The honey crop starts to arrive in the hives in late November as temperatures increase and the flowering sequence gathers pace. Frames of capped honey are removed for extraction. By waiting for the bees to cap the honey we ensure that the moisture content is sufficiently low to prevent the honey from fermenting later.
Only a minimal amount of smoke is used in retrieving the frames of honey from the hive. The honey is then transported to the extracting room.
In earlier times honey comb was simply broken apart allowing the honey to strain through a muslin or similar cloth to remove the majority of wax and other debris before being stored in containers.
Extraction today is a highly developed operation using sophisticated equipment. The frames are fed into an uncapping machine which removes the cappings from the comb. The frames are then placed in an extractor or centrifuge which throws the honey from the combs by centrifugal force. The honey is filtered and then pumped to a large settling tank and left to stand to allow the air to rise out of the honey. The honey is then stored in large containers ready for bottling when needed.
The empty combs are returned to the hives where the bees carry out any repairs needed and refill them with honey.