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Honey Extraction

What is Extraction?

Extraction in beekeeping is the removal of honey from honeycomb, usually with a device called an extractor. When extracting centrifugal force is used to remove the honey from the honeycomb.

Types of Extractors

Extractors are costly. For new beekeepers renting or borrowing an extractor may be the best option. If you are keen on owning an extractor, try buying a second-hand one from a retiring beekeeper or a beekeeper who is looking to expand. Look for a stainless steel extractor rather than a galvanized or plastic one. Galvanized extractors can rust and plastic extractors can break easily.

There are two types of extractors:

  • Tangential Extractors
  • Radial Extractors

Tangential Extractors

  • Most hobbyist will own a tangential extractor.
  • Holds 2 or 4 honey frames (some hold as many as 16 frames)
  • Frames are places in a large metal basket. Place frames on a slight angle.
  • Honey is extracted from one side of the frame at a time.
  • Turn the crank, which spins the basket, projecting the honey out of the honey comb. Some extractors are motorized, but of course they cost more.

Radial Extractors

  • Holds 10 to 100 frames.
  • Extracts from both sides of the frame at the same time.
  • Loads like a circle or a wheel.
  • Faster than tangential extractors.
  • Used mostly by commercial beekeepers.

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Decapping Methods

To extract honey the cell cappings must be disturbed, and the cell contents must be partially or completely exposed.

  • Decapping Fork -- Skimming
  • Hold the fork as if you were eating.
  • Ensure your grip is firm.
  • Skim under the caps to raise off the wax on both sides of the frame
  • Skimming can be time consuming. But it will leave little wax in the extracted honey. The honey will appear clear.

TIP: To speed up decapping, you may want to use this hint.

Buy a rubber container. Cut a 1 x 2 piece of wood long enough to hang over both sides of the container. Nail or screw 2 additional pieces of wood to the ends of the first board, so that these 2 pieces butt up against the sides of the container. Using screws or nails insert the 2 fasteners in the larger board. The pointy tips of the screws or nails will grip the honey frame, holding the frame in place while you remove the cappings.

This invention speeds up the process of decapping honey, and guards against you stabbing your hand with the sharp spikes of the capping fork.

  • Decapping Fork -- Scratching
  • Use the fork like a claw.
  • Scratch the wax cappings.
  • Scratching is a quicker than skimming. However, more wax is left in the honey.
  • Wax will not affect the taste of the honey.

Electric Uncapping Plane

  • Knife is used to melt the cappings exposing the honey. Blade of the knife is heated.
  • Slide blade over a frame from right to left or from left to right.

This method is easy, quick and less messy, but the knife is expensive.
Commercial Decapping Machine. Honey frames are loaded in the machine, a knife skims over the top of the frames exposing the honey.

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Straining Honey

Tangential extractors have honey gates that can be closed or opened. I strain my honey twice, so that I can remove as much wax and debris as possible. My customers like to see clear honey. This may sound unorthodox, but I have used CLEAN, UNUSED pantyhose to strain honey. Surprisingly, pantyhose does an excellent job of straining and doesn't readily clog.

I have also used cheese cloth and a nylon mesh bag with great success. My advice to you is to try them all and choose the straining method that's right for you.


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© The Country Bee Apiaries, 2008.