Last night I attended the North Central Beekeepers Club meeting. I met a lot of wonderfully interesting and experienced beekeepers and also learned a bit about honey extraction. Jeff Singletary brought frames and honey extraction equipment (although not the actual extractor) to demonstrate how he completes the extraction process.

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The extraction process seems simple… and messy! Before the honey can be extracted from the comb, you have to open the cells so that the honey is actually released. Jeff suggested using and electric bread knife to uncap the comb, but other beekeeping tools were also suggested, such as an uncapping fork. This tool has many sharp pointy tines that are spaced so that each tine will puncture one cell. It doesn’t really look like a fork. Another tool they demonstrated was an uncapping roller. This looks like a sold, spiky paint roller. As I’ve quickly learned, each beekeeper has his or her preference !

Once the cells are open (there are many uses for the wax and honey that falls from the frames during the uncapping process), you place the entire frame into the extractor, which basically spins the frame until the comb is empty of honey. This is a slow process because spinning the frames too fast can cause the comb to blow out of the center, ruining it and creating more work for the colony next year (and possibly a slightly reduced honey crop), like so:

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The honey must be strained and stored. Jeff advises against using large buckets that do not have a honey gate (yellow spout/nozzle at the bottom of the tub pictured above). Honey is heavy! Furthermore, having to dip from the top of a bucket causes dripping, waste, and mess! It’s better to invest in a bucket with a gate. It’ll make life easier when jarring or bottling honey.

A few extra interesting facts I learned:

  • Do not use jars that have had pickled food in them. Your honey will taste like pickles.
  • Honey is sold by weight
  • In order to sell honey, beekeepers are required to have vendor labels on their bottles. Certain information is required by the state.
  • Honey never goes bad! When it crystallizes, it just needs to be warmed a little (not more than 90-100 degrees Fahrenheit because it will lose its health benefits)
  • Store-bought honey is never raw and does not provide the health benefits of raw, untreated honey

I’ll end with my favorite quote of the night:

“A strong hive is a cure for a whole lot of evils.”  ~ Jeff Singletary