Introduction: Extracting Honey on the Cheap
This instructable will tell you how to harvest your honey without spending a lot of money.
Step 1: Step One. Get Some Bees and Have Them Die.
So I decide to try my hand at bee keeping. I bought a hive and some bees. Made sure they had plenty of flowers and water to feed on, treated them for mites as recommended and didn't harvest any of their honey. Low and behold I went out to check on them during a January warm spell and they were all dead. Since the sole reason I hadn't touched their honey stores was to make sure they had enough food for the winter I decided to harvest some of the honey for myself.
The picture was taken on day one of my bee keeping adventure when I was installing the new bees.
Step 2: Gather Your Materials
There are very nice machines that are made to extract honey from the frames that are put in a hive. The are really efficient and also really expensive. For something I'm going to use once or twice a year I decided not to pay the money. Some clubs will rent a machine I'm told but I'm always afraid to rent or borrow something lest it break while I'm using it.
What you see in the photo are some of the frames of honeycomb I took from the hive. In order to get the honey out of the comb and into the jar I decided to use the "Crush and Strain" method.
This method is not the fastest or most efficient but it doesn't cost much to implement. Here is a list of things you will need.
1 - A lot of cardboard. I didn't have any on hand. And I still run into sticky spots on the floor despite trying my best to clean up everything. Extracting honey is a messy business no matter how careful you are. Placing cardboard or something else disposable down on your work area saves a lot of time and effort in cleanup.
2 - large colander or strainer. I used my biggest pasta colander. This is where you put the honeycomb.
3 - Some cheese cloth or thin mesh material. I used both cheese cloth and some nylon pantyhose I bought at the local store.
4 - A large pot. I used a 5 gallon pot that I use for brewing beer to catch the honey as it dripped out of the colander.
5. - A large funnel Mine is about 12 inches in diameter at the wide end. Metal or plastic is fine
6 - Canning jars or your container of choice.
Step 3: Crush and Strain
First prepare the colander. I lined it with cheese cheese cloth but some people use a nylon stocking or even use nylon paint straining bags from the hardware store. The idea is to filter the comb and wax bits out of the honey.
Place the colander over your largest pot and scrape the honeycomb off the frame into the colander. I had hard plastic foundation in my frames so I scraped it off with my hive tool. You could use a spatula or knife or any other similar tool. once the honeycomb is in the colander, I crushed it with a big spoon and let the honey drip into the pot below.
This process takes a long time. We let it go overnight, sometimes longer. We also stirred it occasionally to break of any blockages that might be trapping the honey in the colander.
Step 4: Second Filtering
After all the frames were extracted there was still quite a bit of wax bits in the honey. I decided to filter the honey one more time. I purchased a pair of pantyhose, cut one of the legs off and fixed it to a large funnel.
I poured the honey though the funnel and into the stocking to remove the last bit of wax. I suspended the stocking over a smaller pot to drip out into the pot. This did remove the rest of the wax from the honey. It also took a few days.
Step 5: Bottling
I bottled into 1 pint canning jars that I had washed and used lids and bands that I boiled to sanitize them.
I used a metal 1 cup measuring cup and a canning funnel to ladle the honey into the jars.
You could use your food grade container of choice.
As I said, there are better and more efficient ways to extract your honey, this is what worked for me this year.
The straining took a long time for us, partly because it was winter and the ambient temperature was on the cold side so the honey was very viscous. If you did this in summer or early fall I think the honey would flow better reducing your time to strain and improving your yield. We used about 5 frames and ended up with a little over 14 pounds of honey.