Vendors of Wadley Farmers Market Laura and Randell McClellan of Circle M Farms in Five Points have ventured out on the honeybee limb over the past year and have made it to their first harvest.
For the McClellans raising bees has had many learning curves. As the time comes for their first extraction, the McClellans explain what the process looked like up to this point.
The McClellans started their hives during the months of the Covid-19 shut down and access to in-person and hands-on beekeeping training was not available, so they took an online course to learn the process of beekeeping. The first few attempts were accompanied by challenges and occasionally a loss of bees, but with time, research and increased experience, the two have come to better understand and undertake the process.
The McClellans describe some of the challenges they faced as they started out with two five-frame nucleus hives (or nucs), which consisted of a queen bee, worker bees, brood and food stores. Wax moths have been an obstacle that the McClellans faced with their hives. Wax moths eat the larvae but also cause damage to the whole hive affecting the honey, combs and colonies as well.
The McClellans mentioned a time when they had a colony swarm out of the hive to a different location, completely losing that colony. Bees swarm for a number of reasons, but the McClellans note that they aren’t sure why that particular colony left the hive. On another occasion a colony swarmed the hive, but they were able to place the queen bee into a brood box where the swarm would follow, saving the colony.
For the first time, the McClellans are ready to harvest what honey they can from their hives, and with that comes more learning. The process through which honey is harvested varies, but the McClellans chose to use the extractor method.
The first steps in the process of harvesting honey is getting the bees off the frames and removing the frames from the hives. Next comes uncapping the frames. Bees preserve honey by capping it in wax cells (honeycomb), and to harvest the honey, the cells must be uncapped so that the honey can flow out.
Uncapping the cells is a simple process of taking the caps off with a cap remover. After the caps are removed, the frames are placed into the extractor – an apparatus which spins the frame and allows the honey to drip down into a barrel where it will hold until it is time to be filtered.
The last step in harvesting the honey is filtering it. Honey is filtered to remove large pieces of wax and any other visible impurities carefully, not to remove the natural nutrients in the process. For their first harvest, the McClellans processed approximately 60 ounces (nearly 4 pounds) of honey, filling a little over 12 5-ounce bottles.