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
- stack with the lids on
- have removable lids
Five gallon plastic buckets 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
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 3/4″ holes in the bottom of 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 with the large hole
- 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 top bar hive honey strainer.
Harvest the Comb
Needs some ideas on how and when to harvest? Check out my Harvest page.
Brushed the bees off harvested comb. Cut clean, pollen free comb into 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 with a small amount. But if there’s much stored pollen, liberating it drastically alters honey taste and smell. Not a bad thing if you like it. Not so great if you don’t.
Pollen filled combs are probably best left on the hive for the bees.
Mash comb to a coarse pulp when it’s still warm from the field. . A 3 foot wooden 1 x 2 stick works great. Just use the same bucket the comb was cut into.
Pour the honey comb pulp into the strainer bag which sets inside the top bucket.
If the 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 it 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 volatiles are spun into air. That’s one reason a honey house smells so good. And why comb honey is so much more favorable than extracted honey.
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!
Above 80 degrees, straining honey is fast. And it’s almost labor free! 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 shifts the wax and speeds up straining a little.
If your honey granulates fast,strain it when the weather is hot and the straining is fast. Or your honey may granulate before it’s strained.