How to process raw honey with an extractor

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How to process raw honey with an extractor l Homestead LadyThe first-first thing I want to say is, read the directions to learn how to process raw honey with an extractor.  It’s such a basic step and one I too often neglect in my zeal to try a new thing!  We’ve processed quite a bit of honey over the years but this was our first time using a honey extractor and, may I just say, hallelujah!  Can I get an amen?!!  Here it is, how to process raw honey with an extractor…

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Extracting honey, various methodsFirst step to extracting honey l Homestead Lady

Since we moved to Utah, we’ve had a really hard time keeping our hives alive (I’ve finally decided to wrap my hives in winter and make sure I feed them several times in early spring – dratted winter that lasts until June!!!) but this year we had one make it and start thriving early.  We had one honey super nearly filled so, since we were down in the bee yard hiving our swarm into a nearby hive, we decided to pull off the nearly filled honey super and process the honey out.  In the past, we’ve tried the cut and squish method of honey extraction, whereby you cut the comb out of the racks and manually (yes, as in, with your hands) squish all the honey out into a mesh sieve or colander so the honey can drain through and the wax and “stuff” gets filtered out; you do the same step when using an extractor but there’s less mess to filter through.

How to process raw honey with a honey extractor - www.homesteadlady.com - filtering the honey

You can also use an uncapping tank (essentially a big box with a mesh screen for your cappings to rest on while they drain off all their excess honey); they’re cool but unless you’re doing many hives, they’re kind of big and unnecessary.  Here’s Better Hens and Gardens link for rendering honey and wax in your oven.  Once you’ve gone uncapped all your frames, you can collect all your wax bits into a big pot, put them on the stove and slowly bring the temperature up to about 145 degrees so that the bees wax will melt.  Once it does, you let the mixture cool and the wax set up at the top; underneath will be the rest of the honey that was trapped in the midst of all that wax.

How to process raw honey with a honey extractor - www.homesteadlady.com - beeswax to filter

I always saved this “cooked” honey to use in baking since I was adding it to something that would go in the oven anyway.

How to process raw honey with a honey extractor - www.homesteadlady.com

Otherwise, I leave all my honey raw as it is not only fabulously good to eat but also fabulously good to use as medicine; it’s powerful stuff in it’s raw state.  May I just say that the best part about honey extraction, whatever method you use, is the smell; I always say that if righteousness has a smell, it’s the aroma of your warm kitchen, filled with warm beeswax and warm honey dripping off your warm counters and sticking to your warm shoes and finding it’s way into your warm mouth.  Your kitchen becomes sacred ground.

How to process raw honey with an extractor

Obviously, the squish method is messy and you end up wasting a bit here and there.  Harvesting honey with an extractor is quicker, less of a honey bath for you and doesn’t destroy the comb (one of the best reasons to use an extractor because your bees don’t need to spend time rebuilding comb, but instead can focus on making more honey).  The first thing you’ll do is uncap the honey in the frames either with an uncapping comb or with some sort of hot uncapping knife/tool.  We’ve used both and they both work just fine; I like the hot knife better just because melting stuff is cool!  The purpose of this step is to expose the honey underneath the wax capping the bees put on the honey storage cells to keep the honey clean and fresh.  If you want the honey to come out, you need to “pop the lid” on the bees ingenuity.  So, I’m actually showing you the photos of these steps in reverse for some reason probably having to do with composing this at 1am.  Your cappings should sit in a colander to drain honey off for awhile (or you can use the uncapping tank if you have one); then heat them, cool them, remove the wax from the last bit of honey at the bottom of the pan.  Enjoy!

How to process raw honey with a honey extractor - www.homesteadlady.com - wax cappings

Growing weary of the squish method, this time, we borrowed a two frame Dadant from some friends down the street.  I was surprised by how big the unit was for just two frames; with it’s stand it was as tall as my four year old and twice as wide.  Considering how much centrifugal force these extractors exert, it’s no wonder they’re sturdy!  Give me manual over electric any day, first of all.  If I were doing ten hives worth of honey, then I can see the wisdom in an electric crank but since I only have a few hives and a very strong husband/son duo, we’re sticking with the manual; fewer parts to break down and cheaper to use.

How to process raw honey with a honey extractor - www.homesteadlady.com - honey extractor

You need to uncap one side of each frame – your honey super frames are shallower than your brood frames and will fit nicely into the extractor…

How to process raw honey with a honey extractor - www.homesteadlady.com - uncapping fork

and then you simply slip the frame into the basket inside the unit – this one held two frames.

How to process raw honey with a honey extractor - www.homesteadlady.com

Then, you close up the top, turn the crank and after a few minutes, you open back up the unit and do the same thing for the other side of the frame.  Make sure you remember to uncap that other side or you’ll be scratching your head trying to figure out where all the honey went.  To extract both sides takes around five mintues-ish.    The honey flows to the bottom of the tank where there’s a spigot which you open in order to capture the honey in a bucket below.

How to process raw honey with a honey extractor - www.homesteadlady.com

You can put some kind of filter over the bucket opening beneath the flow of honey in order to take out loose bee parts and propolis and the occasional stick that gets stuck to the frames, if you want to.  Bees are really very fastidious (part of the bee life cycle is to act as a maid for the entire hive in order to root our any litter) and you usually don’t come across much gunk in the honey frames and I like to have as much propolis in my honey as possible so I never really bother to filter it more than once, although many people do.  After you’ve done all your frames, you can just put them back in your honey super and put the super right back on the hive.  The bees will clean up the honey mess, repair any broken comb, no doubt curse your name once or twice and then start gathering more nectar to make a new stash of honey.

