Extracting Honey

Our weather has been great for making honey. I’ve gotten quite a few questions about how I get the honey out of the hive.

It starts by removing boxes from the hive in which the frames of honey have cells that are capped, or sealed with wax, like in the photo below.

frame of capped honey
You can see holes, which are uncapped cells in the honeycomb.

I take the frames of honeycomb home and prepare them for the extractor, which is the word that honey producers use for a centrifuge. We spin the honey out of the cells. To do that, we can either scratch the cappings off, or melt, or cut them off, like this:

cutting off cappings
See the shiny wet honey revealed when the cappings are cut away?


After this step, the frames are placed in the extractor and someone hand cranks the honey out of the cells. Electric extractors are available. All extractors come in a range of capacities, holding a minimum of two frames.

I was also asked about letting the honey drain out of the cells. Honey is less than 19% water, and I think with its moisture level and maybe capillary action/width of cell, the honey would not be able to drain out by gravity alone. I could crush the comb, or scrape it with the honey, but that would be a disadvantage to the bees and to me as their beekeeper. Why? Because the bees would spend time creating replacement wax comb instead of gathering more nectar to convert into honey/winter food source. By me removing the cappings only, the bees can focus on refilling the uncapped comb and replacing the capping only, not the base and walls of the cells. I cannot imagine having the furniture in my home destroyed and having to create replacements with my own two hands, but that is what I imagine a hive to be like if I were to crush to scrape they honey out. We used to scrape, but were able to buy a used extractor and inherit another. The bees have definitely been more productive since we quit scraping.

One fun fact: Honey colors (and flavors) depend on the floral source. The comb that we harvested last week was very light in color. I put the honey from two bee yards in the jars on the right. I have them next to a Fall 2016 honey on the left for comparison:

three colors of honey
Three honeys, three colors
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