DIY Tools for Honey Extraction

Foamy Dead Bees

This is what your honey looks like before it is filtered.

Question of the day:

How to get that damn honey out of those damn cells?

To be a beekeeper you need a lot of specific tools.  It gets incredibly expensive if you decide to buy them all.  It all starts with getting beehives, a bee-proof suit, and a hive tool.

These are some of the expenses I had at the start of my endeavour to become a beekeeper in my own backyard. I felt quite pleased when I had it all sorted. I’ve got all my gear, let the fun begin!

That thought was a mistake. When the end of summer came in sight, I realised that it was time for a next series of big expenses. More tools! How else could I extract my honey?!

Luckily there are a few tricks out there.

Do It Yourself Tools!

First quest:
To get the bees off the honey frames

Commercial beekeepers use a machine called the “bee blower”.  It is basically a powerful reversed vacuum cleaner. Worth hundreds and hundreds of dollars. Instead of sucking up air it blows out air so powerfully that when you hold it in front of a honey frame the bees just sweep off.  That is, when you hold the frame upside down and blow from below. (the bees have cunning little feet that will otherwise cling on to the cell walls)

Solution: use a garden blower! Does basically the same job.  Way cheaper. If you need to, you can adapt it a bit to suit your bee-needs.

Don’t want to buy a garden blower either? You can also just shake the frames to remove the bees, and finish it off with a “bee-brush” – a soft bristled brush is suitable for this (do make sure it’s clean!).

Second quest:
Keep the honey frames at a warm temperature

Proper honey extraction plants will always have a hot room to store honey boxes, and their frames, until you are ready to go and extract your honey.  It is important to keep honey at a warm temperature; it makes it easier to extract.

A hot room! If you could even find a space around your house that would be suitable for this, do you really want to pay for all those day-and-night heating costs? You could just try to wait till a hot day and do everything at once, but being dependent on the weather can easily become a recipe for misery.

Solution: create a heat tube! Take the honey boxes to where you are going to extract them. Create a tube in front of the boxes by making a corridor out of chairs and covering everything with tarpaulin. Then, put a fan heater at the end of the corridor, facing the honey boxes.  A perfect heating system!

 Third quest:
Extract honey

Ideally, you want a proper extractor for this part of the process. If you want to make your own one, perhaps you could try to find an old-fashioned washing machine barrel with a rotating handle and fix the holes, but I don’t recommend it.
OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
There is an alternative method though, but it’s very messy. Tools needed:
1) an old spoon sharpened on one side.
2) a lightly moist cheesecloth / muslin
3) bucket

==> Scrape away honey and wax from both sides of the frames and collect it in your cheesecloth. Squeeze as much as you can in the bucket. It is not a perfect filter. You will find that you will waste a lot of honey and wax, and some of the wax will be able to sneak through in your bucket. But it’s always better than nothing!

If you want to do things properly, you need a hot knife instead of a sharp spoon to cut off wax cappings; you need filters to filter out all the scum and dead bees; you need buckets with special “honey gates” (openings in the bucket with a final filter to pour out the honey clean into jars).

Hot Knife
A hot knife in action. Away with those wax cappings! Bring on the liquid!

There’s one other thing you could make yourself. This is in the case your honey is really thick (such as Manuka honeys) and doesn’t want to come out of the cells, even after fiercely rotating it in the barrel.  You need to prick the honey to loosen it up. A special brush is used for this (not to be confused with the bee-brush that you use to scrape bees off frames). It’s kind of like a paint-roller but then the roller has plastic needles on it that will prick the honey while you roll it over the frames.

Make your own brush! Funnily enough, you can just use your own hair brush for this (provided you use one of those round brushes with firm prickles that have plastic dots on the ends). Simply put the head of the brush on a paint roller handle and go for it.

Quests Completed.

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