Harvesting Honey: Crushing and Straining Honey
How to harvest small amounts of honey straight from the comb. This crushing and straining honey method requires no special tools or equipment.
It’s been a very busy couple of weeks for me and something had to give. This time it was my bees. I visited them for the first time after a couple of weeks and found that one of my colonies had been just as busy as me. Not only filling an entire super with fresh honeycomb but building comb into a space that I’d forgotten to leave a frame. It too was filled with honey.
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Getting it out was easier than I thought it would be at first glance – the comb that they’d built in the top super box was easily sliced from the roof. Afterward, I bundled it into plastic bags to keep the bees out. The comb built in the super came out in big dripping chunks of honeycomb. Now how to extract the honey? Usually, I use this method, but that only works if the comb is on a frame.
Creating Cut Comb in a Hive
The rectangular comb they built inside the box of frames was also easy to take out and it’s actually given me some ideas. I forgot to fill the last space in the back with a frame and the bees created a perfect replica of frame-style comb in the space. Seeing how easily they built this comb was one of the incentives to try getting bees to build honeycomb in jars.
I sliced it into three with my hive tool and then pulled it out. The video below shows just how easy it was. What I’ve also learned is that cut comb is a special treat so I’m planning on ‘forgetting’ to put that extra frame in again. Or maybe a frame that isn’t waxed. Sometimes silly mistakes can lead to new ideas and a fresh batch of honey.
Crushing and Straining Honey
The first step was draining as much of the uncapped honey off of the comb. Uncapped honey has higher water content, a runnier consistency, and might not last as long as capped honey. I’m planning on using this uncapped honey to make mead.
Then it was time to tackle the honey that had been capped. Normally I extract honey in large batches using an electric extractor but it only works for honey in frames. Instead, I used the crush and strain method.
- Crushing the honeycomb with a spoon or potato masher.
- Straining the honey from the mess using a kitchen strainer and cheesecloth.
- Catching the honey in a bowl underneath the strainer. It can take a day+ to fully filter.
- Pouring the raw honey into jars for storage.
- Use the beeswax afterward to make natural furniture polish or beauty products
Putting a lid on that gorgeous honey while it’s straining also keeps the absorption of more water from the air to a minimum- ie honey is hydroscopic. Bees are such wonderful creatures! Lovely vids, thank you.
What grade and filtering level of cheesecloth is best to use for straining the honey?
Hi Dana, it’s just standard muslin, but also keep in mind that the honey was very wet (uncapped) so it easily filters though. For capped honey, I’d use a metal sieve and no cloth at all.
Hi, I had bought to bee boxes from a gentleman on the weekend. When my husband brought them home low and behold they are full of honey still, left over from the winter. Is that honey still good. We tasted abit of it and it tasted amazing.
Honey has one of the longest shelf-lives of any food stuff! So to answer your question, yes it’s still edible.
Why bother-‘forgetting’ to put a frame in again?
It would be much easier to just put an unwired frame in the spot with a comb guide or foundation strip along the top, get them building comb in the frame.
This would be much easier to lift put of the hive box, it wouldn’t get attached to the sides of the box and would be much easier to inspect to see if the cells have been capped (I.e.: it’s ready to harvest).
Then just simply cut it out of the frame for cut comb.
Easy, no? :)
Really enjoyed watching your beekeeping video. Planning to start my own very very, soon. I would like to have about the same as what you have. Not so many hive boxes that I can’t take care of. Maybe two to three would be plenty. I would like to thank you for sharing.
Good luck with your adventures in beekeeping Zane — 2-3 are definitely plenty!
Its amazing what the bees will do if you leave them space. We have a layer of lino on top of the frames to discourage them from building in the lid as it can be difficult to get the hive open!
Now there’s a clever tip!