When we look at this picture of our bottles of honey, we don't see just honey. Looking back over the past year of beekeeping, these bottles represent a journey for our family. They embody lots of studying as we have learned, read and been mentored by beekeepers past and present. These bottles stand for my son who built the hives and that time the temperatures reached 20 below zero and we used every towel and blanket in our house to cover the colonies. They represent the joys of seeing the bees fly on warm winter days, and the sorrow we felt when one of our colonies just vanished in August. This honey tells the story of smoke on 100 degree summer days, sticky hands and lots of bee stings. These bottles tell stories, and we are proud to offer them to you.
We have quadrupled the amount of honey we had last year because you have loved and supported our business, yet we still haven't come close to meeting the demand. Last week as we were bottling, the simple idea of "This is what the bees made, and this is all there is," struck us. We can't make more this year. This is it. We can't try harder or spend money to make more. It is what it is. We are at the mercy of the bees. There is something so beautiful about that. With that said, we are thankful for the work that our bees and our family participated in. We are honored! One of the great things about beekeeping is the constant learning that happens. Many of you have asked about the honey collecting process and how it gets extracted. In a brief way with pictures and videos, we want to share with you or process. This way, when you eat our honey, you will be connected to a larger story, and this is what Illuman Apiary is all about: the bigger story.
Each beehive is comprised of boxes: deep boxes and medium boxes. The queens lays eggs in the first two deep boxes and the honey is stored in the top medium boxes. Each medium box holds 40-60 pounds of honey. We leave one medium box on the top of each hive for the bees and whatever is left, that is for you and I. Each box has 10 frames that the bees build wax on and fill with honey...
We then take the frames and use a heat gun to melt the top layer of wax, exposing the honey. The top layer of wax is called capping. When the honey is exposed, we then put the frames in a machine called an extractor. An extractor can hold 6 frames at a time. It spins the frames and the centripetal force pulls the honey out of each frame.
This year we tried extracting our honey somewhere the bees wouldn't find us, but we failed. As soon as we started spinning, one bee came and went back and told all of her friends. Before we knew it, we had every bee in the neighborhood swarming around us. It was awesome and made for quite the adventure!
After the honey is extracted, there is a lot of honey still in the frames. We cant get it all, and so we give it back to the bees. So we put the boxes back out in front of the hives for a few days. This gives the bees a chance to collect all the extra honey and bring it back to their hives.
The honey is then taken and the wax is strained out over a long, slow process. Then comes the bottling process where the honey slowly drips into each bottle. Some people warm the honey to bottle it and hurry the experience. When you heat honey, it kills the enzymes that make it antimicrobial and antibacterial. We don't heat our honey, so its slow. You are welcome =)
Then we take the full bottles, seal them, cap them and label them. They are now ready for you. As you can see, this is a huge process and a lot of love goes into it. We are honored to make stuff for you to enjoy. Thank you so much for supporting our business and our family.