Honey Harvesting

Equipment


Association Equipment

The association offers members the opportunity to use extracting equipment to harvest honey. WCABA Club extracting equipment is pictured to the right and includes the extractor, a variety if sieves and filters, plastic buckets, and uncapping tub with tools. You must supply your own plastic or glass jars, or honey bears to store your extracted honey!

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Contact Jimmie Oakley at jimmie.oakley@gmail.com 
512/507-3009 to get more information on utilizing association equipment.

July Column
from S.S. Brantley
with the 
Marshall Beekeepers Association


July is the month you have been looking forward to since the first signs of spring began to awaken your hives. This is the month you find if you have a bounty or a bust! Honey extraction should be in full swing now. Honey that is not fully capped can be pulled, shaken to see if it is wet (rains out of the frame when shaken), and extracted for personal use, for sale or for gifts to friends and family.

I also encourage you to set aside your best looking and best tasting honey to enter in your local or state honey contests. In the 2019 International Honey Tasting Contest, three entries from Texas placed in the top thirty best honeys in the world. What an honor that would be!

 

When you are removing supers of honey from your hives, here is a tip that may keep your supers from dripping honey all over your equipment. If possible, go to the bee yard the day before you plan to pull the supers. Break them loose and move each super forward, backward or sideways enough to break any comb filled with honey that was attached to the frames above or below that super. Do not move the supers far enough to leave a crack in the stack for robbers to gain entry. Overnight, the bees will clean the broken cells of honey. When you pull the supers the next morning, you should not have honey dripping in the bee yard to start a robbing frenzy or making a sticky mess on your equipment.

 

Remove only the supers you plan to extract that day. The honey will still be warm and extract much more easily. If you have to hold supers overnight, make sure to protect them from beetles and moths. If you are returning supers to the hives for the bees to clean up, it is best to do this late in the afternoon, near dusk if possible. The bees will remove most of the honey residuals in the comb by morning, greatly reducing the tendency for robbing. After the bees have cleaned the supers, you will have to decide if you are going to leave them stored on the hive all winter or if you are going to remove and store them.

If you do remove your supers, stack them and use the paradichlorobenzene moth crystals to protect from moths. 

If you run double brood box hives, you may want to leave at least one super on the hive. The bees will use this super to store any honey produced in the summer and fall. The stores will then be used as winter food. If the bees are able to store enough, you may not need to feed sugar syrup during the winter period. Although we have enjoyed an unusually wet spring, we are about to move into the hot and dry summer. You can help your bees deal with the hot and dry conditions. Bees will be using increased amounts of water to cool the hive as the temperatures rise into the upper 90s and above. Make sure they have access to a reliable water source.

 

Consider using a shade board, such as a 2-foot square of plywood, on top of the hive to reduce excessive heat. Allow heat to vent out the top of the hive by providing some kind of ventilation path. You can use a Ventilation Super or you can slide the telescoping cover back, allowing the edge of the Outer Cover to sit on the edge of the Inner Cover. A good strong healthy hive will have enough bees to prevent any robbers from entering underneath the raised Outer Cover. Colonies with weak populations should have the entrance reducer installed to help the hive bees defend the entrance against robbing.

 

Nucs started during the latter part of the honey flow should also have the entrance reduced. After at least 21 days, check these nucs to ensure that they do have a laying queen. Feed them sugar syrup through the summer to help them grow strong enough to survive the winter. July is also a great time to melt wax in a solar melter. Do not discard wax in your beeyard, it attracts undesirable pests. It is also a valuable product. If you do not collect and resell wax, consider making your scrap wax available to fellow club members who do melt and re-sell wax.

RULES FOR HONEY SALES


The Department of State Health Services has adopted the latest FDA guidance (7th edition) published in August 2018 regarding Food Facility Registration with respect to raw honey. The Guidance reads: 

 

B.1.19  Am I required to register if I extract and bottle honey produced on my farm (i.e., remove the wax seal and spin the honey out of the honeycomb, then bottle the honey)?

No. Many activities associated with beekeeping and honey production are within the “farm” definition and therefore do not require registration. In this case,

extracting honey is considered harvesting and bottling honey is packaging a RAC (a raw agricultural commodity), which is a type of manufacturing/processing included within the “farm” definition.

