bees/ Homesteading

Harvesting Honey

June 17, 2019 (Last Updated: September 21, 2019)

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Harvesting Honey – A tutorial on how to extract honey from the frames.

Honey pouring from a large spout in a large white bucket.

Harvesting honey, spinning honey, extracting honey are all phrases for getting delicious honey out of the bee hives. 

I’ve been raising bees for about 4 years and have had some success and some loss, but I keep at it! I’ve lost bees that didn’t make it through the winter, I’ve had bees swarm and leave the nest in the summer and the most tragic was when a bear came into my garden and destroyed my hive and stole the honey not just once or twice, but three times! 

The bees finally had enough and left. I know we should have stopped that bear after the first time, but he kept coming in at nighttime and it was during the middle of the week. We just didn’t have the time or the supplies to put up a better fence or an electric fence. I was heart broken.

Bee Hive knocked over with frames strewn on the grass.

Luckily the bear didn’t steal all the honey. I brought my empty hives into our shop for the winter and when the temperatures turned warmer in the spring, I harvested the honey that remained. There was more than 3 gallons of honey left in that hive!

This spring, I harvested honey again. This time with my in-laws; my two sister in-laws, my niece and my mother in-law. They are beekeepers too.  The springtime honey was from hives that didn’t survive this past winter. We harvested more than 11 gallons of honey! We are in honey heaven!

Harvesting honey is a process and the more help you have the better. It’s also a good idea to have your process planned out and everything ready before you begin.

Tips for harvesting honey

  • Choose a warm day so your honey will flow. If it’s too cool, the honey cannot be extracted from the frames.
  • Choose a day that isn’t windy if working outside.
  • Clean several large food grade buckets.
  • Have enough storage containers cleaned and ready. I use large canning jars – quart and gallon sized jars.
  • Have a wet towel handy for wiping hands.

What equipment do I need?

What size honey extractor do I need?

We use a two frame honey extractor. That means you can fit two frames in at a time. We have decided if we really became successful with our bees we’d need to invest in a larger electric extractor. Right now our extractor is hand cranked which is fun, but does get tiring after a bit. 

What if the temperature isn’t warm enough outside?

We ran into this problem this past spring. To combat the cold temperatures, we set up a staging area in a small utility room in the basement.  We placed two space heaters in the room and then placed all the frames in plastic tubes in the room. They warmed up after a couple of hours and we were able to spin our honey.

Can I spin honey inside?

Yes, but I prefer to do it outside. Spinning honey is a messy job even when you’re careful. If you do it inside just be prepared to clean up sticky honey. 

A long knife removing capping from honey comb.

Steps to harvesting honey

Step One:  Remove capping from honey. Bees seal the honey in the comb with a layer of wax. You need to remove that first. Use a long knife or a heated blade to remove the caps. Capture all the caps in a plastic or stainless steel tub. Later you will strain the caps for honey. These caps are also what you will use for processing beeswax.

Using a uncapping fork to remove the wax coating on a frame of honey.

There are two sides to a frame. You will need to remove the caps from both sides. 

Step Two:  Place uncapped frames in extractor. Our extractor holds two frames. 

Placing frames into a honey extractor.

Step Three: Spin honey. Begin turning the handle of the extractor. The honey is extracted by centrifugal force. The process reminds me a bit of an old fashioned, hand churned ice cream maker – well just the cranking of the handle . 

There’s no magical number of turns you have to give the extractor. The amount of spins depends on the force of the spins, the outside temperature and the amount of the honey in a frame. 

After a few minutes stop and pull out the frames. If most of the honey looks like it’s been extracted from one side, turn the frames around and extract the other side.  

Step Four:  Empty honey from extractor when honey reaches the bottom of the frames.  Most extractors have an opening at the bottom of the container. Transfer honey to another bucket covered with a strainer. 

Step Five:  Continue straining honey by transferring honey to a new bucket lined with a finer strainer. Optimally you will want to strain honey three times using a finer strainer each time. 

 

What do I do with the extracted frames?

Those frames are still good, unless the frame itself is damaged. There are two different things you can do with the frames.

  1. Place extracted frames near the bee hives. The bees will continue to remove the honey left behind and will clean the comb.
  2. Place frames inside a hive. The bees will fix any damaged comb, clean the comb and begin the process again. 

Processed honey comb piled in a large tub.

How do I use this honey?

Use this delicious honey in any way you normally use honey. We use it on toast, biscuits, and in some of my favorite recipes including honey oat breadraspberry fruit leather, honey glazed carrots and gingered beets. 

What do I do with the wax capping?

