Saturday, December 11, 2010

LESSON 89: The Importance Of Using A Refractometer To Make Sure Your Honey Is Ready For Harvest

Hello Friend, we are David & Sheri Burns from Long Lane Honey Bee Farms in central Illinois. Thanks for joining us for another lesson in beekeeping. I’ve been posting beekeeping lessons for over 3 years now. I hope you enjoy them. Today, I want to examine the importance of using a refractometer! A refractometer is used to measure the moisture level in honey. Beekeepers need to become more aware of what the moisture content is in the honey they are harvesting. Harvest it too soon, and the excess moisture content will cause the honey to go bad or ferment, and when it does, you’ll be seeing customers bringing your honey back wanting a refund and spreading around bad news about your honey to others. You don’t want that.
Lesson89aBefore we start today’s lesson, let me share some fun we’ve been having here at the bee farm. We had our first ever 2 hour short course and we reached our maximum number of students. It was a great evening. We had Christmas decorations up, Christmas lights up outside and it was snowing…just beautiful. We had warm apple cider made with honey at the door to warm up the travelers as they arrived.

Lesson89aSheri demonstrated how to cook with honey and took us through breakfast, lunch and supper. Of course, someone had to eat all that food she made so I helped myself. All her dishes included honey.
Many beekeepers might spread some honey on their toast in the morning, but few cook with honey in other meals. Sheri demonstrated just how fun and easy it really is. Also, for more on Sheri’s cooking she would love for you to visit her blog at:
Lesson89dAfter the cooking with honey demonstration, I had a table with 10 varieties of honey to taste sample. These were not flavored honey, but pure honey made from specific floral sources. Some of the different types of honey included were: Buckwheat, Acacia, Eucalyptus, Blueberry, Orange Blossom, Kentucky Mountain, and North Carolina Mountain Honey.
lesson89iAfter the honey sampling, Angela Faulkner gave an excellent presentation on Candle Making. She demonstrated how to melt wax, select the proper wick, dipping candles and more.

lesson89fAngela revealed some tips and tricks to make candles like using soda cans and placing tension on the wick by drilling a hole in the can and using plumbers putty. She also stressed how important it is to be safe and never overheat the wax or leave a candle burning unattended.
lesson89gAfter her demonstration, students were invited to make their own candles. Candle making is such an enjoyable aspect of beekeeping and an excellent way to make some more profit from the hive and make good use of left over beeswax.
lesson89eIt is so rewarding to make your own candles. Many claim that pure beeswax candles burn cleaner and can even purify the air. No one can argue that beeswax candles have a delightful fragrance that is therapeutic!

LESSON 89: The Importance Of Using A Refractometer To Make Sure Your Honey Is Ready For Harvest
Lesson89jAt our last short course, I demonstrated how to use the Refractometer. Most students had never used a refractometer and were amazed at how simple it is to use.

So in today’s lesson I want to discuss: 1) How using a refractometer can increase your honey production, 2) How a refractometer works, 3) How to use a refractometer, and 4) How to invest in the right model.
lesson89kFirst, how can a refractometer increase your honey yields? I took this picture by holding my camera up to the view finder on the refractometer. It reads 18%. Typically, we always say that you should not harvest honey from the hive until all the frames are capped over, meaning all of the cells in the honey frames are sealed with the bee’s wax cappings. But, often the bees fill up the honey cells but do not seal them over. This means that the bees cannot store any additional nectar because there is no room. This is especially the case in certain types of climates where the bees may never completely seal the honey comb. Meanwhile, you could have been giving them more frames to fill. So, what you can do is remove the frames that may still not be completely sealed and give them drawn comb to continue to store incoming nectar. Then, place your filled, but unsealed frames in a room with a dehumidifier and a fan, and use your refractometer to measure and dry the honey to around 17.5% moisture. By removing your frames earlier than normal and drying them, you can place empty frames in the hive to be filled. This is how a refractometer can help increase your honey yields.
lesson89lSecondly, just how does a refractometer work? Prisms bend light. A refractometer operates in much the same way, but instead light reacts differently depending on the amount of sugar as the light passes through the honey (sugar) and the daylight plate and the main prism assembly.
How to Use a Refractometer
lesson89nFirst, open the light plate and expose the light blue area. Now take a couple drops of honey so that the honey will cover the blue area completely. If you use too much honey, it will just be messy. You just need enough to cover the blue plate.
lesson89oNow, close the light gate firmly to spread the honey evenly over the blue plate.  Now, simply look into the view finder and take your reading.
To clean your refractometer after use, simply use a damp cloth and remove the honey from all areas.
How To Invest In The Right  Model

While refractometers are very easy to use, I would strongly urge all bee keepers not to purchase the inexpensive refractometers for under $100. These might be accurate, but as many beekeepers have found they are plagued with problems. In my opinion, save up your money and invest in the model we are showing in this lesson. It is not the most expensive model, but it is made by Atago, a superior and well established refractometer company and this model is designed especially for honey. It is perfect every time, durable, handheld and affordable. We sell these for $289. CLICK HERE TO PURCHASE YOURS TODAY maybe in time for an outstanding Christmas gift for the one you love.
Many beekeepers have told me how frustrated they were with the cheaper models. So invest in a life long instrument that you’ll be very happy with.
Refractometers are designed for measuring moisture in various materials. This model we are showing and selling is specifically manufactured for measuring honey.
Before I close today, let me tell you about a new item we are offering. We are offering a unique 3-way queen rearing hive. It is specifically designed to hold 3 queens by keeping them separated by inserts in the deep hive body. These inserts slide into grooves that even travel down into the bottom board so queens cannot travel between sections. What is unique with our design is that when you are finished raising queens, you can pull out the panels, plug the two small openings in the side of the bottom board and all equipment then turns back into usable Langstroth sized equipment.

We encourage you to listen or call in and ask questions.  The easiest way for you to call in during the beekeeping show is to call: (724) 444-7444 and enter call ID 16456 when prompted. We’d love for you to call in with a comment or question. I know there are over 1,000 of you who receive this via your Email, so set your timer for Thursday night, 7pm central time.
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Your overwhelming support of Long Lane Honey Bee Farms would be greatly appreciated during these beekeeping podcasts that I am now hosting each third Thursday of the month.
As always we appreciate your business. So many of you have made us your home for all your beekeeping equipment, package bees, nucs and education. Your loyal business keeps us paying the bills so we can continue doing what we do.
Be sure to order all your packages, nucs, queens and beekeeping equipment from us. We appreciate your business.
Here’s our contact info:
ORDER LINE: 217-427-2678
Until next time, BEE-HAVE yourself!
David & Sheri Burns
Long Lane Honey Bee Farms