While it isn’t difficult to bottle sweet, fresh honey straight from the apiary, it can be confusing for beginner beekeepers of all skillsets.
Before bottling, beekeepers must look out for certain things. This includes the uncapped verse capped honeycomb, the moisture content of their honey, and even the type of bees they use to get the honey.
Let’s learn how to harvest all different types of honey.
Uncapped vs. capped honey: moisture levels
It’s important to determine this because uncapped honey has a higher moisture level than capped honey. Beekeepers prefer harvesting from capped honey because harvested honey requires an 18% or lower moisture level.
If the moisture level of harvested honey exceeds 18%, it might ferment. Preferred guidelines say that to get the best crop of honey, around 90% of honey on a beekeeper’s frames should be capped.
An easy way to test harvested honey is by using a refractometer; it does the hard work of measuring the moisture for you.
Removing the honey from the frames
There are multiple ways to harvest honey, but at Dadant & Sons we prefer using a honey extractor. This is the simplest way to get the job done.
First, you start by using an uncapping knife to uncap the honeycomb. It cuts the outside of the honeycomb off and reveals the honey.
This extraction method leaves most of the wax comb on the frames. It makes it easier for the bees; they won’t have to rebuild the wax comb again before they fill it with honey.
Then, the honey extractor slings the honey from the frames by spinning. The honey pools at the bottom of the extractor.
Let the honey drop
The honey needs to drip from the wax before being filtered. Since very little wax is removed from the comb using the uncapping method, it doesn’t take long.
After you’ve let as much honey as possible drip away, you might process and clean the wax for other purposes. If you don’t need the wax, you can move on to filtering the honey.
Use a sieve to filter the honey
After the honey pools at the bottom of the extractor, drain it through the spigot. Run it through a honey sieve; this helps filter out impurities and remove wax cappings.
As the honey flows, let it drop into a special honey bucket, which also has a spigot that makes bottling the honey easier.
Congratulations: all that’s left to do at this time is bottle it up and enjoy!
Bottling the honey
Even though the honey-bear squeeze jars can be cute, we don’t recommend putting your fresh honey in them because genuine honey will crystalize. If it’s put in a plastic container, it’s hard to melt the crystals back to smooth, sweet honey.
Instead, we recommend bottling your honey in glass. This keeps your honey as it was intended by the bees. Mason or canning jars work best for this.
Be sure to sanitize and wash your jars before putting fresh honey into them. This is done by placing the jars into an oven for 20 minutes at 225 degrees Fahrenheit.
Let the jars cool, then put your bucket of honey on a high-level surface to prevent pests from stealing your hard work.
Lastly, put a clean, new jar lid on each jar. Touch it off with a label if your beekeeping business has a brand.
Reach out to Dadant & Sons for more pro bottling tips
If you have any questions regarding bottling or the business of beekeeping in general, please contact Dadant & Sons.