You want to collect all the cappings and excess wax in a tub. Once all your honey is processed, place these wax scraps over a strainer. There’s still honey inside those cappings. Leave the cappings on the strainer for 8-12 hours and keep the honey that slowly drips out.  

Don’t discard those cappings. This can now be processed for beeswax. 

A pile of cappings from bee hives.

How do I store honey?

I store my honey in a dark pantry in glass jars. For everyday use, I place the honey in a small honey pot and refill it when needed. 

What do I do if my honey crystallizes?

Not all honey will crystallize, but it is completely natural for raw honey to crystallize from time to time. Crystallized honey is still edible, but some people don’t care for the texture. If your honey becomes too thick with crystals, you can place the glass jar in a hot water bath to help warm the honey and dissolve the crystals. The crystals may return when the honey cools. Do not store your honey in a refrigerator. This may increase the chance for crystallization. 

Spun frames resting in a clear plastic tub.

If you are looking for additional information on raising bees you will want to check out rendering wax, checking the hive, starting a hive, and honey bees.  You might also want to read how to make beeswax food wraps. 

Don’t forget to PIN for later! A glass jar full of honey.

If you spin your own honey, Iā€™d love to hear about it! Leave a comment below or snap a picture and tag me on Instagram @beyondthechickencoop

If you are looking for other great homesteading ideas, you’ll want to check out my other posts in Homesteading.

Yield: Honey

Harvesting Honey

Harvesting Honey

How to harvest honey from capped honey frames.

Prep Time 1 hour
Active Time 3 hours
Additional Time 5 hours
Total Time 9 hours

Materials

  • Frames of honey from bee hive

Tools

  • Honey Extractor
  • Strainer
  • Bucket with bottom spout
  • Electric uncapping knife or a long bladed knife
  • Uncapping fork

Instructions

  1. Remove capping from honey.
  2. Place uncapped frames in extractor.
  3. Spin honey. Adding a frame of honey to a spinner.
  4. Empty honey from extractor when honey reaches the bottom of the frames.
  5. Strain honey.
  6. Store honey.

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12 Comments

  • Reply
    Cheryl
    June 24, 2019 at 1:25 pm

    Hey thanks for the tutorial! That sucks about the bears. One of my former neighbors has a family farm. She does not live there but is there almost daily and she started raising bees about 2 or 3 years ago and is getting honey. No bears around here! I’m lucky enough to live a mile away from a honey center that has all kinds of honey for sale depending on what crops the bees harvest. I usually get the cranberry or raspberry, but there’s at least 20 flavors and they have free tastings too. Expensive, but not everyone can keep bees.

  • Reply
    Valentina
    June 21, 2019 at 12:03 am

    Wow, this is amazing — inspiring and so impressive. My brother used to have hives in his backyard and do all of this. The honey was incredible! Thank you for this tutorial. ~Valentina

  • Reply
    Kelly | Foodtasia
    June 18, 2019 at 5:57 am

    Kathy, such an inspiration! What a dream to harvest your own honey! This is definitely on my list of things I’d love to do. The bear issue is certainly scary! Do you ever have problems with the bees attacking you?

    • Reply
      Kathy
      June 18, 2019 at 6:17 am

      Hi Kelly,
      I usually wear a full suit and veil when working with my bees. They don’t bother you unless they feel attacked. However, I have been stung many times – especially when I think I can do just a quick peek into their hives and I don’t suit up!

  • Reply
    Dawn - Girl Heart Food
    June 17, 2019 at 9:33 am

    You are so lucky to harvest your very own honey! How awesome is that?! I can’t imagine how delicious it is. Wish I had a jar to put on everything!!

    • Reply
      Kathy
      June 19, 2019 at 5:44 am

      I do love it!

  • Reply
    David @ Spiced
    June 17, 2019 at 8:04 am

    What a fun post, Kathy! I could totally feel your pain when you were talking about that bear. So annoying! I’ve always wanted to raise bees, but I think it might be a hard sell to get Laura to give me permission. Maybe I’ll show her this post…that honey looks amazing!! šŸ™‚

    • Reply
      Kathy
      June 19, 2019 at 5:44 am

      It’s always worth a try!

  • Reply
    Mary Ann | The Beach House Kitchen
    June 17, 2019 at 6:08 am

    Darn that bear! Such an interesting post Kathy! Wow, so much work goes into harvesting honey. You go girl! Well done!

    • Reply
      Fred G
      June 17, 2019 at 6:52 am

      What an interesting process.

      • Reply
        Kathy
        June 17, 2019 at 7:24 am

        It’s pretty fun!

    • Reply
      Kathy
      June 17, 2019 at 7:24 am

      I think it’s amazing how much goes into making the honey by the bees! That’s amazing!!!

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