 

As a result of this decision, beekeepers selling raw honey in Texas will no longer be required to obtain a Food Manufacturer’s license and comply with the related requirements (i.e. licensed honey house, etc.) Since there is no requirement to obtain a Food Manufacturer’s license, the statute exempting small-scale beekeepers is moot, and limitations specific to that statute will no longer be in effect.

 

The FAQs below are copied from the DSHS Manufactured Foods website: https://www.dshs.state.tx.us/foods/faqs.aspx  (scroll to the bottom of the page)

 

Department of State Health Services Consumer Protection Division- Manufactured Foods
Beekeeper Honey Production Frequently Asked Questions - July 15, 2020
 

1. Did anything change for beekeepers selling honey in Texas with the adoption of the updated 25 TAC 229.210-225 Subchapter N, Current GMP, and GWP in Manufacturing, Packing or Holding Human Food that became effective August 2, 2017?

Yes, beekeepers that sell raw honey produced from their own bees/hives are “farms” and are exempt from licensing as food manufacturers when engaged in allowable farm activities. Examples of allowable farm activities include extracting and bottling raw honey whether for retail or wholesale. DSHS adopts the clarification provided by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in its Questions and Answers Regarding Food Facility Registration (Seventh Edition): Guidance for Industry in Question B.1.19.
 

2. Is pasteurization of raw honey an allowable farm activity?

No, pasteurizing raw honey is a manufacturing activity that requires a license as a food manufacturer. DSHS adopts the clarification provided by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in its Questions and Answers Regarding Food Facility Registration (Seventh Edition): Guidance for Industry in Question C.4.3.
 

3. Are there any laws that apply to beekeeper raw honey producers?


Yes, while beekeepers harvesting raw honey will not be required to license with DSHS as long as they are only engaged in allowable farm activities, harvesting operations that conduct filtering, packaging, and labeling of honey are still subject to the adulteration and misbranding provisions of Texas Health and Safety Code 431. Texas Agriculture Code, Title 6, Chapter 131, Bees and Honey, Subchapter E, Labeling, and Sale of Honey gives DSHS regulatory authority over the labeling of honey. DSHS will investigate complaints of adulterated honey and mislabeled honey and take appropriate compliance action.


4. Can a beekeeper blend other raw honey into raw honey from their own bees/hives?
Yes, as long as some of the raw honey is from the beekeeper’s own bees/hives, a beekeeper can blend other raw honey with the beekeeper’s honey. If you blend honey no longer considered raw, like pasteurized honey, blending is no longer an exempt farm activity and a food manufacturer license is required.
 

5. Is allowing raw honey to dry so that it crystallizes an allowable farm activity for beekeepers?


Yes, a beekeeper drying raw honey from their bees/hives is an allowable farm activity as long as there is no additional manufacturing/processing (other than packaging and labeling). Packaging and labeling raw agricultural commodities are allowable farm activities.

 

What does all this mean? 

(Editorial Comment) Dodie Stillman, Texas Beekeeper Association Area 1 Director and a member of WCABA,

forwarded this information to me that the TBA will be sharing in their next newsletter about selling honey laws.

When asking her opinion she said, “this is not widely known at this point...there hasn’t been much publicity about it...mostly because TBA was waiting for the FAQ to be posted online.” When asked how this might affect her way of doing business (beekeeping) she added, “It’s not going to change my extracting or handling process (because) I don’t have enough hives to get 1,000 lbs, much less the old limit of 2,500.” “But everyone that was thinking of building a honey house can rethink the expense now.”

 

She admitted that the downside is self-regulation; hoping that beekeepers will be vigilant to still use sterile/clean bottles and practice approved bottling methods (excellent point).

Be mindful as you might relax when it comes to your honey processing that all of the above is directed toward raw honey and “farm activities” and any “processing” of the honey is still under rules and regs that remain in place. Make sure you know the difference.

The Williamson County Area Beekeepers Association's mission is to promote beekeeping in Williamson County and surrounding areas. The WCABA mission is also to act on behalf of the beekeepers and the beekeeping industry on issues affecting the interests and the economic viability of the various sectors of the beekeeping industry.

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