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Question of the Month

This is the time of year when beekeepers are pulling off honey supers and uncapping their frames to extract. Beekeepers always want to know the best way to uncap their frames and what size extractor they will need. This deals with many personal decisions that we cannot make for you, however, here is some ‘food for thought’.

Let’s start with uncapping. The number of frames you are uncapping and the time you want to spend during this step is dependent upon the method you should proceed with.

Using a Cappings Scratcher is an easy method to work small sections of capped honey at one time. Slide the forks underneath the comb at a horizontal angle and lift vertically to remove cappings. Many beekeepers will scrap the forks against the comb to open the cells. Please note this damages the comb and requires more cleanup from your bees.

A Cold/Hot Knife will slice away larger sections of capped honey from the frame. Place at a slight angle along the top and move down the frame in a sawing motion. Be careful not to ‘dig’ into the comb or tear apart the frame. The Cold Knife has a serrated blade and can stick if not kept clean. The Hot Knife is temperature sensitive and will melt away the wax. Preheat before use. A Cappings Scratcher may be needed for unevenly drawn out sections of the frame.

The Rolling Uncapper will roll over the capped honey and pierce the cappings. Allow the cappings to be pierced by pulling or pushing the Rolling Uncapper parallel to the frame. Do not push roller into the frame. Clean central bar if roller begins to resist in rotating.

If time is of importance, the Sideliner Uncapper is a quick and easy method. Run your frames through the roller blades and both sides of your frame will be uncapped. This does not require you to hold the frame and all the debris is caught in the container underneath the sideliner uncapper. A Cappings Scratcher may be needed for unevenly drawn out sections of the frame.

Let’s discuss extractors. Beekeepers new to the hobby are always excited about their first extraction but are unsure on how to proceed. Do I need an extractor? What size extractor should I get? Which is better, hand cranked or powered? There are three main questions you need to ask yourself and the answers will point to the extractor that best fits you.

How many hives do intend to have?
You do not want to outgrow the extractor. You may have five or ten hives currently but you are expecting to expand your bee yard to thirty hives. By the time you reach your thirty hives you do not want to look back and wish you got the bigger extractor.

What is your budget?<br> Let’s be realistic, an extractor is a large investment. There are different alternatives if an extractor isn’t in your budget. You may be able to borrow/rent an extractor from your local bee association; you can uncap and let the honey drain from the frames; you can strain your comb through cheese cloth; other methods are available.

How do you value your time?
Extracting is not a ten minute process that will happen in an afternoon. Each extractor will hold an allotted amount of frames. The more frames an extractor will hold the less cycles you will need to run to extract the honey from the frames. Do you have time to run through thirty extractions on a compact extractor or would it be beneficial for you to run six on an 21-frame extractor.

We have developed a Extracting Chart that shows the amount of time needed to extract with each extractor. The time depicted is for running extractor and does not include time needed for uncapping, loading, unloading, and any other actions needed for extracting.

Time consumption for the extraction depends on the Extractor being tangential or radial. Tangential extractors seat frames parallel to the center and only extract one side during the spin cycle. Radial extractors seat frames perpendicular to the center and will extract both sides at once.

Anticipate the numbers you will have in the future before you purchase the extracting equipment you need.