Tips for Extracting Honey
By Tamara Rahm
Successful honey extraction starts long before the honey house and the extractor. Just as a house should not be built on a weak foundation, neither should your honey supers.
- Long term success starts with your foundation being properly installed, and by this I mean that it is straight in the frame. This is important so that the bee can draw the comb as evenly as possible. The first time supers are installed they should be pushed tightly together in the center of the box.
- Know when to install your supers. Foundation will take longer to work (draw out) and fill than drawn comb. I install my foundation sooner than drawn comb, but nectar flow should be somewhat heavy so the bees do not try to eat the foundation.
- If you intend to grade your honey by flavor you should know the nectar source. One tip is to mark the date on the super when it was installed on the hive.
- Know when to remove your supers. The golden rule for proper moisture content is about 80% capped. When possible I try for no less that 90%.
- Be ready to extract before you pull the supers off. Everyone has at least some small hive beetles and they will quickly destroy the honey and your comb.
- Room temperature is also important. Warm honey will flow more easily, but too warm and the wax can become difficult to work with. I like it in the mid-80s.
- Uncapping knives and tools are generally based on personal choice and price. There are hot knives, cold knives, uncapping plane, and the uncapping needle roller. Remember, when uncapping you are only trying to remove the cap, and not to destroy the cell.
- Understanding moisture content is also important. Grade-A honey is between 14-18% moisture. Too much moisture and your honey can ferment. This is about the only thing that will make honey go bad. A cheap refractometer can be a good investment.
- Wet supers are what you are left with after extraction. Proper storage and reuse will save you lots of money, time, and “bee energy” over time.
- If you are not going to immediately reinstall your supers after you have extracted the honey, you need to create a robbing yard. Place your supers a distance away from your bees. Place the supers on something like a spare bottom board, and then place a top on them. Bees and other insects will rob the honey from the frames over the next few days. This will create dry supers that are ready for storage.
- If a fumigant was used you will need to air the supers for 24 hours before putting them back on the hives. If no fumigant was used they can go right back in the hive.
- More honey to the frame? When reinstalling the super you can reduce the frame number by one frame. Space the frames evenly across the box. The bees will draw the comb from the frames farther out and more honey will be stored in each frame, and it will be easier to uncap.