There are a couple ways to extract honey. However, this article tells about how to extract honey using a rotary extractor.
Everything I have read suggests that I should extracting honey during the first week of September. That is the traditional time. However, I just could not wait when I found two capped frames of honey.
I just had to go ahead and grab it. The way to tell is the honey is ready is to see if the honey is capped.
Bees do not cap their comb until it is properly dehydrated enough that it won’t spoil. Harvesting honey before its ripe and capped may cause fermentation and the loss of all your honey.
Have a Plan and a Place
If you want to be successful at extracting honey you need a plan. If you try to do this on the fly, your going to find yourself trying to extract before the honey crystallizes. You will also find that a good plan will help you from trying to find more bottles and equipment with sticky hands. This will help keep you from being lynched by your significant other.
Before harvesting can begin however the bees must be removed from the super. This can be done a in any number of ways, the most popular ways are:
- Using a bee escape
- Brushing the bees of the comb
- Using a mechanical blower
- Utilizing a fume board
I figured I could just pull a few individual frames out and brush the bees off. They did not like that and as they stung me repeatedly. I kept imagining a few instigators screaming “no taxation without representation! “.
Whatever method you use, you are going to need to have a closed place to put your frames. If your just removing full supers, then a bottom board and top cover will work. Since I just grabbed the first two frames I found capped, I used a Rubbermaid container and a lid. This was bought specifically to use as a decapping tub.
After you steal the fruits of your girl’s labor your going to need an extraction area. It does not matter where it is as long as it is bee proof. If bees can get in, they will reclaim their honey. It is also very important that the area is clean. Additionally, It needs to be able to be cleaned easy. It it WILL get sticky. You should have warm water available to wash your hands.
A Decapping Knife Helps
I splurged on equipment and bought a special decapping knife. My budget did not allow the electric hot knife. It was around 15 dollars. Alternatively, you can use a serrated bread knife.
It should not matter as long as it is thin, serrated, and long enough to cut the entire depth of frame. I don’t claim to have the only method, but this is how I uncap my honey.
- First, I set a metal strainer on the sides of my decapping tub.
- Next, I then turn the frame and rest it on its side on the edge of the strainer.
- This lets me slide the knife down the front of the frame and cut the capping off into the strainer.
If the comb was built nice and deep by the bees, run the knife along the edge of the frame. The comb should cut off in big flat chunks. After I cut the cappings off I use a capping scratcher to brush open any cappings. I bet you could use a fork in a pinch. However, I opted to buy all the cool tools.
After cutting both sides of the comb off. Just let the frames drain into the tub until I have several frames uncapped.
An Rotary Extractor Makes Extracting Easier
There are many ways of extracting honey from the frames, but the way that I find to be easiest, and from what I have read the most effective, is to use a centrifugal extractor. While a good extractor can cost upwards of $500, I found a plastic 2 fram version for $150. Since I happen to have some overtime from a recent natural disaster I bought it. (The wife was happy about this purchase, as she knew I was too cheap for the steel commercial one, so I was going to try to make one from a used washing machine)
Once you have some de-capped frames you place them into a rack in the center of your extractor (they sort of snap in), you put the lid on the extractor and crank it to get the rack spinning. In my plastic extractor I immediately saw the sides turn darker as the honey was flung out of the frames by the centrifugal force. I resisted the urge to crank to overkill as I did not want to fling the wax out with the honey, so after a minute of cranking, I let it spin to a stop. Only the honey on the outer side of the frame gets extracted, so you have to flip it around and repeat the process so both sides gets extracted. I wanted to make sure I got it all (an I it was a new toy), so I repeated the spinning once more for each side.
Once the frames were empty, I put them back in the hive for the bees to clean and refill with honey (if I had waited until September, I would just store for the winter.
Strain Out the Bee Legs
My honey was as fresh as it could be. However, there were some bee parts and junk in the honey that people would find unappetizing. I wanted to strain it before bottling. They make a strainer set that comes in gradually diminishing pore size so you can ensure your getting all the gunk out of the good stuff, but I found the price was too much to add on the a first year budget so I went the cheaper way and just bought a strainer bag.
I have a bottling bucket that is just a food grade bucket with a “Honey Gate” attached at the bottom. The honey gate is just a large spigot with a gate at the front for shutting off flow. I put the strainer bag over the lip of the bucket and put the bucket under the honey gate of the extractor. As the honey flowed out of the extractor it was filtered by the bag and filled my bottling bucket.
I let my honey set out in the kitchen overnight to let the bubbles and such settle. Supposedly, if the room is dry some of the moisture in the honey will also be removed suring this “ripening” and the flavor of the honey would be improved. I cannot speak to this, as this was my first time. All I know is that the next morning, I put a baking pan under the honey gate of my bottling bucket to catch any drips, and I bottled 11 pounds of the finest honey I have ever tasted. Now, I am sure, that when you get your first honey, you will feel the same way, but my fresh homegrown honey was sweeter than any honey I have ever bought at the store.
Bottle Your Work
Bottling was easy, I used new sterilized jars, and just opened the gate up and let it pour slowly into the jar, as it filled up, I shut the gate and let the honey drip down into the jar so I could reduce the amount of leakage and waste. Just like canning, I used a damp rag to carefully wipe any spills from the mouth of the jar as I screwed on the lid.
I have some foundationless frames in my hives also, and while I really enjoyed the process of extracting my honey using an extractor, I am looking forward to using the crush and drain method for the to other frames of honey.
Check back later, because as soon as I get more capped honey, I will be sure to post a video of my next experience with my bees