The honey we got from this pull was from early spring and so it didn’t have the robust quality of late summer/early fall honey but, oh, was it delicious!!!  Go here to see what you can plant for your bees in your garden.  We’re blasting through it, putting it in everything from our morning dandelion drink to cinnamon roll frosting.  We have sudden Winnie the Pooh moments where we dash to the kitchen to make toast and honey.  To help with seasonal allergies and internal germ killing, I have the kids take a teaspoonful of raw honey every day.  Yeah, it’s definitely their favorite medicine.

How to process raw honey with a honey extractor - www.homesteadlady.com

Incidentally, while we were down there robbing honey from this hive, we checked on the swarm we captured and put into the other hive.  They’d built some beautiful burr comb (it took us awhile to get back down there and add in the rest of the frames the bees needed to build on so they just made their own) – thought you’d like to see those pictures.  I am just fascinated by bees and find them truly, truly beautiful.  I’m reading several bee books at once right now and have bees on the brain!  What about you?  Are you a bee lover or a bee hater?  Or just someone who’s not sure what they think about keeping 80,000 stinging insects in their backyard?

Burr comb bees wax - www.homesteadlady.com

Burr comb bees wax - www.homesteadlady.com

 

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Comments

How to process raw honey with an extractor — 14 Comments

  1. Its bizarre how these little creatures fascinate us. I was not an insect enthusiast, but a sustainable-living guru, and so I got a hive set up to aid in the pollination of my garden. In that first summer I became addicted–my bee-fever still persists 4 years later. We now have 12 hives (and growing more every year), a thriving business selling raw honey and beeswax products like soap, etc. and I am president of the local beekeepers’ club. Hooray for bees!!!

  2. How fun. The extractor really does make the process so much easier. My 15yo son is the beekeeper here and he and my husband were able to get an extractor and quite a bit of other equipment from a man who is elderly and no longer keeps bees. They found him by asking around at some of the local antique stores. He gave them a great deal. It’s amazing what people have stored in their barns.

    • That’s the truth; attics work much the same. I love elderly people passing on their tools to us so we can take up the mantle.

  3. When we get our bees (hopefully next year) I would love to have an extractor, but I have also heard they cost a lot of money. Is this something that several people or even a group of people can share?

    • Absolutely! We borrowed this one from friends who let us use it for free. You can all go in and buy as a group, although that can get dicey if friendships falter. You could save up and purchase one and rent it out for a small fee to recoup your costs, too. You can get a decent manual two frame for around 300-400 dollars; an investment, to be sure, but I really like this piece of equipment!! You do want to double check that the tank is made out of stainless steel and not Aluminum or something equally yucky. Make sure the company you buy from has spare parts you can buy in case something wears out – the turning mechanism can take a beating after awhile. There are also a lot of DIY plans on the net and Youbube, using five gallon buckets, etc. I haven’t tried them so I can’t speak to their longevity. The extractor we borrowed was a Dadant and they seem to be one of the best, from what I’ve read. Betterbee (from NY) also sells a nice looking one as does Brushy Moutain Bee Farm (from NC). Just read up as much as you can before you buy and see which would be a good fit for you and/or your group of buyers.

  4. Thanks. I sell firewood and as I was cutting into a fallen dead hickory log I cut a tremendous Ho ey bee hive in half. I want to save these bees and start my own colony – please advise.

    Oh, I reached into the hollow and enjoyed a bit of raw honey – wonderful!

    • Wow, Mel – neat! The fist thing to do is make sure you’ve covered the hive back up. Next, I would locate your local beekeeping group or your closest bee expert and get them over there to help you set it up in a standard bee box or a top bar hive. There’s equipment you’ll need to acquire so you’ll want someone in your community to help you. I’ll post this question to our Facebook community and see if we get some other words of wisdom but I really suggest getting a local helper asap!

      Congratulations!

    • Ok, Mel – I posted your question on the Facebook page and Runamuck Acres responded so far with the following advice: You need to be sure to get the Queen–else it’s a futile endeavor.

      Tap all the bees into a 5 gallon pail–have a lid or something to cover the container with so that they don’t fly out. You can tell you have the Queen when the escape-bees begin to congregate on the outside of your bucket. However, if you should need to make multiple attempts to collect all the bees, simply tap the bucket on the ground to knock them down to the bottom before opening it again and tapping your logs over the bucket.

      Once you think you have the Queen and all the bees possible–you’ll need to hive them in a beehive. Preferably you’d already have this on hand–if not, act quickly.

      If you do not want to keep the colony for yourself, call your local or state beekeeping organization–beekeepers are always after free bees!

      Thank you for your dedication to the preservation of the honeybee!!!

  5. I wish this extractors are also here in uganda i would venture into serious business ,thanks for your lesson

    • I wonder if you could find some plans online to build something, Ayikobua. You can certainly process by hand – you remove the comb, squish out as much honey as you can and melt down the wax, removing the rest of the honey. The honey you end up getting out of the hot pot of wax is no longer raw but it’s still yummy.

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