Extractors by Garrett Dempsey

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Extractors! by Garrett Dempsey

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Let’s kick-off with a bad joke! 

A farmer’s kid gets excited every time a tractor passes his farm in rural Ireland. One day, his Dad notices that he doesn’t even lookup when a shiny new Massey Ferguson passes their front door. “Didn’t you notice that tractor”, asks the farmer…” No”, replies the son… “I’m an extractor fan”!!! [Sorry folks!]

This article is about honey extractors. 

It’s all mathematics!! … Radial vs Tangential

When it comes to extractors, you typically have a choice between Radial and Tangential with either option then available as manual or with an electric motor.


The first consideration is cost – tangential extractors are generally cheaper and thus many beekeepers have a 3 or 4 frame manual tangential extractor sitting in a shed waiting to be dragged out once or twice a year to spin honey frames and get the honey out!

Manual units are obviously going to be cheaper than those with an electric motor. 

Size is also a factor and radial extractors (esp. those that can accommodate 8 or more frames) tend to take up more space for storage and transportation.

Note – for many IBA members who might have 3 or 4 beehives and modest honey harvested each year, unless you have money to burn and lots of storage space, you should contact your local association as they may have an association extractor which you can borrow or, alternatively, for a small number of frames of honey – you can consider extracting manually – see here for example of the ‘crush and strain’ method.

You can buy manual or electric extractors, but the latter are really only for beekeepers with large amounts of honey to extract.

In my opinion, the radial extractor is better, but it is more expensive. The reason for this preference is because with tangential units, you have to turn the frames around and do a 2nd spin plus they have a tendency to pull the wax foundation out (irreparably sometimes) due to the centrifugal forces pulling the everything towards the edge of the tank.


With the radial layout, you only spin once and the same centrifugal forces tend not to damage the foundation, unless you spin too quickly/vigorously. 


I really enjoy watching videos by Stewart Spinks at Norfolk Honey Company. Here’s one on honey harvesting https://youtu.be/lp5nqkFWo00 (though the setup here is more than most beekeepers will need). Note the comment about trying to keep the number of frames balanced in the extractor to reduce ‘wobble’ as you spin the frames. 

Author’s opinion – when taking honey frames/supers off the beehives… leave the bees with some honey, esp. uncapped or partially capped frames. Just replacing what you take off with sugar syrup or hoping that the ivy will give them enough for the winter isn’t going to give you a healthy hive of bees coming into the spring. Good luck! 

Further Reading: https://thebeestore.com.au/blogs/bee-blog/which-honey-extractor-is-right-for-you

A handy tip from Jeff Prior of Sneem Beekeepers – after you have finished extracting, close the tap then pour a bottle of whiskey into your extractor. Swish it around and strain into a jug. Pour it back into the bottle and enjoy!

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