovetop.

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1.  Start by cutting a 12″x12″ double layer of cheesecloth.

2.  Cut the top arched section off of a cardboard milk carton.  Leave the container as tall as possible.

3.  Cover the top of the carton evenly with the cheese cloth and securely slide the rubber band over the cheesecloth to tightly secure it around and over the top of the milk carton.  You don’t want it to fall in when you pour the hot wax through it.

4.  Cut or break the wax cake into small enough pieces so it fits into the crockpot or double boiler.

5.  Turn on low and allow it to melt completely.  The crockpot can be left unwatched.  The same is not true for the double boiler, so keep an eye on it so the water and wax don’t boil over.

6.  Pour and strain the melted wax through the cheesecloth and into the milk carton.

7.  Remove the cheesecloth and rubber and and carefully set aside the wax filled carton and let it cool overnight.

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8.  Peel off the cardboard and you should have a bee-utiful block of wax that can be carved or shredded for all kinds of fabulous natural products.

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Note: if you want smaller bricks, then purchase a silicone mini loaf mold and pour the wax into that after it’s been strained.

I’m hoping to post more tutorials on making product of the hive, so stay tuned.   Happy beekeeping!














Making Up for Lost Time

Friday, May 15, 2015

The honey flow is in full force right now.  While everyone else is hacking and sneezing, the bees are taking advantage of the spring blooms. They’re crazy busy collecting pollen and nectar, procreating, and making honey.  Go girls, go!

Chilled Brood

We did have a minor setback about 2 weeks ago.  Frost set in for several evenings, chilling the eggs and larvae, as shown in the photo below, and setting the girls back a week or two.  When I inspected the hives, I naturally thought the queen was once again having issues.  But seeing as I’ve been through this exact scenario only a few weeks earlier, I checked back a week later and found the queens were back in business, quickly laying new brood.

photoHeavy Supers

I added supers to all hives about a month ago.  This past week I lifted them off for inspection and realized how heavy they are already!  That’s exciting news and could indicate a good honey harvest (no jinxing).  By this weekend, I hope to have a second layer of supers on all of my hives.  Good thing I’ve been cleaning frames and boxes.  I’ve stacked quite a few boxes in the greenhouse. Lots of light in there to keep wax moths away.  I’ve given up on maintaining consistent color schemes and have succumbed to mixing them up.

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Expanding the Brood Chambers

In addition to adding supers, my other strategy was to adapt “The Rose Hive” method of adding brood boxes just above the bottom box to expand the brood chamber (laying area) rather than expanding from above.  Bees swarm because they run out of space to lay and/or there’s lack of ventilation.  The theory is that if you continue to expand the brood chamber and ensure they have plenty of room, then they will continue to populate and won’t have reason to swarm.  Makes perfect sense to me!  I don’t believe you can ever prevent them from swarming, but they may bee inclined to stay a bit longer.

With that said, all of these supers and brood boxes are stacking up into some pretty tall colonies.  My next strategy is to start splitting so we can get yellow hive back up and running.

Loving this gorgeous spring weather.  Hard to get upset about the pollen when I know how happy my bees are.  Hang in there everyone, and keep eating your local raw honey.  The more local the better!

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