How to Harvest Honey Without an Extractor
Harvesting honey from beehives is an important process for beekeepers, but not everyone harvests honey from a honey extractor. Whether it’s due to budget or to avoid damaging the honeycomb, there are alternative methods that can be used to extract honey without an extractor.
In this article, we will explore three methods for harvesting honey without an extractor: using a honey press, the drip method, and the crush and strain method. By following these methods, beekeepers can harvest high-quality honey while keeping the honeycomb in good condition.
Using a Honey Press
A honey press is a mechanical device that allows beekeepers to extract honey from a honeycomb without the use of an extractor. There are two main types of honey presses: roller type and pressure plate type. The pressure plate honey press is often preferred by beekeepers for its efficiency and ease of use.
To use a honey press, follow these steps:
1. Placing the honeycomb in the honey press between the rollers or pressure plate. Apply gentle force to crush the honeycomb and extract the honey. The honey will flow out of the press while the pressed wax remains inside.
2. Remove each pressed chunk of honeycomb from the press before inserting another un-pressed honeycomb. This ensures a continuous flow of honey during the extraction process.
3. After pressing the honeycomb, there may still be some residual honey left. You can leave it to drain for a day or enjoy it as chunk honey.
It’s important to operate the honey press at a temperature between 80°F to 100°F (26.7°C to 37.8°C) for optimal honey flow. Operating at temperatures lower than 70°F (21.1°C) may result in a slower flow of honey from the press.
Drip Method for Harvesting Honey
It not only allows for the quick return of honeycomb to the beehive but also saves the honeybees time and energy by minimizing comb destruction.
Here’s how to use the drip method:
1. Remove beehive frames containing ready honey from the beehive and transport them to a safe location.
2. Set up a long aluminum trough or several aluminum trays (food-safe stainless steel can also be used).
3. Uncap the honeycomb on one face of the beehive frames using an uncapping knife or fork. Place the wax cappings in a sieve or strainer to separate them from the liquid honey.
4. Lean the uncapped beehive frame against the side of the aluminum tray, ensuring that the uncapped face faces downward. This allows the honey to drip from the comb cells into the tray. The more lean the frame has, the faster the honey will drip.
5. Allow the frame to drip honey for approximately 24 hours or until all the honey from one face of the honeycomb has dripped out.
6. Remove the frame from the tray and uncap the second face of the honeycomb.
7. Lean the frame against the side of the tray and allow it to drip all the honey from the second face into the tray.
8. Once all the honey has dripped into the tray, remove the beehive frame and place it in a safe location. It can be returned to the beehive for the bees to reuse or placed in the brood box.
9. Pour the honey from the aluminum trays into a collecting bucket, straining it to remove impurities if desired. Make sure to use a collecting bucket with a honey gate for easy management of the honey. Large beekeeping operations may use a settling tank to hold collected honey for further processing.
Crush and Strain
Although it takes more time and does not allow for easy reuse of honeycomb, it still produces high-quality honey.
To use the crush and strain method, follow these steps:
1. Crush the honeycomb in a large container until it is evenly crushed. Depending on the size of your strainer cloth, place some of the crushed honeycomb in the cloth and hang it up or hold it using a suitable means.
2. Put a collecting bucket or container beneath the strainer cloth to catch the honey as it separates from the crushed comb. Allow a day or two for all the honey to pass through the cloth and collect in the bucket.
3. If there is more crushed honeycomb remaining, repeat the process by placing more in the strainer cloth and allowing it to drain until all the honey is collected.
For customers with specific demands or to meet food industry standards, the honey can be further filtered to remove pollen and other particles, leaving behind pure liquid honey.
While a honey extractor is a highly efficient tool for harvesting honey, it’s not the only option available to beekeepers. By using a honey press, the drip method, or the crush and strain method, beekeepers can still extract honey without an extractor.