A great top bar hive honey strainer.
It’s easy to build a simple strainer that uses gravity to separate honey from beeswax.
It consists of:
- a bucket lid
- a 5 gallon elastic nylon paint strainer bag
- a small wood block
- a bucket with holes drilled in the bottom
- a bucket with a large hole cut in its middle
- other buckets to contain and store the strained honey
Honey comb mash is poured inside the strainer. And strained honey drains into the bottom bucket. It’s:
- almost labor free
Get some buckets
It’s important that they:
- are food grade
- are the same type
- have removable lids
The 5 gallon plastic buckets, commonly used to store honey, are a great choice. But they are heavy when full of honey.
Four gallon icing buckets weigh less when full and can usually be obtained from bakeries for free. But you’ll need more of them.
Get enough buckets to:
- store your honey
- store strained comb
- make a strainer
Can a beekeeper have too many buckets? 🙂
Some volume facts:
- a full shallow super fills a standard four gallon icing bucket with comb mash
- about 3/4ths of a bucket of honey drains from a full bucket of honey mash
Mix or Match
Different sized buckets can be used if they are stackable. But using different sizes requires closer monitoring as overflows can occur.
To build the strainer:
- cut a large hole in one bucket lid. The diameter should be a couple of inches smaller than the bottom of the strainer bucket
- drill lots of 3/4″ holes in the bottom the strainer bucket
- drill a few 3/4″ holes around the strainer bucket’s top edge. They should be close enough to the top that the paint strainer bag will cover them when draped over the top edge of the bucket
To assemble the strainer:
- set down an empty, clean bucket. It will contain the strained honey
- put the lid with the large hole on top of the honey container bucket
- set the strainer bucket on top of the lid
- place the wood block in the strainer bucket
- hang a nylon paint strainer bag inside the strainer bucket
- loosely set a bucket lid on top of the strainer bucket
That’s it. You’ve built a tbh honey strainer.
Harvest the Comb
Needs some ideas on how and when to harvest? Check out my Harvest page.
The bees are brushed off harvested comb. And clean, pollen free comb is cut into an bucket. Don’t fill any bucket more than 3/4ths full.
If a comb contains pollen, mashing it liberates the pollen.That’s not a problem when only a small amount of pollen is stored in the comb. But if there’s lots of stored pollen, liberating it can drastically alter the honey’s taste and smell. Not a bad thing if you like it. Not so great if you don’t.
Maybe such honey could be filtered a second time with a fine nylon filter, like those commercial beekeepers use to final filter their honey before bottling. It should remove most of the pollen. But I haven’t tried it.
Pollen filled combs are probably best left on the hive for the bees.
Comb is easily mashed to a pulp when it’s still warm from the field. So, as soon as possible, mash up the comb inside the bucket. A 3 foot wooden 1 x 2 stick works great.
Pour the honey comb pulp into the strainer bag which sets inside the top bucket.
If the field bucket is the same size as the strainer bucket, it can be be inverted on top of the strainer and left to drain out overnight.
Later, remove the field bucket and loosely cover the strainer with a lid.
After straining, you’re left with raw, flavorful honey. When using a conventional extractor, many of those flavors and smells are fanned into air. But little is lost when honey is strained. It tastes like comb honey without the wax.
To clean up:
- fill the empty buckets with water
- place the paint filter in the bottom of one of the buckets
- come back a day later
- dump the buckets
- rinse them with a hose
And you’re done. No big mess. No dirty kitchen. No big clean up. Pretty neat huh!
When the temperature stays above 80 degrees, you get ‘extracted honey’ fast. And it’s almost labor free!If the temps stay below 70 degrees, extracting is slooooow.
Straining honey works best during the summer’s heat. So, harvest often during the summer, rather than a single harvest during the fall.
After a day of straining, gently lift the strainer bag a few inches. This lets the wax shift and speeds up the straining a little.
If your honey granulates fast, make sure you strain when the weather is hot and the straining is fast. Or your honey may granulate before it’s strained.