How to Harvest Honey — Video Tutorial

Here's How to Use Common Honey Extraction Equipment

Promoted by Miller Bee Supply

Reading Time: 4 minutes

In this video tutorial from Backyard Beekeeping and Miller Bee Supply, you will learn how to harvest honey with common honey extraction equipment.

Step 1: Pull the Supers  

Your first step in the harvesting process is to remove your honey bees from the supers. Here’s what you’ll need:

Gloves 
Veil 
Hive tool 
Smoker  
Bee brush
Escape board (covered in this tutorial)

bee-escape-board
Photo courtesy of Miller Bee Supply

In southern Wisconsin, we pull our supers before Labor Day, which gives us enough time to do a Varroa mite treatment before the frost. We wouldn’t want to treat with the supers still in place.

Here are two options to remove the bees we won’t be exploring today: 

To remove the bees, you can firmly (but gently) brush the bees off with a bee brush. You won’t get them all, just shoot for the majority.

You can use a fume board and bee blower, a preferred method of large-scale beekeeper.  
 
We use an escape board, so that’s what we’ll cover today.  The escape board acts as a one-way valve. Bees can exit through a set of flexible springs but cannot return.  
 
Place the escape board between the hive body and the supers during the daytime hours. Wait overnight to let the bees return to the hive body from the supers. The next day they will not be able to return to the supers. Pull the supers and the escape board.

Step 2: How to Extract Honey 

Now it’s time to move into a process called extracting, essentially removing the honey from the comb.  

honey-extraction-equipment
Equipment setup

Start with a clean workspace and make sure all of your equipment and honey containers have been thoroughly cleaned. Protect flooring as needed.

Equipment You’ll Need:

Capping scratcher
Uncapping tank
Compact extractor
Bottling bucket
Jars of your preferred size
Finely woven strainer for a 5-gallon bucket

bottling-bucket
Photo courtesy of Miller Bee Supply

With your equipment ready and properly cleaned, let’s extract

Only harvest honey on frames that are mostly capped. Bees cap honey when it reaches the ideal water content of around 18%.  

To uncap your frames, place your less dominant hand on the top of the vertically aligned frame. Use your other hand to gently but swiftly and evenly uncap the wax. 

Photo by QT’s Birds and Bees Estate

Use your capping scratcher to uncap any remaining capped cells on both sides of the frame. Place the uncapped frame in the extractor. 

capping-scratcher
Photo courtesy of Miller Bee Supply

Once you have the correct number of frames uncapped for your size extractor, it’s time to spin the frames. You’ll hear a wooshing sound as the honey hits the side of the extractor as you turn the crank. Once the honey has all bee released, turn the frames over and spin again.  

honey-extraction-equipment
Compact honey extractor

Set the spent frames back in an empty super for now.  

Place a bottling bucket with strainer under your extractor valve. The honey will drain into strainer, where the beeswax will be filtered out. Don’t let your strainer get over full. You can turn off the valve if your strainer can’t keep up with the extractor’s output.  

Once your bottling bucket is full or you have uncapped and spun all your frames, you’ll want to place your bottling bucket on a table.  

You may want to keep track of how much honey you get so you can compare it to next year’s harvest. We like to weigh our bottle bucket before we start filling jars. A small frame equals about three pounds of honey. 

Step 3: How to Bottle Honey

Now it’s time to fill your sanitized jars. It’s best to have help during this process so one person can cap the jars immediately after they are filled and you don’t have to keep turning off the valve that allows the honey to flow.  

bottled-honey
Photo courtesy of Miller Bee Supply

All that should remain is bottled honey and leftover beeswax in your strainer and uncapping tank. You can crush the beeswax in your uncapping tank and usually get a bit more honey. We keep this honey for ourselves as it tends to have a bit more wax content.   

You can learn how to render beeswax for candles, soap and more on our site. You may be surprised how little wax you have after harvesting dozens of pounds of honey.  

Step 4: Cleanup and Storage

You can put your equipment and spent frames out for bees and wasps to help clean up, with two words of caution: Do you not put them by entrances you use frequently and do not put them close to your hives. It will encourage robbing behavior.  
 
After the bees have had their fill, you’ll want to thoroughly clean and store your equipment. 

Store your honey at room temperature out of direct sunlight. Never store honey in a refrigerator, which speeds up crystallization. You can freeze honey, which stops crystallization.  

Enjoy your homegrown honey!

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