Honey Harvesting Basics: How Long To Spin A Honey Extractor

Extracting honey is one of the most rewarding parts of beekeeping. Every aspiring beekeeper dreams of the day when their hard work will yield delicious honey! When you’re ready to get the honey from your honeycombs, a honey extractor can help you get the job done. This large machine spins your frames at a high speed and uses centrifugal force to remove honey from honeycombs without destroying their shape.

How Long To Spin A Honey Extractor

Before you begin the honey extraction process, make sure you have set aside enough time to get the frames from your hive, prepare the frames for the extractor, and spin the frames in the extractor. Depending on how many hives you have to work with, this process may take the better part of a day.

Once you have loaded your frames into your honey extractor, you will need to spin them for 5 to 10 minutes. The type of honey extractor you have may impact how long your frames need to spin. If your extractor is hand-cranked, you may only need to crank it for 2 to 4 minutes. If it is electric, you can experiment with the speeds at which you spin the honey. Try alternating between full speed for 1 to 2 minutes followed by half-speed for 1 to 2 minutes. 

When spinning your frames, do not spin them too quickly. If you have a hand-cranked extractor, don’t crank too aggressively, and if you have an electric machine, consider setting it lower than full speed. Centrifugal force that is too strong could ruin the delicate wax of your honeycombs. Also, make sure that your honey is not cold in temperature; this, too, can cause honeycomb damage. To avoid this issue, harvest your honey in a warm summer month. If this isn’t an option, you can also try warming your frames in a warm room or closet for a day before extracting the honey from them. Warm honey flows more easily, and warm honeycomb is less brittle and less likely to break.

Learn more about how to extract honey with our article: How to Extract Honey from the Comb

How much honey per frame should I expect to extract?

When planning on the number of frames that you will put into your extractor, it’s important to know how much honey you can expect per frame. This will help you plan how much storage material you need to prepare to store your extracted honey.

If you use medium frames, you will get about 3 pounds of honey per frame. This is equal to roughly one quart of honey. If you use deep frames, you will get about 6 pounds of honey per frame or about two quarts. Shallow frames yield about 2 pounds of honey, or a little less than one quart.

The amount of honey in your frames may vary depending on the strength of your hive and your local climate. The kind of plants that your bees have access to will also influence the amount of honey produced and the quality of that honey. If you are disappointed with the amount of honey your bees are producing, consider planting some bee-friendly flowers near their hive. This will boost the quantity and quality of honey. 

When you remove the frames from your hive, the cells of the honeycomb should be capped in wax. This is a sign that the honey is ready to be extracted. Before spinning your frames, be sure to uncap them by running a hot knife over the face of the frame. After using the knife, break any remaining caps with a tool like an uncapping fork. This “uncapping” process removes the wax cap from each cell and ensures that all the honey will come out of the honeycomb during the extraction process.

As you spin the frames in your extractor, make sure to periodically empty the extracted honey into a strainer or another container. Otherwise, accumulated honey at the bottom of the extractor will eventually prevent the frames from spinning. 

What is the difference between a Tangential vs Radial Honey Extractor?

Depending on the amount of honey that you plan on extracting, you will have to choose between a tangential and a radial honey extractor.

In a tangential extractor, the frames are inserted so that they face outwards. They “line” the inside walls of the honey extractor. In a radial extractor, the top of the frame faces out, as if they are the spokes in a wheel.

If you use a tangential extractor, you will need to spin your frames, pause, take them out and turn them so that the other side faces out, and spin them again. This ensures that honey is fully extracted from each side of the frame. Because tangential extractors require this extra handling, radial extractors are considered faster and easier to use and are better for people who are handling a large number of frames. Radial extractors also put less pressure on the honeycomb and cause less breakage than tangential extractors. In a radial design, the honey is forced from both sides of the frame at the same time, rather than full pressure being applied to one side at a time.

Don’t forget to check out our list of the top honey extractors for beekeepers!

What size honey extractor do I need?

Most beekeepers who use extractors do so because they have moderate to large-sized hives. Once you have many hives to handle, it is important to find an effective and time-efficient way to deal with the large amounts of honey your bees produce!

In general, you should look for an extractor that can hold half the number of frames as you have hives. So, if you have 4 hives, an extractor that holds 2 frames will meet your needs. If you have 8 hives, you will need an extractor that holds up to 4 frames, and so on.

Consider your own specific needs as well. If you are a hobbyist, you may be less inclined to invest in a large extractor than if you are attempting to make a profit off of your honey. The larger the extractor the more frames it can hold, and the more time-efficient it is. But larger extractors are also more expensive. You will also need somewhere to store your extractor, and it might be hard to store a very large one!

Final Thoughts

A honey extractor is an exciting machine that can help you take your beekeeping to the next level. It is an especially good investment for people with multiple hives who wish to share their honey with others or want to sell it for a profit. 

The availability of hand-cranked and electric, radial and tangential, and large and small extractors allows you to pick the machine that is the best fit for you. There is no one-size-fits-all solution when it comes to honey extractors. Think carefully about what your needs are and what will improve your beekeeping practice. It could be a two-frame hand-cranked extractor, an extra-large radial extractor, or something in between. Whatever you decide on, happy honey harvesting!

How Long To Spin A Honey Extractor

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