Have you ever wondered how beekeepers extract honey from beehives? This post and video will explain how we extract honey from our beehives.
My husband and daughter are the beekeepers of the family. We have two beehives which we've had for many years. Earlier this spring, we published a video on how to install a honey bee package in a hive that has died off. Click the link if you are interested in seeing how we start up a hive from a bee package.
After that video, they split off a new hive so that my daughter can have her own hive. She is doing a 4-H beekeeping project so this is a progression of her project. This means we have three hives in our backyard. We will not get honey from the new hive until next year if it does well through the fall and winter.
If you are interested in starting a beehive, we recommend you check out this guide, Backyard Beekeeping 101, for an overview of what’s involved in starting a bee colony and how to get the most out of it
This month it was time to harvest some honey from the original hive that made it through the winter. We decided to make a video to share with you to show how raw honey is extracted from the honeycomb.
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The Bee Escape
The process of extracting honey from the hive starts several days before the video. The beekeepers inspect the hive and determine if there are frames with capped honey.
The bees will generally put the honey in boxes higher up in the hive. They will keep the honey together so a whole box holds several frames full of honey.
On each frame, the bees build honeycomb and then they fill the honeycomb with honey or brood (eggs and baby bees). The boxes shown above have frames that are filled with capped honey.
Once the beekeepers determine that there is enough honey to harvest, they will install something called a bee-escape. This is just something that is added to the hive just below the boxes to be harvested. The bees can move down but then they cannot get back up into the boxes of honey.
Once the bee escape is installed, it's left on for a few days in order to allow the bees time to move to other areas of the hive. The boxes with the honey are then removed from the hive.
Cutting off the Cappings
Honey that has been capped by the bees is ready to be harvested. A frame of capped honey is shown below. In order to get the honey out of the honeycomb, the cappings are cut off with a long knife.
The cappings fall into the collector below and the extra honey can drip off through to the bottom of the collector.
The cappings are cut off of both sides of the frame.
Extracting the Honey
This is our honey extractor. It's a centrifuge and is used to spin the frames of honey around and around. As the frames spin, the honey comes out of the honeycomb.
Notice the extractor has two sections. The top section is where the frames are placed and spun around. The bottom section is where the honey collects after it's spun out of the frames. The honey drains down into the bottom section.
Using this extractor keeps the honeycomb intact so that it can be returned to the hive and the bees can fill it again. This helps the bees because building new wax honeycomb is a time-consuming process.
After the cappings are removed, the frame is placed into the extractor. The extractor can hold four frames at once.
Once the frames are in the extractor, we begin to spin the frames slowly by using the hand crank on top. We do not want to spin fast at first so we don't break the honeycomb.
After spinning it slowly, the frames are turned around so the other side is facing towards the outside of the extractor. The slow spinning is done once more.
After the first slow-spinning with each side of the frames facing outwards, we then flip the frames again. This time we can spin much faster to extract the rest of the honey from the frame.
The frames are then flipped around again and spun to extract the honey from the other side. This flipping and spinning is continued until all of the honey is extracted from the frame.
In the above picture, you can see the honey is draining through the holes into the bottom section of the extractor.
Filtering the Harvested Honey
There is no official definition of raw honey, but most beekeepers consider raw honey as honey that has not been pasteurized or heated over 118 degrees Fahrenheit. It is also only lightly filtered or strained to remove chunks of wax.
Below is a photo of the bottom section of our extractor. At the top of that section, there is this fine mesh filter. The honey drains into this section and then through the filter and into the bottom, collecting section.
This filter is the only processing our raw honey gets. It filters out the wax and large bits of other stuff that is in the hive.
Below is a photo of the honey in the bottom of the collector after being filtered through the mesh above. There are bubbles in the honey but other than that you can see it's clear.
Bottling the harvested Honey
To bottle the honey, we purchase either canning jars or plastic bottles from suppliers. These jars, bottles, and lids are cleaned before filling with the honey. Once the jars are clean and dry, they can be filled with honey.
The front of the collector has a honey gate. The honey gate is opened slightly in order to fill the jars or bottles with honey. The gate is closed after each jar in order to switch to the next jar.
The lids are placed on the jars after they are filled. We will add a label to the honey to identify the year and where the honey came from. We give most of our honey away as holiday gifts but we do sell some. When we sell honey, it's sold at $10 / pound. This is the going rate in our area for raw honey from local beekeepers.
Raw honey may form crystals over time. If your honey is crystallized, heat it gently to remove the crystals and melt it back into smooth honey.
If you have any questions about this project, contact us through the YouTube Video
comments or our Contact Us page. We respond to questions in e-mails and YouTube comments regularly.
We hope you enjoyed this article on how to extract honey from a beehive. We have some other articles you may be interested in.
Installing a Bee Package into an empty hive.
How to Drill a Hole in a Ceramic Pot