Extracting Honey

We extracted the last eight frames from our honey bee hives this weekend. It came to about 8 litres after bottling. That’s somewhere around 25 pounds or 11kg. We extracted the honey with another beekeeper who got into beekeeping last summer the same time we did. He went before of us. Some of the following photos are of his honey — starting with this one:

The honey on his frames probably came from Goldenrod nectar. The appearance of the Goldenrod honey comb was different than our comb. The flavour of the honey was more earthy too. Our honey probably came from Japanese Knotweed and other floral sources that aren’t as distinctive as Goldenrod. It’s all good honey, though. At any rate, step one was to put all the frames in a rack on the decapping table.

Step two was to remove the wax cappings from the frames of honey with a hot knife called a decapping knife:

The heated knife melts through the wax…

…and if you’re lucky, only the wax falls away.

Most of our frames were thick and bulging in places. It was difficult to slide the knife smoothly beneath the caps. We subsequently lost a fair bit of honey along with the cappings.

But that’s a small price to pay for the use of the extractor. We used a fork called a capping scratcher on a few of our frames instead of the knife. It was easier to poke holes in the caps that were bulging and bumpy.

Each frame was placed in the extractor after decappping.

Then we turned it on, waited a few minutes for it to spin the honey out of the frames, and then we turned on the tap:

Liquid gold:

This is what I saw when I put some of our honey in a refractometer and looked into it like a spy glass:

It seems like a good reading to me. 17% water is about right for raw honey. This bee couldn’t resist jumping into the honey:

The frames of comb were white and clean after the honey was spun out of them:

We brought the empty sticky combs home and let our bees lick up the left over honey. They go mad for it. We’ll use those drawn combs in our honey supers next year, which will save the bees from having to make comb all over again. (These are not foundationless frames.) Here’s all the honey after we bottled it on our kitchen table:

I’ll post a video of the extraction process as soon as I have time to look at the video. (UPDATE: Here’s the video.)

P.S.:, If I had a hive or two just for fun and my focus was more on the quality of the beekeeping experience and not so much the quantity of the honey, I’d go 100% foundationless in the honey supers. I’d still get plenty of honey to keep me happy, and I wouldn’t have to bother with building, buying or borrowing an extractor. I was happy to finally extract the last of our honey, but raw foundationless comb honey is way better. There’s no contest. It’s just more fun. The sensations, the aromas and the flavours that come from biting into a comb of honey can’t be beat. So it’s more delicious too. The hands-on experience of cutting the comb, or crushing and straining it and bottling it, is more satisfying than passing the job onto a piece of machinery. Foundationless honey supers allow the whole family to get in on the action, to really get their hands dirty — or sticky with honey. Check out the Cut Comb & Bottled Honey and the Eating Raw Honey Comb videos and tell me I’m wrong.

5 thoughts on “Extracting Honey

  1. It’s like drinking a dark beer verus commerical suds. You go for flavor and quality versus quantity. Kind of like drinking a Guiness or Black Pearl versus most domestics.

    I’m glad you enjoyed Phil.

  2. Great photos. Your honey looks great. I wonder if you can help me with my honey problem. I usually don’t strain the honey, but this time I used a faster extractor and it seemed to whip wax which looks like foam on the top of my bottles. What should I do?

Comments are closed.