Honey Extraction How-To

Here’s a few tips and tricks and some common Questions and Answers on  Honey Extraction.

How should I bring my honey to Susie Bee Good to be Extracted or take from my hive to extract myself?

Many people will pull their frames and place them in large plastic tubs. They often don’t fit well and will knock against each other, scraping and poking into some of the wax. If you’ve got extra boxes that fir your frames, keep them in there like they are in the hive (minus the bees please!) and if you’ve got an extra bottom board and top board, that’s GREAT too. you want to make sure it seals well though and I would not recommend a screened bottom board for transit, some honey will undoubtedly come out of your frames and get…EVERYWHERE. My amazing hubby has taken a piece of thin plywood, painted it so it’s nicer looking and more durable and cut it just as big as the box is. Here’s some photos of one of our customers who did the same. It’s great to have several pieces of wood that are this size around your apiary, they’re useful as quick covers for boxes as you’re working your hives and for transportation.

So pretty much have your frames on a bottom board of plywood, then the box, then a lid of plywood. a ratchet strap around the box keeps them nice and secure and they’re much easier to transport and take up a lot less space than big tubs. In the last photo, we used one of our telescoping tops as a bottom and have an old unpainted box as our frame holding box.
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Is my honey ready to extract?

As you’re taking it from the hive, if you have cells that have NOT BEEN CAPPED, there’s a chance they’re too wet, still too liquid and haven’t been cured. You run the chance of having fermented/bad honey if you extract this. Do check to see if the cells are ready to extract, take the frame and do a very technical “shake test”. Grasp the sides in each palm, thumbs up and or over the top of the frame. Hold it perpendicular (so the uncapped cells are facing down) over a clean clear surface and give it a god few thrusts, like you’re knocking off bees back into the hive. Look for droplets. A few is OK, lots means the honey isn’t cured enough. Pop it back in the hive and let them polish it off.
Nectar shake test20150807_153842

How do I un-cap my frames and why?

20150807_153205Your frames of honey will have a few different types of cells of honey.
There are DRY CAPPINGS and WET CAPPINGS.

Dry cappings are my favorite, they are by far a lot easier to extract, leave more honey in the cell and go much quicker.
<–This is what dry cappings look like. Can you see how i’m using the cappings scratcher and the “lid” just pops right off very very little honey along with it?

WET CAPPINGS are where the wax touches the wax, it’s a bit stickier and has a slightly different appearance. They are not as bright and papery.

Here’s a great link to a quick article showing wet and dry cappings: http://www.honeybeesuite.com/wet-cappings-vs-dry-cappings/


UNCAPPING

I’m right handed so I hold the uncapping scratcher in my right hand, prongs pointed to my left. My frame is  centered on the screw on the board over my uncapping tank. I hold the frame steady with my left hand. First, take your hive tool and clear off any propolis and extra wax/comb off the wooden sides of your frame. This is a perfect time to clean these up. Next, you need to upcap your frames. I start at the top right side of the frame and skim off the tip of the cell. Take as little as possible. work your way right to left and then top to bottom. If you miss a cell, like the one’s pictured at the top left of the photo, those will not be extracted. I much prefer lifting the lids off rather than literally scratching the frame as some do. Hint:

If you use your cappings “scratcher” and scratch the top of the cells, yes, you can extract but you’ll have a lot more wax in the extractor to clean which also means lots more small particles in your honey which means it takes many many more times longer to strain. We suggest taking the time to do it by hand. You leave more cells on the comb so they don’t have to build as much comb the next year and long run, it’s better for you as well.
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Notice on this last photo how the capped honey comes ONLY out to the edge of the frame? this isn’t very condusive to using an electric uncapping knife as the knife will cut only to the edge of the wood frame, You’d have to gouge into your cells at an angle from both sides. I’d use the cappings sratcher. Notice on the instructions for the hot knife how on that frame, the comb is drawn out MUCH more.

The Uncapping Tub/Tank
Your uncapping tub or tank, is a food service grade tub with a large guage strainer at the bottom. As I uncap, I take my tool and scrape off the wax on the edge so it drips down. There strainer in the bottom will do a decent job of straining out the big  stuff. when you’re done, you’ll have a bit of honey in the bottom below the  wire which is then easier and quicker to strain in your paint strainer 5 gallon bucket.

Using the Electric SPEED KING Uncapping Knife
Simply plug in clean knife.
CAUTION; Knife will get hot!
Use knife to remove beeswax cap (uncapping) on honeycomb. Unplug to turn off and cool.
Clean blade while still warm.  Plug it in and wipe it off with a clean paper towel.

