Extracting honey that your bees have collected is to most people the reason for keeping bees, others feel they are helping nature and the honey is just extra, either way it is a beautiful product. It’s so natural that it has healing properties and can help allergy sufferers.
Extracting the honey is easier done when taken straight from the hive when it’s still warm. Rape honey is known to granulate very quickly so needs to be extracted before it goes hard and is best taken when the rape flowers are starting to die off.
A super filled with honey will provide between 20lb to 30lb of honey.
Checking that your honey is ready to be extracted is extremely important as honey extracted too early will contain too much water and can start to ferment in the jar. Honey should be capped to be ready. However, honey that is not capped, but does not shake-out when the frame is tapped/ shaken horizontally may be harvested.
When you are going to extract honey you do need to consider where you are going to work as the Bees are going to want their honey back..!
Remove the whole super or those frames you wish to harvest honey from. With an empty super to hand, remove each frame and carefully brush the bees back into the hive, placing the frame into the empty super and cover with a dustsheet perhaps (lay the dustsheet on the ground, then place the empty super on it folding the sheet over the top) to stop it becoming filled with bees. If you are not harvesting the honey and returning the super immediately it is useful to have an empty super with frames to put onto the hive so all the foraging bees have somewhere to go overnight.
Hold the frame end-up over the uncapping tank and tip it slightly forward. This helps the cappings fall away from the comb as you slice them.
Method 1 - Use an electric uncapping knife [or carving knife will do] to remove the cappings. Keep your fingers safe in case the knife slips. Turn the frame over and repeat on the other side. Finally use an uncapping fork to remove the cappings from low / missed areas.
Method 2 – Using an electric heat gun melts the capping to expose the honey in the cells. Put the frames into the extractor and spin; it works an absolute treat. No cappings to melt off, no mess – Brilliant..!
The extractor is a centrifuge device that spins the honey out of the cells.
As you uncapped the frames fill the extractor, put the lid on and start cranking the handle. Don’t spin the frames too fast as you can damage the comb and cells.
Depending on the extractor type it may be necessary to reverse to frames in the extractor and spin again to remove the honey from the second side.
Remove the emptied frames from the extractor and place in a super box ready to be returned to the hive for the bees to clean up.
Open the valve at the bottom of the extractor and allow the honey to filter through. In a warm room the honey should flow easily through a honey-strainer into your bucket. Straining will remove cappings, wax debris, etc. Straining does not remove pollen which exists naturally in honey.
When you have completed your extraction and it is strained it is ready to be bottled. Warmed honey can be run into warmed clean jars normally 3/4lb or 1lb jars are available with a good fitting lid. Apply your own label. Job done..! if you are selling your honey or giving it away, please remember to keep 2 jars of the same batch aside to enter into the Group Honey Show.
If you intend to sell your honey you do need to be mindful of weight, description and clean working.
When cleaning up after extraction and bottling wash all your equipment in cold water (not hot). Honey dissolves in cold water. Wax melts in hot water and sticks to everything.
Another method of cleaning is even easier; place your equipment some way away from your hives (to prevent robbing) and let the bees do the cleaning for you and once they have “recycled” the honey you can wash the equipment clean.
When dealing with certain types of honey, rape being the most notable, if it is left too long in the hive it will set-solid and is impossible to spin out using an extractor. In these cases it will be necessary to cut to comb out from the frame and melt it using a bain-marie [saucepan in a saucepan of water], but do not allow any water to get in with the honey [we are only heating it enough to melt the honey and the wax, we do not want to raise the temperature too much and spoil the honey – the bees would be very upset]. Once melted, it can be allowed to stand then the wax can be lifted off the top of the honey. Remember that in time this will re-set in the jar and become Set Honey.