Betterbee Product Corner: Extracting Kit

When beekeepers get their first package of bees or a nucleus colony, odds are they have already dreamt about the honey they will get in the future. Like the act of keeping bees, extracting honey from capped honey frames is not an easy feat. It helps to have the tools and equipment needed to make the process as painless as possible. While you can go out and buy uncapping tools, extractors, and buckets with honey gates separately, the Betterbee Extracting Kit includes all that you'll need to get the honey out of your hives and into a pail, ready to bottle and give away or sell.

This kit includes the following tools and equipment:

How do I uncap honey frames using the products in this kit?

After you have removed full honey supers from your hives, or just a few capped honey frames, it’s time to uncap! Uncapping can be a messy process, but putting down plastic or an old sheet that you don’t mind getting sticky will save on the clean-up. Because honey will be eaten, we recommend extracting in a clean environment, such as a kitchen or a garage (with no sawdust flying around). Extracting in an enclosed space away from your apiary will also keep the "robbers," or curious honey bees, off your crop.

This extracting kit has a few different uncapping tool options. Each can be used in a slightly different way to achieve the same goal: remove the wax cappings that the bees have built over the cells of honey. The Bee Smart Uncapper Combo includes a handy uncapping tray with a slot on the bottom to fit right on the rim of a 5- or 6-gallon pail with or without a strainer. When uncapping and extracting, I make sure to have an extra 5-gallon bucket on hand with some cheesecloth inside to catch the cappings and filter out the last bit of honey. This extra bucket is not included with the extracting kit but is handy to have! The uncapping tray holds shallow, medium, wooden, or plastic frames in place while you use your choice of uncapping tool to remove the cappings. The cappings then fall into the bucket below. The Bee Smart combo comes with a plastic uncapping slicer. This tool has 12 "blades" and two sides to it: one for regular slicing and one for deep slicing. You can drag this tool up toward you or down toward the floor for the entire length of the frame, and finish uncapping a medium frame in just 3 passes. 

The Cold Uncapping Knife should be slowly dragged back and forth across the frame, in a "sawing" motion, up toward you or down toward the floor (this is a personal preference, but watch your fingers holding the top of the frame if you’re working your way upward!). This knife shaves the cappings off in a layer. 

Finally, the Plastic Uncapping Fork has long, metal tines to remove the cappings. The best way to use this tool is to pick the cappings off the frame from side to side, width-wise, when it is sitting in the uncapping tray. 

A plus of this kit is that you have the option to choose which uncapping tool(s) you’d like to use. Sometimes you’ll need to use the uncapping fork after using the knife, since the knife may miss the cells in the corner of the frame or near the side bars. Some people think that the knife takes too much honey off with the cappings, while others think it is the most efficient uncapping tool and removes more of the wax for future use. It really boils down to personal preference and whether you plan to use the wax cappings later on (to process it to make candles, lip balms, or lotions).

How do I use the extractor?

The hand-cranked Lyson extractor included in this kit can extract four medium frames, four shallow frames, or two deep frames at a time. To use it, make sure all of your frames are uncapped and ready to rock, then follow these steps:

  1. Set your sieve inside your bucket with honey gate (both included in this kit). Place the bucket with sieve on the floor beneath the stainless-steel honey gate on the extractor, with the extractor's honey gate centered over the double sieve. Make sure the honey gate on the bucket is fully closed.

  2. Lift the plastic lid on one half of the top of the extractor and place two mediums or shallows in the basket (or one deep). The two frames should be placed in with the top bars facing outward (see image to the right for an example). Be sure that the frames are pushed down as far as possible into the bottom of the basket.

  3. Using the handle, spin the basket around slightly so you can load more frames into the other side. It is important that you load an equal number of frames on each side of the basket or the extractor will be off-balance and less efficient. So, put a single deep frame or a pair of medium/shallow frames in each side.

  4. Close the plastic lid.

  5. Open the stainless-steel honey gate on the extractor. If you leave this closed, the honey pooling at the bottom of the extractor could make it harder to crank the handle, which could then destroy the gearbox in the extractor. Nobody wants that!

  6. Make sure the extractor is placed on a flat surface. Place one hand on the top of the extractor and the other hand on the crank, and get to cranking! The basket will freewheel, spinning the honey out of the cells and onto the walls of the extractor using centrifugal force. The conical bottom of the extractor allows the honey to drip down and pool up at the same level as the stainless honey gate. Within a couple minutes of cranking, honey and wax cappings should begin to pour out of the extractor’s stainless honey gate and into your sieve over your bucket.

  7. Once you’ve spun the frames for five minutes or so, it’s time to flip the frames to extract the other side. Repeat steps 2 and 3.

  8. After five minutes of spinning on the second side, pull out and check the frames to make sure most or all of the honey has been spun out of the cells. If not, repeat steps 2 and 3 until a majority of the cells on all frames are empty.

Once your honey has drained down through the sieve and pooled in the bucket with honey gate, place a lid on the bucket and let the honey "settle" for at least 48 hours before bottling. You can bottle directly from this bucket and honey gate, making for a no-mess experience. Each bucket will hold up to 60 lb. of honey.

Easy clean-up: The drum and basket on this extractor are made of 25-gauge stainless steel, making them rust-resistant and easy to hose out when you’re done extracting!

The cost of buying all included products individually is $416, but this kit all packaged up and ready to go is only $389.95. Kickstart extracting your honey with the handy Betterbee Extracting Kit!

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Betterbee Extracting Kit Products

The Betterbee Product Corner is written by Quinn Korzeniecki, Betterbee’s Marketing Manager, and aims to explain the how-tos of products that Betterbee sells. If you have any ideas for future product overviews, please email them to newsletter@betterbee.com.