When it comes to extracting honey, there are 3 main options to choose from.
- Crush and strain
- Using a centrifuge extractor
- Flow hive
Crush and Strain
This method is the most basic and would usually be if you do not have access to the other two methods. Crushing and straining is good for if you want to collect the wax in addition to the honey. There are many things that can be made from beeswax e.g. candles, lip balm, furniture polish, wax wraps or soaps and cosmetics.
To perform this method it is exactly as it sounds, you cut the comb out of the frame and use something such as a potato masher to mash the comb up and then put the mixture through a honey strainer.
The downside of this method is the bees then have to make the wax honeycomb from scratch again each time you do a harvest. Bees need to consume 8kg of honey to produce 1kg of wax, so if you’re destroying it each time it will put your honey yield for the year way down on what it could be.
Centrifuge Honey Extractor
An extractor will allow you to remove the honey from the comb without destroying the comb, you can then return the frame to the hive for the bees to fill up with honey again. Extractors range from 2, 3, 4 or more frames and can be electrically driven or hand crank. I would recommend an electric model over the hand crank and they’ll set you back around $900-$1000 for a decent one.
The only work you need to do is removing the wax cappings that act as a lid and seal each honeycomb cell when the honey is at the right moisture content.
The Flow hive is an Australian invention that has been on the market since 2015. It is a hive box with special already formed honeycomb frames made from plastic which at the turn of a key split down the middle, allowing the honey to drain to a channel at the bottom of the frame and then out of the hive through a tube into your waiting collection jar.
When the honey has drained from the frame the key is turned again and the hexagons reset to their original position and the bees can start filling them up with honey again.
Flow hives make the honey extraction process very simple. You do not even need to smoke the bees or put on your bee suit as you do not need to physically open the hive.
Beehives have two boxes, the bottom box is called the brood box and the top box where the honey is mostly stored is called the super. In between the two boxes is a queen excluder, which is a plastic or metal mesh that is just wide enough for the worker bees to squeeze through so that the Queen remains trapped downstairs and is unable to lay eggs in the super.
The brood box of the Flow hive is exactly like a traditional beehive, it’s only the super that is special.
You Still Need To Do Hive Inspections
Just like a traditional hive, you will still need to open the hive and do an inspection every 4 weeks or so to check for pests, disease, check their are building the comb correctly and check on the Queen if she is laying well. The manufacturers stress their product is not a substitute for having to do hive inspections.
Are They Worth It
I have many traditional hives and one Flow hive. I think the Flow hive is fantastic, never had a problem with it and works exactly like the manufacturer claims. I recommend them to people who only plan on having one or maybe two hives as a hobby as they do away with the need to buy an expensive centrifuge extractor. The only reason all my hives aren’t Flow hives is the cost. They are around $1000 each. A traditional type hive is about $250 each. If you are planning on having multiple hives it is more economical to buy traditional hives and an extractor.
If you are going to buy a Flow hive my suggestion would be to paint it white rather than oiling it. Oiling may look nicer however you will need to reapply oil every few years and the oil is usually not cheap. White paint is reflective and will also aid in keeping the hive cool when placed in full sun. This frees up bees that would otherwise be standing at the entrance flapping their wings all day to cool the hive and make the hive more efficient.