September saw the annual harvest of honey from our beehives, carried out by the EHM team with the invaluable assistance of the Heathrow Engineering and Communities teams and our work experience intern Lauren. Within a hive, there are three types of bees: the queen, workers, and drones. Of these, only the workers create honey. Honey is the food which enables the bees to survive the winter months when outside food sources are scarce, so it is important to only harvest honey that is considered excess to their requirements – a judgment made under the guidance of experienced beekeepers.
The first step in the harvesting process is to remove the frames containing capped honey from the hives. Frames are marked so that they are returned to the correct hive after harvesting, an important consideration to prevent potential spread of disease between hives.
The honey extraction is a three-step process. Firstly, the wax cap on the honey must be removed. This year, we used a new technique of passing hot air briefly over each frame using a heat gun. This melts back the wax, and largely avoids the laborious scraping of the wax as was done previously.
Next, the frames are placed into a centrifuge; the high spin rate forces the honey out of the frames on to the centrifuge walls, from where it collects at the bottom of the tank and can be removed using a tap. Finally, the honey is filtered to remove any unwanted materials, leaving just the pure honey.
After extraction, the honey is ready for jarring. Our intrepid team of Heathrow volunteers were invaluable here, forming a production line of jarring and labelling. A great team effort which produced over 31 litres of honey this year!
Many thanks to Lauren Scudder and the members of the Heathrow Engineering and Communities teams who assisted with this year’s harvest.