Processing Honey Bee Honey

In our previous section, we walked through the process to harvest the honey bee hive honey. Now, let’s get into processing it.

Once you get home and have all the glorious beehive frames ready for processing, we get at least two two clean buckets. One of these buckets

processing honey bee extractor
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will sit off to the side and have a deeper strainer on top of it. This is where all the wax caps will go to get the extra honey bee honey drained out of them. The other bucket will also have a removable strainer on it. In fact, you may even consider several strainers of different filtering levels starting from most on top or first to the thinnest and finest filtering on the bottom or last. Have extra buckets handy because you’ll probably need them. Other tools needed are as follows:

  1. Kitchen knife
  2. Cutting board, bigger the better. Preferably big enough to hold a full beehive frame with room to spare
  3. Working table or counter top with enough room for a couple buckets and the rest of the tools.
  4. Wire masher. We use a potato masher.
  5. Food grade gloves (not absolutely necessary but I find it makes cleanup later a lot easier)
  6. Containers for your honey bee honey
  7. A few hours of time

There several different and unique ways to actually extract the beehive honey from the frames mostly depending on the size of the frame, the shape, the tools you have available and the area you have to work with for processing. For ease of explanation, and because this is a beekeeping for beginners guide we’ll use low cost and manual processes in order to reach the largest audience. We will assume your honey bee frames will be just a wood frame with no inserts.

First, remove a bee honey filled frame from your storage tote and stand it on a side that makes it stand the tallest it can be. With a good grip on the frame, use your kitchen knife to cut the comb around the frame edge. Be mindful of your hand position. We don’t want to have to get stitches from this. Get as much of the honey and honey comb as you can trying not to cut into the frame keeping in mind that any leftovers on the frame edge will be ok. It doesn’t have to be perfect but we of course try to get as much as we can. Having a second set of hands would be helpful here as you need to be able to catch either the massive slab of honey bee honey and honeycomb that is about to fall out, or the frame when it separates. After enough practice with this, you’ll figure out how to do it by yourself but having company always makes the work more fun for us.

With the frame separated from the honey bee honey and comb, you can return the frame to the storage container, or a second container. When I mentioned in the last paragraph that it doesn’t have to be perfect, in some cases it is actually helpful if it is not. We will be returning these “cleaned” beehive frames back to the beehive box and the beehive swarm will utilize the leftover product as both food for the hive as well as a foundation for rebuilding the honeycomb. The honey and honeycomb should have landed on your cutting board. This can now be cut into squares or simply broken up into one of your clean buckets.

Repeat this process until your bucket is about a quarter full. You can adjust this later based on your strength and mashing stamina. Now that your bucket is about a quarter full of honey and honeycomb, grab your wire masher and start crushing the bucket contents all the way down. The honey is thick so this can get tiresome. That is the reason I recommended only a quarter full bucket. When you start to find that a quarter bucket is too easy and quick to process, you can feel free to start adding more until you meet your next resistance. This will build character and arm strength! This is just a suggestion. Feel it out. If a quarter bucket is too much, just do less. It really doesn’t add all that much time.

Once your honey bee product is all mashed up in the bucket, we can start the straining process. We use two different strainers on the first pass. One is a thick mesh, the other is a fine mesh. We stack them so the thick mesh gets hit first and the fine mesh last. This goes over another clean bucket and the contents are poured into the strainer. We start slow on this pour because the sediment in the bucket will plug the strainer over time and we don’t want precious honey pouring all over the floor. For our purposes and because we like a cleaner honey, we repeat this twice. The second pass contains even finer strainers.

Bee fact: The sediment in the honey when processing does contain vitamins and minerals and is in fact consumed by some people. Do some research to find the final product you like to make this fun hobby even more exciting and nutritional for you.

Finally, once you have reached an consistency and sediment level in your honey, you can start to get it into containers. We have used anything from canning jars to plastic containers to house our honeybee harvest. Really just needs to be something clean with a secure lid.  

That is pretty much the process. As noted, the types of beehive frames and the setup you use may alter this process a bit. For example, if you have plastic dividing inserts in your beehive frames, you’ll use a scraping technique to remove the honey instead of cutting it out.

There we have it. Checking in on your hives throughout the season and making sure your beehive swarm is safe will help them grow into a very long and productive honey bee swarm.

Next will will take some time to review a few of the products that we have used both the good and the bad. We will also make a few recommendations for the beginning beekeeper to get started. That section will be divided into it’s own category so please click on the link below or the category link on the sidebar labeled “Beekeeping Equipment”.  

Beekeeping Equipment