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Honey Extractors

There are three main types

The honey extractor is commonly thought to have been invented about 1864/5 by Franz Hrushka, an army Major who was born in Vienna on 13th May 1819. A history of Hrushka and the invention can be found here. Following the introduction of the moveable comb hive (patent 1852), beekeeping progressed rapidly, with many commercial beekeepers setting up. This resulted in many inventions of which the honey extractor was one. Hrushka appears to have hit upon the idea by accident, but the basic principle is still used in modern honey extractors. The great benefit was that honey could be extracted much quicker and the comb was saved for future use, where previously it was crushed, so could not be re-used.

Honey extractors are basically a round drum with a rotating cage inside that takes the uncapped combs. They come in three basic types:-

  1. Tangential, where the combs are inserted in the cage on end, with one side facing outwards and resting against a mesh screen. When rotated, with the frame bottom bars leading, the honey on the outside is flung out against the inside of the drum. The usual method is to partly extract the first side fairly slowly, otherwise the force created by the weight on the un-extracted side is likely to break the comb. The combs are then turned so the other side is fully extracted, then turned again to finish the first side off. Tangential extractors are probably the type that most small-scale beekeepers will use, with most of them manually driven. The number of BS shallow frames they will take usually varies between 2-6. To avoid reversing the combs by hand, there have been a few designs where the frame direction can be changed by reversing the direction of rotation.
  2. Radial, that has a cage that takes frames on end, but facing inwards, with the bottom bars towards the centre. The cage is rotated slowly, then speed is increased as the honey is extracted. Radial extractors remove honey from both sides of the comb at the same time. Designs vary, but in general, smaller extractors have a screen, so larger frames can be extracted tangentially, where larger machines can take them radially, although in some models, a smaller number of frames. Some smaller radial extractors are manually driven, but most are motorised. Commercial beekeepers are likely to use one or more radial extractors.
  3. Parallel radial extractors are very rare. Where other extractors have a vertical spindle and cage, the parallel radial is horizontal. The frames are placed in the cage, so the side bars are leading. This allows the frames to be rotated at high speed, so the extracting cycle is very quick. The ones I have seen most were known as "MG Parallel Radial", but they had an aluminium drum, so can no longer be used. I feel that if a manufacturer can make them, they would be a grest benefit to commercial beekeepers.

As with other honey processing equipment, only stainless steel and plastic are allowed to be used for processing food in many countries, so the older tinplate and galvanised honey extractors should not be used.

For small-scale beekeepers, a small hand cranked extractor is adequate and that is what many beekeeping associations have for loan or hire to members. It is surprising how quickly you can extract honey if you are well organised. For about 15 years I had about 130 colonies and I used a 6 frame manual extractor. I think many beekeepers see a honey extractor as a status symbol, often buying a gleaming electric radial extractor to extract a few supers. I once spoke to someone at a beekeeping show, who proudly told me he had just bought a 12 frame radial extractor off one of the stands. I expected him to be a commercial or semi-commercial beekeeper, but he told me he was a new beekeeper and didn't want more than two colonies! I see little point in spending a lot of money on something that may only be used on a couple of days a year, that takes up a lot of storage space.

Honey presses are allied to extraction, so I have included them in the button top left.

Roger Patterson.

Page created 23/11/2022