As a small-scale beekeeper, you have already spent a significant amount of money on equipment. Your first year has already cost you several hundred dollars in expenses ranging from hives and frames to bees and protective equipment. When it comes to honey harvesting, removing honey from the comb is a costly undertaking.
The method you choose to extract honey is crucial, since each method has advantages and disadvantages. Cost, time, and colony damage are all factors to consider. One of the most prevalent approaches is to extract honey using machinery known as an extractor. However, it may make sense for you to adopt a different strategy, one that entails removing honey from frames without an extractor.
What do you need to extract honey?
The procedure of removing honey from the frames is known as extraction. Without the comb, the extracted honey is liquid. Before you begin any extraction, you must first prepare yourself:
- Remove the bees: It is critical to extract honey without injuring the worker bees. To get rid of the bees on the frames from which you’re extracting honey, use a bee brush, bee repellent, and/or a bee escape.
- Appropriate location: Extract away from other bees and insects. The flowing honey will attract more insects.
- Uncap: First, uncap the honey before drawing it out. Uncap the honey by dragging a heated knife or a special uncapping knife across the hard beeswax that covers the honey-filled comb.
How to extract honey without an extractor
The following are the standard methods for extracting honey without the use of equipment:
Crush and Strain
This method involves removing the comb and straining out the liquid:
- Cut the comb: After uncapping, cut or scrape the comb off the frame using something like a spatula.
- Collect: Collect it all in a straining container lined with a fine mesh, such as cheesecloth.
- Break it down: Using a potato masher, mash the cut comb until it is as fine as possible.
- Temperature: Warmth helps the honey flow out of the cells, so you can speed up the process by raising the temperature of the extraction area.
- Separate: Strain the honey through the mesh, retaining as much of the solid beeswax, pollen, and other hive components as possible.
- Collect and store: Before putting this honey in jars, collect it in large quantities to remove contaminants.
Cut comb honey
This is the least time-consuming way to enjoy honey. It is not strictly “extraction” because you are still enjoying it in the comb, but it is still out of the frame. All you need is a sharp knife, a baker’s cooling rack or queen excluder, a tray or baking sheet to catch the drips, and final product packaging.
Simply place the cooling rack or queen excluder on the pan or baking sheet. Then place the honey frame on top. With a sharp knife, cut the comb into parts (4-inch squares are popular). Wipe the knife after each cut to keep the comb clean. Allow the chopped pieces to drain for many hours by spacing them slightly apart.
After draining, lay the pieces on tiny food trays or plates and cover them with plastic wrap. Collect the honey on the tray and set it aside for future use when you need extracted honey.
Obviously, if you’ve used plastic foundation, you won’t be able to do this. In honey supers, always use wax foundation, or better yet, go foundationless and let the bees create their own.
Do it yourself extractor (DIY extractor)
Your last choice is to build an extractor. If you don’t want to cut your foundation and have some DIY skills, you can get ideas from others who have made inexpensive extractors.
Some beekeepers create extractors that look like professional ones out of less expensive materials. Some daring harvesters have preserved the extraction concept but radically changed the design. Why not?
The benefits and drawbacks of extracting honey without an extractor
The advantage of this method is that the cost is very low, and the implementation method is simple.
The primary disadvantage of removing honey from the comb without employing an extractor is that it can harm your colony. The cut comb and crush and strain procedures ruin the drawn comb that your bees build before depositing honey.
You must prepare for the hive’s demise. Your bees will require time during the next honey flow to rebuild pulled comb, reducing the amount of honey they can produce. Spending hundreds of dollars on an extractor rather than investing in a new foundation for the following year is still a cost-cutting measure.
Buying a mechanical extractor makes little economic or environmental sense if you only extract once or twice a year with a small colony. You can extract the honey from your bees without spending hundreds of dollars on an extractor. Crush and strain, cut comb, and DIY extraction are all inexpensive ways to bring the honey flow season to a close.
The cut comb honey process is the quickest and least labor-intensive choice for individuals who want the least amount of fuss. The crush and strain method is the most commonly used way of extracting without the use of an extractor. And DIY extraction is a fantastic choice for the handy and crafty beekeeper.