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Discussion Starter #1
I've got a newbie question on the 'crush and strain' technique of harvesting honey and would appreciate any help those with more experience can provide.

I got a swarm call from an old couple that turned out to have an establised beehive that had taken residence in one of their birdhouses probably at least two years ago and then recently swarmed to a second birdhouse.

I salvaged all of the feral comb out of the birdhouse and got most of it rubber-banded into a few empty frames that I used to transfer the feral hive to a deep super, and in the process, I ended up cutting off much of the upper honey cap from the feral combs since they were taller than a deep frame and I needed to trim them down to fit.

All that to explain that I find myself with a potful of feral comb scraps loaded with honey and want to use the 'crush and strain' technique to harvest my first honey ever.

Having never done crush and strain before (or any honey harvesting technique, for that matter :D), I have a few questions:

1/ there is some remaining capped brood in the comb sections - do I need to worry about it? Do I need to remove it before crushing? Do I just crush with abandon and not worry about a little bee larvau guts getting into the honey?

2/ Is there a preferred way to crush brittle old black/brown comb filled with honey? Should I crush it with a potatoe masher, cut it up with scissors or a knife? What is the best crushing technique?

3/ Should the honey and crushed comb be heated before straining? Is anything done to get more of the honey to flow out of the combs?

4/ I know that straining bags are sold by the bee equiptment outfts - is the best straining idea to squeeze the honey out of the bag under pressure (and if so, after heating or not?)? Can a fine-meshed kitchen strainer be used?

I have been so fucused on raising nucs and bees that I am completely unprepared to harvest this unexpected (and delicious!) honey - any advice would be greatly appreciated as thefamily and I would love to enjoy some 'Easter Honey' tomorrow if possible :)

-fafrd
 

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1/ there is some remaining capped brood in the comb sections - do I need to worry about it? Do I need to remove it before crushing? Do I just crush with abandon and not worry about a little bee larvau guts getting into the honey?

You can leave the brood in if you don't mind eating guts with your honey . . . :no: Seriously, though, you need to remove the brood.


2/ Is there a preferred way to crush brittle old black/brown comb filled with honey? Should I crush it with a potatoe masher, cut it up with scissors or a knife? What is the best crushing technique?

I crush with a pessle (sp?) on a cookie sheet.


3/ Should the honey and crushed comb be heated before straining? Is anything done to get more of the honey to flow out of the combs?

A warm room definitely helps. I have put mine in a warm car before.


4/ I know that straining bags are sold by the bee equiptment outfts - is the best straining idea to squeeze the honey out of the bag under pressure (and if so, after heating or not?)? Can a fine-meshed kitchen strainer be used?

You do not need to use "pressure". Let gravity do the work fo ryou.
 

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I use cheesecloth and a mason jar with a lid. Put it in the cheescloth, squeeze it up, and then hang it in the jar with the tail of the cloth hanging out with the lid over it. Every once in a while just tug the tail up snug until there's just comb in the cloth.. A warm windowsill helps.:)
 

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You do want to remove the brood, and you can use just about anything to crush the comb. You can slice it up with a knife and then stir it up until it is more liquid than solid. Then strain it.
 

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Discussion Starter #6 (Edited)
Thanks for all the responses, everyone.

I get it about the brood - will probably use scissors or an exacto knife to cut it out.

One last question - does it make any sense to heat the crushed mix in a double boiler to 110 degrees F or so before straining? Even at room temperature this honey is pretty thick and some drippings I already tried to strain through our kitchen strainer essentially stuck to the inside. Is heating the wax and honey mix a little bit in a pot with indirect heat a bad idea? (I assume that at 100 degrees F or so the wax may soften somewhat but will not melt).

Thanks again for all the advice!

-fafrd
 

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I know you want to harvest it right now but if it was me I would just feed it back to them. For the little bit of honey you are going to get is it worth your time? On a nice hot day they will clean it up in a hour or so then this fall you will have no brood to mess with and clean honey. Just my 2 Cents
 

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They leave the brood in in Cambodia. It ferments to a pungent high protein concoction. Warming to 90 or 100 will help it flow better with sun being the safest heat for clarity and not cooking the honey. I concur just give it time and let gravity do the work.
 

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Discussion Starter #10
I know you want to harvest it right now but if it was me I would just feed it back to them. For the little bit of honey you are going to get is it worth your time?
After all the effort te familyhas been putting into bees since a swarm landed in our back yard late last summer, everyone is very excited about getting a taste of our first honey, so yes, I think it is going to be worth it just in terms of boosting the family interest in beekeeping, if nothing else.

I only trimmed the top 2-3 inches off of the feral combs that were about 12 inches deep, so the bees have plenty of honey for themselves and we are going to have an Easter adventure with the leftovers:D

Thanks all for the help - will circle back and let you know how it al turned out!

-fafrd
 

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BeeCurious - thanks for the link. I crushed scraps and they contained a few cells full of pollen and larvae that I had to deal with first, but other than that, this is essentially what I did.

The honey tastes very good, but is cloudy becase even after straining three times with a very fine mesh strainer, it is full of tiny particles of wax suspended in the honey. The combs were old and brittle, and I suspect that may have something to do with it (as opposed to the fresh drawn comb that "Linda" harvested :).

I am sure that if I heat the honey to 150 degrees or so that the wax particulat will melt and seperate from the honey, but this will also likely result in pasteurizing the honey. So I would appreciate it if anyone can help me with the following questions:

1/ should I worry about trying to get the wax particulate out of the honey or forget about it? I don't care too much about the cloudiness but it does impart a mild wax taste and more importantly, when put in tea, for example, it leaves a small residue of melted wax on the cup and on any spoon used to stir.

2/ Aside from straining yet again, what is the best technique to filter wax particulate out of honey?

3/ I undertand that heating the honey above 100 degrees F may pasteurize it and destroy some of the natural goodness, but how bad is it really? Am I better off having cloudy/waxy/all-natural honey, or clear/pasteurized honey?

Appreciate any help anyone can give me with this latest wrinkle (which "Linda" did not have since she was crushing beautiful fresh comb).

-fafrd
 

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Time can be your friend. Wax, pollen and air bubbles will all rise over time. You will end up with a foam on top of the honey. If you have a bucket with a valve near the bottom, you can let the honey sit for a week and then fill containers. They should look fairly clear.
 

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I know you want to harvest it right now but if it was me I would just feed it back to them. For the little bit of honey you are going to get is it worth your time? On a nice hot day they will clean it up in a hour or so then this fall you will have no brood to mess with and clean honey. Just my 2 Cents
I agree here. It sounds like your anxious to get some honey, which I could understand. I'd feed it back and maybe pinch a frame of the fresh when its available.
 

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Discussion Starter #15
Time can be your friend. Wax, pollen and air bubbles will all rise over time. You will end up with a foam on top of the honey. If you have a bucket with a valve near the bottom, you can let the honey sit for a week and then fill containers. They should look fairly clear.
I heated in a large pot of warm water to 120 degrees F and let it sit overnight. There was a nice foam-like cap of wax particles in the morning. I've skimmed that off and while it is still not as clear as honey extracted from clean comb, it's alow better and there is no longer any wax flavor perceptible.

Thanks all for the advice - it's only a pound of honey and I'm sure it would have been easier to feed it back to the bees, but the marketing value with the family in being able to harvest and enjoy a bit of honey this early in our first season has been invaluable in terms of boosting everyone's interest in this beekeeping adventure!

-fafrd
 
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