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Tip of the Month

Extracting Honey

Whether you’re a novice beekeeper or an old hand, it’s always good to read up on tips for harvesting honey during this time of year. There’s always something new to learn. Our five top tips for extracting honey are outlined below.

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Clearing Supers

Clearing supers should be planned by having your hives and extracting equipment ready. There are many ways to clear supers of bees. Some use a blower, shake and brush the bees off, use chemical-soaked clearing cloths or use a clearing board devise. Allocate the time needed for your chosen method. If using a clearing device, it should be put on the hive in the evening when it is cooler and less likely to encourage robbing by wasps and other bee colonies. Most devices clear the bees from the combs above it in about 24 hours. After removing the super take it several meters away from the hive and check each frame brushing off any remaining bees then transport the supers to your extracting location.

Location, location, location

Be very aware from the outset – extracting honey is a sticky process (it will appear to get everywhere). Harvest in an enclosed area with plenty of ventilation. Bees will smell what you’re doing and want to get at your work if you’re outdoors, so opt for a location that is inaccessible to bees. However, you may wish to steer clear of extracting in the kitchen or the main area of your home. While this might be convenient, honey can get very sticky! Try harvesting somewhere easier to clean, like a garage or utility room.


Harvesting the honey from your hives is not something you want to rush, as it can be an all-day process. Allow yourself lots of time, do your research and set up a secure space to make sure you and your bees are safe throughout the process. While it is worth your while to harvest large batches in one session to make the set up and clean up processes easier sometimes, taking a few days to extract the honey works best. Extra help on honey extracting days is always welcome. There will be lots of work for two people to do and many hands helps to make lighter work – especially if you are using a manual extractor!


Letting the honey settle for a few days after it has been extracted will allow any bubbles to rise to the surface, and any additional debris will either float or sink, making them easier to remove. However, remember uncovered honey will absorb moisture from the air and potentially attract insects, so keep honey covered if you plan to let it sit before bottling.

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      Turn up the heat

Warm honey flows easier than cold honey, so plan to extract in warmer conditions. If you’re starting in the morning or during cooler weather, try using a small heat lamp or light bulb under the supers to warm the honey.  Think about making a basic warming cabinet.

  Equipment and hygiene

Regularly clean your hands or wear thin disposable gloves to prevent honey from getting everywhere. Think ahead and prepare anything you might need before you get started.
If you don’t have all the necessary tools, try some substitutions. A serrated bread knife can take the place of an uncapping knife. In lieu of a honey filters, try kitchen strainers, nylon paint strainers or even (new and clean) nylon tights. Plastic re-sealable containers are relatively inexpensive and are perfect to store honey and capping’s. Honey is acidic, so don’t use items made from aluminum or galvanized steel, as these could react with the honey acid. Keep in mind that anything you use for extracting honey is likely to be only suitable for that purpose in the future, there’s no going back — they will be sticky and possibly covered in a waxy film!


Extractors should be made of stainless steel or food grade plastic. This is an expensive item but you may be able to hire one from your local association. Do check that the honey valve is firmly closed before you start.

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        Cleaning up

When you’re ready for clean-up, don’t overwork yourself – let the bees do what they do best. After the honey harvest is complete, ideally put the newly extracted “wet” frames back on the hive they came from and the bees will clean them off, and they will usually be dry and ready to remove / store for future use within a day. Allow all equipment used to soak in cold water as wax can become very sticky in warm water and difficult to remove. Never leave equipment out for bees to clean up as you may attract a vast number of bees and wasps and risk spreading disease. Remember to keep your wax capping’s as this is the best wax to process for making into products such as candles.

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