How to Extract Honey from the Comb without an Extractor

As a new beekeeper, you’re probably taking care of only one or two hives – totaling to a half-dozen frames of stored honey. When the time comes to harvest the honey, you may wonder how to get the honey out of the comb and into a jar. You learn that many beekeepers use honey extractors because it’s an efficient piece of equipment that can preserve the combs.

Although a honey extractor is a valuable tool, some beekeepers may not be ready to make the financial commitment. On top of that, honey extractors take up a lot of storage space. If you are only tending to one or two hives with no plans to grow, it may be more economical to extract honey without using an extractor.  

Until you decide what your commitment level is for beekeeping, here are several methods you can use to extract honey from the comb without an extractor.

When should I collect the frames from the hive?

The night before you plan to extract the honey, go to your hive and pull out the frames. Store the frames inside (like in your garage) where the bees won’t be able to reach them. Bees have an extraordinary talent for finding their own honey and returning it. 

Method 1: Cut Comb Honey

Cut comb honey is a visually appealing and popular way to prepare honey. It’s the easiest way to harvest honey because it requires no special equipment or advanced techniques. The cut comb honey method is one of the most economical ways to prepare honey. To produce cut comb honey, the beekeeper simply cuts the honeycomb free from the frame and then cuts it into smaller pieces- typically squares or rectangles. Then the cut comb can be packaged in plastic wrap or plastic containers.  

Obviously, for this method, you can’t use a plastic foundation. If you plan to harvest comb honey, be sure to use frames with ultra-thin foundations or foundationless frames.

All honey should be frozen at some point in harvesting. Freezing the combs will kill off any wax moths or hive beetles (at any stage of life) that may be in the combs. You can freeze the combs before or after packaging. Wrap the entire frame in plastic prior to freezing it and only remove the plastic after the comb is completely thawed. Typically, the frames should remain in the freezer overnight. The plastic allows condensation to form on the outside rather than in the comb.    

How to Cut Make Cut Comb Honey

Tools Required:

  • A Kitchen Knife
  • A Baker’s Cooling Rack
  • A Baking Sheet or Tray

Instructions:

  1. Place the cooling rack on top of the baking sheet (or tray).
  2. Lay the frame of honey on top of the cooling rack.
  3. Cut the honeycomb out of the frame and remove the frame. Keep the comb on the cooling rack.
  4. Using the knife, cut the comb into 4-inch squares. Make sure to wipe the knife after each cut to keep the comb clean.
  5. Move the cut pieces apart and let them drain overnight.
  6. Once drained, you can wrap the wax combs for later use.

NOTE: Make sure to freeze the comb at some point throughout this process. Refer back to the top of this article for more details.

Method 2: Crush and Strain

The crush and strain method allows a beekeeper to remove the honey out of the wax honeycombs so it can be jarred. With this method, the beekeeper will crush the combs and pour the honey and beeswax through filters to release the honey. It’s recommended to allow the honey to drain overnight. Some people like having jars of honey with pieces of wax in it so they do not strain the honey. However, if you prefer clear, pure honey, you will need to filter it. 

How to Cut and Strain Honey

Tools Required:

  • Bowl or pan
  • A Baking Sheet or Tray
  • A Bucket
  • Cheesecloth or any other strainer
  • (Optional) Potato Masher or Wooden Spoon

Instructions:

  1. Cut the comb out of the frame and place it in a bowl or pan. If you have a plastic foundation, scrape the comb off on each side and place it on the bowl.
  2. Crush the comb with a potato masher or wooden spoon until there are no lumps. You will need to crush every cell. If you don’t have these tools, you can also use your hands.
  3. Put the cheesecloth in a mesh kitchen strainer for support and strain the honey. The strainer should be over the bucket Cover everything to keep the dust away.
  4. Let it sit in a warm place overnight.
  5. Once drained, you can wrap the wax combs for later use.

Method 3: Ross Round

Ross round honey is getting more popular because they are easy to package and sell.  Ross round supers are a specially designed frame that will create disc-shaped combs- meaning they are already individual and ready for packaging. Ross rounds are easy to assemble and are reusable. All you have to do is put it in the hive. The bees produce the comb and will fill it with honey. Once complete, the beekeeper only has to remove the comb from the frame and package it. There is no straining or wait time required. Simple enough!

How to Make Ross Round Honey

Tools Required:

  • Ross Round Frame
  • Packaging
  1. Instructions:
  2. Place the ross round frame in your hive.
  3. Once filled with honey, remove the frame from the hive and wrap it in plastic. Place the frame in the freezer for at least 24 hours. Unwrap the frame after it has thawed.  
  4. Gently separate the frames and remove the round honeycombs.
  5. Package the combs in round packaging.

Method 4: Chunk Honey

Chunk honey is a combination of extracted honey and comb honey. Essentially, you take a piece of cut comb, put it into a jar, and fill the remaining space with strained honey. It’s an attractive way to display honey for selling or gifting.

How to Make Chuck Honey

Tools Required:

  • Wide-Mouth Mason Jar
  • Honey Comb
  • Strained Honey

Instructions:

  1. Estimate the size of the combs you will need and ensure they fit in your jars.
  2. Hold sections on the cut side to prevent damage to the caps.
  3. Put the comb in the jar. To keep the comb from floating, stick the comb to the bottom of the jar with melted wax.
  4. Add extracted honey slowly to reduce air bubbles inside the chair.
  5. Freeze the jars after filling them for 24 hours to remove any impurities.

Final Thoughts

Although honey extractors are efficient tools to remove honey as well as preserve the comb, they can also be an expensive investment that takes up a lot of storage space. Hobbyist beekeepers who only have a handful of frames do not need to use an extractor. There are various methods beekeepers can use to extract honey from the comb with items that are found around the house. Some of these methods require patience since you’ll need to wait 8-24 hours to allow the honey to fully drain from the combs.

Since you are not able to preserve the combs, you have the opportunity to use the wax for future projects. Many beekeepers choose to make candles or lip balm with wax. There are many uses for beeswax and it should not be wasted.

If you’re interested in learning more about the benefits of using extractors, check out our post: Honey Extractors: How to Extract Honey from the Comb.

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