It’s time to harvest and extract your honey. If you are a BCBA member you have the advantage of renting the club honey extraction equipment. The club has everything you need to get the job done: an extractor, a planer to uncap the honey, an uncapping tub, a straining set up, and 5-gallon food grade buckets. First things first, you will need to pull the honey which means getting the supers off the hives and the bees out of the supers = honey harvest. There are several ways to do this.
Honey Harvest Tools
- Beekeepers Personal Protection Equipment (PPE) – suit/ jacket/veil/ gloves
- Smoker/ Fuel/ Lighter
- Supers for transportation
- Hive tool
- Old Towel
- Light the smoker. Use the hive tool, open lid slowly and blow some smoke in the hive.
- Have empty supers ready to place capped honey frames in. A cloth cover is recommended to prevent robbing and to keep the frames bee free.
- Remove frames with capped honey from the hive and inspect the comb. Uncapped cells with some nectar in it should not be harvested – only capped honey.
- Remove bees from the frames by doing a quick snap of the frame similar to getting the bees off the frame when you do a mite check and then use a bee brush to gently remove any bees lingering on the
- Place the capped honey frames into the empty super and cover with cloth (old towel works great) and prepare to to transport to your honey extraction location.
Once you have pulled all of your supers you are ready to set up for honey extraction. You will want to select a place that you are able to keep the bees out of. If you decide to extract outside in the open, you will have unwanted visitor bees, and lots of them.
- Uncapping tools – heated knife / serrated knife/ planer/ uncapping fork, spiked roller
- Uncapping Tub for wax/honey
- Food-grade bucket for honey
- Double screened strainer; catch wax and impurities as honey is poured from extractor
- Containers for honey
- Bucket of warm water and rags
- Mount the frame above the tub being used to collect wax cappings and honey.
- Use the heated knife or tool of choice to unseal the capped honey cells.
- Lean the heated knife on the edges of the frame and move “fast” – don’t linger too long or the honey may burn.
- Repeat for both sides of the frame. The heated knife takes off most of the caps. For the honey cells that did not get upcapped, use an uncapping fork and gently shave off the caps.
- Place the frames with both sides uncapped into the extractor as you uncap them.
- Once the extractor is full of frames, close the lid and start spinning slowly increasing speed until the honey is spun out of the comb and is stuck to the bottom and sides of the extractor.
- If using the club extractor you will need to flip the frames and repeat the spinning.
- Remove the spun frames and return them to the super and spin the remainder of your frames.
- Place your food grade bucket under the spigot of the extractor.
- Use a double screened strainer to catch the wax and impurities as the honey pours out of the extractor.
- Before bottling, letting the extracted honey sit for 48 hours allows air bubbles and sediment to settle out.
Clean Extractor and Tools
Bees love to help clean up the honey covered frames with the majority of the honey extracted. Take your extracted supers back to the hive, set an empty super on top of the inner cover and place the extracted supers on top of the empty box (thus leaving a space between the inner cover and the extracted frames). This extra space “fools” the bees into thinking they are leaving the hive, finding honey, and they will bring is down into to hive proper. Remove the cleaned up frames after a couple of days. If you leave them on the hive too long, the bees will sometimes start back filling them again.
Leaving the boxes with extracted frames randomly outside the hive can instigate robbing behaviors which should be avoided. Placing them on the hives ensures your bees have “first dibs” of the leftovers and minimizes robbing behaviors.
You will end up with a mix of wax cappings and honey in the uncapping tub when the extracting is completed. You can leave them in the tub for the honey to drain overnight then open the gate on the tub the following day and strain the honey. You’ll be pleasantly surprised at the amount of additional honey you will be able to harvest.
Once you have strained the honey from the uncapping tub and removed your left over
cappings (save them to use later or give to your favorite beekeeper) you can place the tubs and strainers outside FAR from your hives to let the bees clean up. If you decide to try your hand at cleaning the strainer be sure to use COLD water.
Extracted honey should have a moisture content at or below 18%. The club has a refractometer which is used to test moisture content. If the honey has too much moisture – 19% or greater, it may ferment. Often times when there is a high moisture content it comes from extracting frames containing uncapped honey. Some people have success reducing the moisture from the honey using a dehumidifier.
Wash containers the honey will go into and let air dry. Fill containers with honey, label and share with friends.