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Doin’ It Old School: Low-tech honey extraction

16th April 2008

Doin’ It Old School: Low-tech honey extraction

posted in Our Hives |

More explanation of the previous post:

The very simplest way to extract honey is this: Take full combs. Break into a strainer. Mash them up. Allow the honey to drip out.

This is not ideal for many reasons, of course. Among them: the comb is destroyed so the bees cannot re-use it and will need to build more; it is slow; I suspect it removes less honey; and it is a sticky nuisance.

Still, the advantages exist. One can do it with exactly no specialized equipiment (although we have a “straining system” with a 2-tiered strainer that fits into a food-safe bucket with a honey-dispensing spigot on the bottom), and it does give one more beeswax with which to make whatever one wants to make with beeswax. (I am partial to this result, since I adore the smell of beeswax possibly even more than the taste of honey!) It also means that one does not have to acquire, by purchase or rental, a centrifugal extractor; one does not have to store such a thing if one bought one; and one does not have to decide beforehand how much honey one wants to process as cut comb and how much one wants to extract.

(Reasoning behind the last: for cut comb one generally wants to give the girls the thinnest possible foundation, and leave it unwired… which means it’s pretty fragile, but the wax content of the cut comb is as low as possible. For extraction, either heavy-duty and wired foundation, or one of the plastic types, works a lot better because it can handle the force. And this means that, practically-speaking, one has to decide before adding the spuers what one is going to do with the honey. This way- I can still decide now, for the honey we harvested last fall.)

I just crushed my second frame of honey into the strainer today. That’s about all it will hold. I plan to let it drain overnight, to get as much honey as I can out of the wax, and then stir the wax into a bowl of cold water. The water will dissolve remaining honey, and I can then strain out cleaner wax… AND use the honey-water for either the water part of mead-brewing (which is the point of this extraction), or use it in the syrup for the bees. They’d like that! and I plan to continue feeding them until the spring nectar flow kicks in. They’re very active now, and getting a lot of pollen… but I’m worried about whether there’s much nectar yet since little is in bloom.


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There are currently 2 responses to “Doin’ It Old School: Low-tech honey extraction”

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  1. 1 On August 8th, 2008, Lou Moody said:

    Hi, I just had a hive removed from my attic (through the roof). The bees will be transpoted elsewhere. They removed a lot of combs and gave me just a few. I guess I can use Amanda’s method of extraction, but I need to know how to store the honey and then what todo with the wax. Not very much honey, but I would like to use it!!! Thanks! Lou Moody

  2. 2 On August 12th, 2008, Lou Moody said:

    Thanks, Amanda. These are just free form combs made on the rafters of my attic. So I think smashing them is a good idea. I might get a 1/2 cup of honey (!) But, this has been a great experience. We have plenty of flowers in San Diego now. I hope my bees make it to the Central Valley! Good luck and thanks again. Lou

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