Uncapping and Extracting honey
Only extract frames that are at least 80-90% capped to reduce the chances of fermentation. This is one method of uncapping and extracting; every beekeeper does this differently. This method works well for a hobby beekeeper.
Get everything set up before you start extracting. You will need for sure:
An uncapping knife (you can use a “cold” uncapping knife and dip it in boiling water to heat it up between frames, or you can get an electric uncapping knife.Don’t try to use a kitchen knife; it’s the wrong shape)
A container to uncap in (a long, shallow plastic tub or even a roaster pan will work, or you can get an uncapping tank with a honey gate from a bee supply company)
An extractor (if you don’t have one you can probably borrow one from someone else)
Something to strain the extracted honey (a piece of cheesecloth in a metal strainer works, or you can buy a series of plastic strainers)
A bucket to hold the honey when it comes out of the extractor (make sure this is a food grade container.Plastic frosting buckets work really well; you can get used ones very inexpensively from a bakery or grocery store.NEVER use a bucket that had something strong-smelling in it such as pickles or garlic because the smell stays in the plastic and can’t be washed out.)
Warm water and towels to clean up the sticky mess
Some other things you may want are:
A cappings scratcher (available from bee supply houses)
A fly swatter (flies love honey)
Containers to bottle the honey (glass or plastic; these can range from a pint Mason jar to a plastic honey bear)
Attractive labels for the containers (if you have enough honey to sell)
The first thing you must do before you can extract your honey is to uncap the frames. Do this by placing the frame on end in the uncapping tank. Make sure the uncapping knife is hot enough to melt the wax but not so hot as to scorch the honey. Slide the uncapping knife under the wax starting on one end of the frame and working to another. The idea is to cut the wax off while leaving as much of the comb intact as possible. Leave the wax cappings in the uncapping tank for now.
One a frame is uncapped on one side, flip it over and do the other side. If there are just a few cells that are still capped, use the cappings scratcher to break the cappings on these cells so that the honey will come out when the frame is extracted.
Once the extractor is full of frames, you’re ready to extract. If the extractor will stay in one place while you turn it, it’s best to leave the honey gate open while extracting. If you have an older extractor that jumps around a lot when you turn it, it may be easier to leave the gate closed and open it after each set of frames. Never use an extractor with a motor when the gate is shut. Make sure that you place the bucket under the honey gate. It’s easiest to place the strainer right on top of the bucket under the extractor so that the honey will be ready to bottle when you’re done extracting. (Figure 3). The honey is strained simply to remove wax particles or bee parts; pollen grains stay in the honey. You can strain your honey and still call it unfiltered as long as you don’t have to heat it to put it through the strainer.
The actual extracting process is very simple: Turn the crank on the extractor and the honey will come out of the frames because of centrifugal force, hit the outer wall of the extractor and run down the sides to the honey gate. If you have a radial extractor (frames look like spokes on a wheel) you need only spin it once to empty both sides. If you have a tangential extractor (frames form a square or triangle shape in the extractor) you will need to flip the frames around to extract the other side. It only takes a few minutes of turning the frames to get all the honey out. Once the frames are extracted, they are ready to be put back on the beehives for the bees to fill up again.
After all the honey has run out of the extractor and through the strainer, it can either be stored in the plastic bucket or bottled. If you plan to bottle your honey, it’s best to do it within a month or two before it crystallizes. The easiest way to bottle is to use a bottling bucket with a built in honey gate—simply hold the clean containers under the gate, open it, fill the bottle and shut the gate ( Figure 5). You can also use a ladle to fill small containers with liquid honey, but make sure you hold the container over the honey bucket as it will make a mess.
If you wish to sell your honey in the state of Michigan, you must put your contact information (phone number, address and/or email address), the net weight (in both US and metric measurements) and either “pure honey” or “100% honey” or “Ingredient: Honey” somewhere on each container. As a service to your customers, it’s nice to put a label on the container with instructions on how to decrystallize the honey. Here’s an example of a decrystallization label: “If your honey crystallizes, simply place the jar in warm water and stir until the crystals dissolve. Or, place honey in a microwave-safe container with the lid off and microwave it, stirring every 30 seconds, until the crystals dissolve. Be careful not to boil or scorch the honey.” Further labeling is not required, but the more attractive the label the more likely you are to sell the honey.