For small-scale beekeepers, explore economical honey extraction methods, and learn how one apiary uses a unique system to extract honey from frames.
How does a small beekeeping operation get all that sweet honey goodness out of the comb?
There are two basic ways to remove honey from the cells of the honeycomb: the drip (or squeeze) method and spinning it out in a centrifuge extractor.
For a beekeeper with only one Langstroth style hive, the drip method may suffice. Cut off the wax cappings and lay the frame over a container. After a few hours, the honey will have dripped out of the cells. Repeat with the other side. To harvest a top bar hive, cut off the honeycomb, place in several layers of cheesecloth and squeeze. This is slow but economical in terms of tools and machinery. The only investment is a sharp knife and some cheesecloth. This is the cheapest route to honey on your toast.
At Five Feline Farm, the drip method is too slow. We are not a big operation, but have no patience for hours of dripping honey. To process anything over four or six frames, (about half of one super) a mechanical method of extraction is preferred. Beekeeping supply companies sell extractors that will support anything from a small hobby operation to a large commercial enterprise. All well and good but since we were just getting started, we did not want to invest in an expensive extractor. Off to the Internet for a solution.
A Google search turned up an ingenious piece of work I wish I had thought of first. Honey Spinner sells a unique product for about half the cost of the smallest unit at a major beekeeping supply company. This honey spinner is perfect for a small operation. Essentially the unit is made of buckets, PVC, and a few pieces of wood. A cordless drill provides power. The system will spin two frames at a time, although each has to be turned around halfway through spinning to extract the opposite side. The honey drips down the sides into the bottom bucket that is fitted with a nylon filter. The company has improved the design slightly since we purchased by adding a honey gate to the collection reservoir.
Our honey harvesting now goes something like this:
- About 48 hours before extraction, add an inner cover with bee escape under the super to be harvested.
- Pull off the super, ensuring that all bees have exited.
- Uncap the frames using a very sharp knife designed specifically for this purpose. We use a bus tub like is used in restaurants to catch the cappings.
- Spin out the honey two frames at a time, turning each halfway through to extract the opposite side.
- After spinning all frames, add the cappings to the strainer and let all filter through to the collection bucket.
- Allow the honey to settle for 24 hours, then bottle.
We are soon to outgrow the honey spinner, but it is a wonderful piece of equipment to get started with honey extraction.
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