Friday, September 7, 2007

Building & Designing The Honey Room

Buying Out Another Bee Business...
From Florida To Illinois

Back in August of 2006, I traveled to Florida from Illinois to purchase the bees and honey processing operation from Mr. James West, the inventor of the West Small Hive Beetle Trap. I purchased around 70 hives, two huge radial motor powered extractors, a nice honey pump, a hot-water tank, a 500 gallon stainless steel honey storage tank, a cowen automatic uncapper, lots of old hive bodies, supers, queen excluders, beetle traps and other beekeeping equipment. What a journey!!

It took me exactly one year to design and engineer my honey processing building. First, I had to place a pump in the well located near our honey building. I rented a Terramite backhoe and started trenching a water line to the building. Then, we had to add cold and hot water lines throughout the building. We also had to dig a dry well.

The next step was to design a way for hot water to flow to the sink and down the drain, but also create a way for hot water to recirculate through the 500 gallon honey storage tank, as well as through the knife blades on the automatic uncapper. The blades require heat to melt the cappings from the frames. With the help of my brother, Mark Burns who works for WPS Industries Group, I was able to complete the hot water recirculation plumbing.

Why run hot water through the honey storage tank? Actually, the tank is doubled-walled, so the water never touches the honey. In the winter, we want to make sure the honey does not freeze and crystallize. So, the warm water allows us to keep the honey around 70-80 degrees Fahrenheit during our Illinois winter. The room in which this tank stands is sometimes not heated during the night.


The next step was carried out while doing all the above. That's why it took me a year! I had to restore the old equipment, primarily the honey extractor and the uncapper.

Below is a before and after shot of a section of the Cowen Uncapper. I had to replace worn out bolts, bearings, bars, chains and rewire it. I know every piece, personally, and totally repainted every piece.

What is an uncapper? When the bees produce honey, they seal it off in the comb with a wax capping over the cells. In order for us to extract or sling out the honey, we must uncap the wax seal first.

Many beekeepers use a hot knife for small operations, which is all that is needed.

However, larger operations can process more frames at a time with an automatic uncapper. In our case, our uncapper will uncap 10 frames of medium supers in 60 seconds. Both sides!

Here's a video of the uncapper...

Once uncapped, the frames, filled with honey, travel down a conveyor belt to an operator who then places them into our 33 frame radial extractor. This extractor is operated by a pressure clutch system and is driven by a 3/4 horse motor. We coated the inside of the extractor with FDA Food approved epoxy coating, primarily to make it easier to clean up after each use. In the photo to the left, you can see the uncapper being wired, and the extractor in the background.

Stop back in tomorrow for a continuation of our tour through the honey room!