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Honey Processing (from Frank)
Wellington Beekeepers Association Incorporated
One of our new members has already extracted his early bush honey which tastes lovely, however the moisture content is too high. Others will be extracting before the 31st December to negate the need for tutin testing.
I recommend that beekeepers purchase a honey refractometer from Aliexpress. These cost around the $20 mark and will be reduced slightly on the 11th November, their big sale day. (My first refractometer cost $300 forty years ago).
One important aspect to look at in the product description is that the refractometer has automatic temperature compensation. Purchase one that comes in a light blue/ grey box.
It's very important to only extract fully capped frames.
Over the years I have noticed that even though the honey frames are capped, we can have years (like this spring) when we have very humid conditions and so the bees may not reduce the moisture below 18% before capping. Also the frames on the outside of the super generally have a higher moisture content because the moisture condenses on colder surfaces and this effects the moisture content of the outside frames.
So the take home message is. Measure the moisture content of the middle frames and outside frames to get the average moisture content. If too high, above 18 %, don't extract the outside frames or place the supers of capped frames in a warm area with a dehumidifier and fan blowing the air through the supers. In my day a dehumidifier in a warm room at 30 C could take out 10 litres of water from 70 supers in a couple of days reducing the moisture by 1 or 2% depending on how much moisture was in the woodware.
For the small beekeeper you can reduce the moisture in frames by making a small heating box. Place an 60 Watt incandescent light in a full depth super. On top, place a wire queen excluder and on this place a sheet of oven foil. Then put on up to four supers of honey and seal the top with insulation. This could reduce the moisture content over a week.
The foil is very important as this distributes the heat from the light bulb evenly across the area. Without the foil the heat from the bulb will melt the wax in the middle frames which causes the honey to go everywhere and could cause a short circuit in the light and possibly cause a fire.
We could discuss this further at the February meeting just before everybody starts extracting.