Read and Follow Uncapping Notes for tips and suggestions. (Read and understand all instructions before use.)  To remove the beeswax cap on each cell, uncap with either an upward or downward motion allowing the wax cappings to fall away from the knife blade. Remove just enough of the beeswax to allow the honey to come out, this will minimize the work the bees will need to do to repair and refill these honey cells. Use an uncagging stroke that will not strike any part of your body, some honey processors use a slight sawing motion while cutting off the beeswax caps. CAUTION-AVOID INJURY: If you uncap with an upward stroke, be sure to keep your other hand AND thumb that is holding the frame of honeycomb out of the path of the knife. Knife is sharp and gets hot! Work safely when uncapping and don ’t cut or burn yourself. Cool knife as needed by_plunqinq blade into a pile of uncaggings. Set your hot SPEED KING only on a nonflammable, no melt surface if you set it down. Develop an uncapping stroke that will allow you to uncap an entire side of a frame in a single stroke using the frame itself as a guide for the knife. Develop deeper honeycomb cells to make your uncapping easy* Use the entire length of the blade to distribute the heat of the knife evenly across the work surface for your best uncapping results. Use pointed end of knife to get into corners and score difficult to reach areas on the comb. Fatter combs are easy to process with this tool. Uncapping Honey is a sticky process. Plan in advance how to keep your work area clean as you work. You can use damp cloth towels to keep the work tools and uncapping area clean. Plan your uncapping work flow to make it easy on yourself. Your tools should be ready and clean; the work area clean and well lighted and all items ready within easy reach. Do not track honey about on your shoes. Keeping the mess to a minimum helps avoid unnecessary clean up and explanations! Avoid dropping knife or hitting other objects with knife and never use the knife as a prying tool to pry frames out. Clean knife before and after each use with a damp, but not wet cloth. Clean knife when knife is warm as a warm knife is easiest to clean. Keep knife clean for best results. Never immerse this knife in water, this will ruin the knife and will void your warranty. Use caution when handling the knife, it is capable of both burning and cutting your skin! ‘ Always unplug tool when not in use and to turn off tool. Never leave tool plugged in for extended periods or leave plugged in when you are not present. You may wish to use an uncapping tub to capture the wax scraps and honey when you are processing your honey. Caution: Avoid cutting the cord with the knife. Inspect and clean the knife before and after each use and do not use if wires are frayed. Keep out of reach of children.
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20150807_154641 20150807_154633       HOT KNIFE UNCAPPING

THE EXTRACTOR

The biggest thing is making sure your frames are balanced.
Oh yea and make sure the frames are balanced.

Ok, We extracted.  Now what?

FYI, plan on about an hour or more for cleanup process.

It takes a while for the honey to ooze down the sides of the tank. How quickly it does so is going to depend on multiple factors. How warm is the area you’re extracting in? how warm was the honey when you extracted? I’ve had it be 65 degrees and the honey took a lot longer to extract in the machine AND to drain to the bottom. I’ve extracted outside with 90 degree heat and it was smooth sailing. (extracting outside anywhere near your bees isn’t a good idea…THEY WILL FIND YOU AND THEIR HONEY) I will extract inside, in the kitchen or living room, putting down a sheet under the extractor so catch extra drips. If I have the time, I’ll extract as early as possible, having kept the frames warm inside the house before OR do them straight from the hive. I’ll let it ooze for an hour or so and also, tilt it forward with the gate open over the 5 gallon bucket with the filter in it. if done correctly, the bucket will help stabilize it and some will drain.

Before I unplug it, I personally like to rotate the basket (always with the motor, never force it!)  to that one of the 3 flat sides of the triangle basket is directly over the spigot. I’ve found this is the best angle to reach in(I have VERY SKINNY ARMS and use my long handled spatula to then guide the honey that’s collected around the gate, through the honey gate and into the bucket. DO NOT EVER MOVE THE BASKET MANUALLY. Not even a little. Always use the motor. This will damage the machine.

Once you’ve felt you’ve gotten all the honey you can out, I love my sink with a long hose on it to do it inside. I’ll use a soft wet rag to wipe off anything needed around the motor, then place the rag with plastic wrap around the motor. Now you can use either warm or cold water to clean the honey off the sides. Hot is best, just let it run down the side from the top and collect in the bottom. The wax and small amount of honey will clean off well. *make sure the gate is closed* I’ll let the tank fill up about halfway. Do not use any soaps or cleaners. Please DO NOT use a pressure washer. Water only. There is a food grade grease that coats the shaft and the ball bearing at the bottom. i’ll then turn off the water once i’ve rinsed off the sides and use my hand and nails or a scrubber to go down the sides of the basket to get those pieces of wax off. Be sure to check honey around the honey gare and make sure this is wiped out.
Now you can open your gate and let it drain into a bucket, realize the water will be under pressure and will spray outwards. I then can haul this outside. If you’re doing this out on the lawn, just let it rip. There will still be some floating pieces of wax once you drain it so it will then need to be rinsed again. Open the honey gate and reach in and use your finger to clean the inside of the tank under the honey gate as this is the sneaky spot that honey collects.
I like to now take a fresh hand  towel or paper towel and wipe down the outside and use the spatula with one to wipe and dry the inside. Don’t forget about the two protective lids.

To clean the uncapping tank, strain all the honey from your extractor.We like to scrape the cappings off to once side a bit, then take the honey thats collected at the bottom into the filter for it to strain through.Then, very last place your wax capping in the strainer to strain. overnight or even over a few days is best to get the most honey out of them.  Use the spatula to scrape the sides of the plastic uncapping tank and you’ll get 95 % of it cleaned. The plastic strainers are sturdy but please don’t use any sharp metal equiptment on them to scrape them, use the spatula provided. You shouldn’t need to move the wax around too much in thestrainer. Just leave it be or scrape the bottom once during the process. Rinse this and the metal grate with cold water. Rinsing with warm we found, melts the wax juuuust a bit and it’s harder to scrape off.
Rinse the cappings scratcher knife in water.
To clean the Electric hot knife, plug it in and make sure it is resting on a good surface. once it’s hot, simply wipe clean with a paper towel. usually by the second pass, it’s sparkling clean. NEVER USE WATER ON THE ELECTRIC KNIFE.

If you ever have any questions during any part of your process, we would alwasy be more than happy to help. We love doing this, remember? Even if you had to wait to put the kids to bed and it’s 11:30 pm, please call us. Tyler’s cell is 801-636-2372 and Susie’s is 801-244-6994.

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