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How Do You Harvest Honey?

Bees on a capped comb.

Harvesting your honey is the best part of the job, but it is also one of the stickiest parts. The soonest we recommend that you extract is once your third box is filled — meaning all 10 of the frames and foundation will be capped off. If the frames are not capped off, your honey is not ready for extraction. This is especially important in high humidity areas. In dry desert climates this won't be as important.

Set Up

Make sure and set up your extraction area with these recommended items:

  1. Table — We like to cover with a plastic table cloth.
  2. Electrical outlet — Used for a hot knife.
  3. Wet wash cloth — To help with the sticky

Make sure that your extractor is level and elevated high enough to fit a five gallon honey bucket and gate with metal honey sieve on top. Position the five gallon honey bucket and gate with metal honey sieve on top directly below the honey gate on the extractor.

Removing the Bees (Bee Brush Method)

Items needed:

  • Use a Medium Honey Super that has NO frames in it.
  • Bottom (either an extra bottom board or piece of cardboard) — The purpose of the bottom is to prevent bees from coming back into the hive.
  • Bath/Pool-Sized Towel — This will serve as a top and can easily be moved as you transfer frames and foundation. This will also prevent the bees from going back into the hive.


  1. Remove each frame from the Medium Honey Super that is on the existing hive.
  2. Begin brushing the bees from each frame.
  3. Place the Frames that the bees have been removed from into the empty medium honey super, and cover with the towel.
  4. Continue this process with each frame until the honey super on the hive is empty.
  5. Keep the towel covering the box until you are ready to extract.
  6. This process can be repeated using additional empty boxes, if you have more than one Medium Honey Super on your hive.
  7. At the end, shake remaining bees out of the original Medium Honey Super into the hive. If you are still in honey flow season, make sure and add one Medium Honey Super back onto the hive, with frames and foundation, or return the boxes used during extraction.

Extraction is best done with temperatures above 85°F. If temperatures are lower, you can still extract, but the process will take longer due to the honey's thickness.


Once you have removed the bees, take your frames back to a clean location and get ready to extract. You will want to take the wax capping off by using a scratcher, cold or hot knife. If you're using scratchers, gently scratch across the capped surface to expose the honey below. Hot knifes uncap with heat and exposes your honey. Just be careful of the hot wax dripping off of the knife. Cold knifes are like cutting through butter. Simply cut back and forth using a soft sawing motion. You're just removing the first layer of cappings. Be careful not to tear the honeycomb cells.

Hand Crank Extractors

Place uncapped frames into your extractor. Begin extraction by turning very slowly. The frames will be off balance at first, but as the honey flows, the extraction will go more smoothly. After five minutes of slow speed, you can begin increasing your speed. If you start out fast, your honey is so heavy it might push your foundation out of the frame, causing your extractor to stop and damaging your foundation. During the extraction process, honey will be thrown from the frames to the sides of the extractor and will slide down to the bottom of the extractor.To prevent too much honey build up, open your honey gate on your extractor. Make sure the five gallon bucket, with a metal sieve attached, is sitting directly below the honey gate. Then open the honey gate to allow the honey to flow into the metal sieve below. The sieve screens any wax or debris out the honey. The honey bucket allows for easy collection. Harvest Lane Honey buckets have a honey gate that allows you to pour into smaller containers.


If you are going to bottle your honey, you should wait 24 hours to allow the frothing and air pockets to settle.

What to do with the extracted frames and foundation

Save your frames and foundation because of the wax already being drawn out. All the bees will have to do is refill and cap off again. After the frames have been extracted, place them back into a honey super and place back onto the hive. The bees will suck up any remaining honey and put it back into the cells.

Check your local and state laws if you want to sell your honey. We have found that there are always people willing to take any excess honey off your hands.

Also, see our articles on the benefits of local honey and what to do with your honey

Content supplied by Harvest Lane Honey