The bees have been collecting honey. The main nectar sources in this part of Minnesota are basswood and alfalfa. White sweet clover, star thistle and birds foot trefoil also help influence the honey flavor. European honey bees – the type found here – love the flowers that have been deemed “invasive.” If you want to help the bees, the very best thing you can do is to leave the thistles, clovers and dandelions.

We have begun to prepare our honey house for extraction. All items need to be cleaned and in place before we begin pulling honey. We use an “uncapper” to remove the top layer of wax from the honeycomb.

The frames are placed into an extractor that uses centripetal force to spin the honey out. All honey goes into a clarifier, a long tank with baffles. Since honey is heavy, and wax is light, the wax floats to the top, and we can pump from the bottom into a holding tank. We then fill barrels from the holding tank. The wax goes into a wax press that squeezes the honey out of it, leaving dry wax that will be rendered into clean wax later.

The wax press is a new addition to our facility. In the past, dealing with wax has been a burden and a nuisance. We have tried many different methods that, although they fit our budget, none of them worked well. Last year, we bought an apple-pressing device and thought it could work – however, it failed miserably.

Being fed up and out of necessity, we decided to take the plunge and purchase the Paradise Wax Press that is manufactured in Finland. We had done a lot of research, and we liked that the Paradise doesn’t require us to heat the honey.

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Thankfully, we applied for and received an AGRI Value-Added Grant from the State of Minnesota that will reimburse us for 25 percent of the cost of the wax press. We found out about the award in May and had to move quickly to find, purchase, receive and assemble the wax press in time for the extraction season. There is only one company in the U.S. that distributes Paradise, and it was iffy if they would be able to order the press from Finland, have it shipped by boat to the U.S., and delivered to Minnesota in time. It seemed like we were out of luck.

Then it dawned on us we could order from Canada! We found a company that was a distributor, and they happened to have a floor model that we could purchase. Originally, we thought we could drive to Winnipeg and pick it up. However, due to COVID-19, we were not allowed into the country. We quickly learned about international shipping.

The large machine was switched from truck to truck all of the way to the Twin Cities and then back up to Menahga. By the time that we received it, it had slipped off the pallet and received damage – hopefully just cosmetic. We are learning how to file a claim with the trucking company.

We used Les Electric to assist us in getting 220 amp in our honey house and to convert the wax press to U.S. wiring. The next step is to figure out how it works!

We have a little time before the craziness of extraction begins, so we are taking off on a road trip to South Dakota for a four-day kayak fishing river float on the James River with beekeeping friends from North Dakota. We plan to continue practicing social distancing. We are listening to Linda and Richard Thomas “The Bright Lights” and the Khima Boys “Mabvi Namgokora.”

Travis Bolton is a 2001 Park Rapids High School graduate. Chiara’s interest in honeybees began on the Tibetan Plateau, where she lived for five years. The couple has a honey house in Menahga and hives in Sebeka, Akeley, Midway and around the Twin Cities. Bolton Bees can be reached at www.boltonbees.com or boltonbees@gmail.com.