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Long Hunter State Park Honey Extraction Workshop


Small hexagonal glass jars filled with honey on a glass shelf; the labels are yellow and white and feature honey bees and honeycomb
Honey for sale at Big Cypress Tree State Park

Have you ever gone into a state park visitor center and found honey for sale?


Most of the state parks have their own hives and sell their own honey as part of the Tennessee State Parks Honey Project. (1)


This year, I’ve gotten a peek into honey production at Long Hunter State Park, about 30 minutes east of Nashville. In April, the Friends of Long Hunter State Park held their annual Spring Thing celebration, and Ranger Jeremy Blackwell, Long Hunter’s beekeeper, led a tour to the park’s hives in the field behind the visitor center.

A man in a yellow t-shirt over a long-sleeved black shirt presents to a group while standing behind a white wooden bee hive box while Ranger Blackwell in his ranger's uniform looks on at Long Hunter State Park in Tennessee
Chris Warren, Director of Continuous Improvement for the Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation, and Ranger Jeremy Blackwell show Long Hunter's hives to Spring Thing attendees

In September, I attended a honey extraction workshop at the park hosted by Ranger Blackwell. He talked about bee behavior and beekeeping practices while showing attendees how to extract honey from hive frames. These frames were filled with honey that the park’s bees had been producing all summer.


He showed us how to cut the wax caps off of the honeycomb in the frames with a large serrated knife and how to use an instrument called a scratcher to scratch off any remaining caps. Everyone got to take turns cutting and scratching. You can see a short video of this process on the Tennessee State Park’s Honey Project website.


Next we put each frame in a rack in a big metal tub called an extractor.

A large shiny metal tub sits in a room with a white bucket and metal mesh strainer underneath its spout in Long Hunter State Park in Tennessee
A bucket and strainer is set up underneath the extractor

Three wooden frames with honey and honeycomb in them are in a vertical round rack inside the metal extractor tub in Long Hunter State Park in Tennessee
Frames sit in a rack inside the extractor. You can see how gooey the honeycomb is without the caps.

After all the racks were filled, Ranger Blackwell turned the extractor on, and it began to spin. It acted like a giant salad spinner, flinging the honey out of the frames. After a while, he reversed the direction to extract all of the honey that he could.


In the below photos, you can see how effective the extractor is. The photo on the left is a frame before extraction, and the photo on the right is after.


Next, Ranger Blackwell opened a spout at the bottom of the extractor, and honey poured out. It passed through a strainer to remove any debris like wax pieces or beetles, and then it collected in a bucket where it could be dispensed into bottles to be sold in the Long Hunter visitor center.

Honey is flowing from a spout on the metal extractor and collecting in a metal mesh strainer where it seeps into a white bucket beneath the strainer in Long Hunter State Park in Tennessee.
You can see the honey flowing from the extractor, passing through the strainer, and collecting in the bucket.

Nothing was wasted. Everyone cut the caps off of the frames over two stacked tubs. The top tub had a mesh bottom so any remaining honey could drain through into the bottom tub to be used. Processed frames were put here too.

Eight wooden frames sit in a gray plastic tub with a mesh metal bottom along with wax comb pieces and the long serrated knife in Long Hunter State Park in Tennessee.
Any leftover honey will drain through the mesh bottom of this tub into another below.

The wax was not wasted either. On October 28, Ranger Blackwell will host a workshop to render the beeswax collected at the September event. It’s $5, and you can register here.


Next time you’re at Long Hunter State Park, stop in the visitor center, and see if there is still some honey for sale!

 

October 16, 2023

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