We have several bee trees around us. One of them used to be in a wild cherry tree on the back of the farm down in the woods by the creek. It was blown down during a storm a couple of years ago. Boone wanted to save the bees that were in it so he cut out about an 8-foot log out of the tree and strapped it to an old stump to get it back up off the ground.
When we gather honey we never take all of it. The bees need to eat through the winter. One of our neighbors went with Boone to get the honey so he could learn how. Normally, Boone opens the tree while I work the smoker. When he and our friend got there, no bees were to be found. Not dead, not anywhere. We think they absconded for some reason. Boone did find signs of something digging up into the base of the log as there were pieces of comb laying on the ground so maybe that had something to do with the bees leaving?
He decided to gather the old honey combs and leave the new ones. Later on when checking the tree again he found bees back in it. Was this a new swarm that ran the old ones off or did they come from a neighbors box hive? We do not know but I am glad we left enough honey for them.
To extract the honey, we use the very scientific procedure of crushing the comb with a potato masher. Once crushed we drain the honey through a paint filter. I have tried cheesecloth but the filter works better. It works like a big jelly bag if you have ever made jelly. The filter doesn’t cost much, seems like it was a couple of dollars and it can be used over and over. I wash and rinse the new filter well before using for the first time and after using it I store in my water bath canner so no one tries to use it for straining paint!
There was a lot of comb so I needed to get the filter up above a stock pot. I stacked books on either side of the stockpot and ran a piece of pipe across to tie the filter bag off to after filling it with comb. The pipe was just what I came across first; a dowel rod, a piece of metal or anything that will not bend would have worked also.
After straining for most of the afternoon, I had to squeeze the rest of the honey out by hand using a pair of salad tongs. It worked really well. I had planned on trying to render the beeswax out but ran out of time with all of the holiday events we were attending and such. The spent comb was not wasted as it went to the pigs, which they loved!
After cleaning the filter, I strained the honey about 5 times. One last straining was with a jelly filter into mason jars. Normally, we only get a quart jar as we try to be conservative and leave the bees plenty. This time there was so much in the tree that Boone took a bit more and we ended up with 2 ½ quarts. The family has already requested Zippy Wings!