Bees for Development
Some traditional honey extraction methods can damage the quality of the honey if they are poorly applied. After having gone to so much care and trouble to produce high quality honey it is a pity to spoil it by poor extraction methods.
Methods that use heat, fire or boiling the honey will produce honey that is dark, dirty and has a reduced medicinal value. Only comb containing sealed honey will produce extracted honey that will store for a long time without fermenting. It is a wise precaution to put sealed and unsealed honeycomb into separate buckets. Some combs will have both sealed and unsealed honey on them and in this case the selection should be based on the one that is predominant. If most of the honey area is sealed then it will probably be safe to add it to the high quality bucket; if most is unsealed then be safe and add it into the bucket with unsealed comb which is best used for beer making or immediate local sales.
Methods of extracting honey do not have to be complicated. The simplest method of separating the honey from the comb is by putting the comb into a large bucket and then chopping the comb into very small pieces with a clean knife. The chopped combs are put into a nylon mesh usually tied over a large bucket. Clean, lace curtain material is suitable and easily available. The whole is covered with a sheet of clean plastic or cloth to prevent the bees getting into the honey and put into place to drain. This should be largely complete overnight but if there is still honey remaining the residue of wax and honey in the cloth can be squeezed out by hand. This does however, run the risk of introducing cloudiness into the honey so this is best kept separate from the first quality 'run' honey that has drained overnight.
Honey from frame hives is often extracted using a complicated piece of equipment called an extractor. To extract the honey the thin layer of wax covering the sealed honey is removed using a sharp knife. The uncapped frames are placed into the baskets in the extractor and the handle is turned so that the speed of rotation applies centrifugal force to the frame to fling out the honey while preserving the honey comb. Unless the wax in the super combs is wired they will collapse once the centrifugal force of the extractor is applied to the frame. This removes the point of the extractor. Sometimes frames are left unwired and the combs cut out and extracted using the draining technique for run honey already described. To remove the honey from the combs in this way removes the purpose of the frame which is to preserve the comb from year to year. Consequently, this system is not entirely appropriate in a poverty alleviation context in a developing country.
Stingless bee honey is extracted in a different manner again. Some beekeepers just pour the honey out by tipping the hive up and allowing the honey to drain into a container. Some flour is then sprinkled into the colony to prevent the bees getting stuck in the honey that has run all over the place. However, the gentlest way is to remove the honey from each honey pot using a large syringe or other method that will draw the honey out by suction.
List of Articles available on this topic (4):
Good Beekeeping Practice - Knowledge in a Nutshell
Haiti Beekeeping Mission
Processing honey from top-bar hives
Sustainable bee-friendly beekeeping: part 2