The sweet reward after several months of tending beehives is the honey! But it needs to be extracted from the frames.
This year we bought an extractor of our own after using a friend’s for the past two years. Now we have the ability to spin frames and collect honey right at home. Here are some tips for choosing a honey extractor.
There are several factors to consider when choosing a honey extractor as it can be quite an investment.
How many colonies are you keeping?
With just one or two colonies, a smaller, three frame extractor would probably meet your needs. Because we currently keep six colonies of bees, we went with a twenty frame extractor.
Do you have storage space?
Even the smaller honey extractors can be over three feet tall with a two-foot diameter. Our extractor, seen here, is almost five feet tall and takes up the area of a pallet. We are fortunate to have storage space that fits it, along with the rest of our beekeeping equipment.
How much time do you have?
Time is another consideration. There are two types of extractors, radial and tangential. Tangential extractors only remove honey from one side of the comb at a time because the sides of the frames point out. This requires rotating the comb during the process, which takes quite a bit longer.
We tried out a friend’s three frame extractor (as seen above) last year. The process took quite a while, to spin one side then switch to the other. Also, because the extractor was fairly small, it was very wobbly during the higher spinning speeds. Two of us adults had to lean heavily on it to keep it stable. It worked great for extracting a small amount of honey but we decided that it wasn’t what we wanted when we purchased one of our own.
The orientation of the frames in a radial extractor allows it to remove honey from both sides of the comb at once. There is no need to flip the frames halfway through. This makes the process much faster. Also, we can do twenty frames at a time. And even though it is fairly large, it isn’t very wobbly at all, even at the highest speed.
There are also manual or electric extractors. Ours is electric and works with the push of a button and we can adjust the speed with a dial. However, there is something to say about the simplicity of a manual extractor and taking the time to really do it yourself. There are many beekeepers who have even attached a bicycle to their extractor and operate it by peddling.
How much do you want to spend?
Cost is, of course, very important to consider. Extractors can run anywhere from a few hundred dollars to a few thousand. You might also be able to find used ones for sale or borrow another beekeeper’s extractor for a small fee.
Because beekeeping is a family hobby that we do for enjoyment and to have delicious, healthy honey, we were looking for an extractor that was somewhere in the middle when it came to cost and size but still met our needs.
Having your own extractor
Purchasing our own honey extractor was a huge step for us this year. It has made extracting our honey even more fulfilling. We are incredibly grateful to our longtime beekeeping friend for sharing his extractor for the past two years but now we can do it ourselves at home.
The costs of beekeeping can add up when you’re first getting started. Often, an extractor is an investment made once you decide to continue keeping bees. We absolutely love having bees and now it’s even more rewarding using our own extractor!