I'm looking to buy a new or used extractor this summer and could sure use a recommendation or two of what to get (and even where?). I'll probably have no more than 4 or 5 hives. Any ideas for either hand or electric? thx
I had bees for about 27 years before I bought an extractor. (At least I think that's a correct number) I held out for a 9/18 radial electric. I woulnd't buy any less. If you don't need a 9/18, then you probably don't need an extractor. A double five gallon bucket strainer (made by your or purcased from Brushy Mt.) would work fine. Glue a 5 gallon bucket lid onto the bottom of a 5 gallon bucket. Drill some holes in the bottom. Clean up the plastic pieces that didn't come off with a pocket knife. Put a screen door screen in the bottom for a filter for the wax and crush the combs with your hands and throw them in. It will all drain into the bottom bucket. Just be sure you keep track of the level in the bottom bucket and don't overflow it.
An extractor is expensive. Takes up a lot of room. Takes a lot of work to extract. Believe it or not it's just as easy to crush the comb and drain it. And that's if you have a good electric Radial extractor that holds quit a few frames.
A two frame non-reversable hand crank is 30 times as much work.
If I were going to buy an extractor, I would make sure it is a radial, not a tangental. I don't think I would go as big as a 9/18 unless I got a real deal on it. (If you are positive you aren't going over 4-5 hives)
I would also go with electric, right now mine is a hand crank, and it makes extracting really a two person job. If you use plasti-cell or permacomb, hand crushing may not be the best option.
>If I were going to buy an extractor, I would make sure it is a radial, not a tangental. I don't think I would go as big as a 9/18 unless I got a real deal on it.
(If you are positive you aren't going over 4-5 hives)
I was buying new and frankly even with 4-5 hives you could have a good year and have 20 supers to extract which is 200 frames. A four frame extractor will drive you crazy. It's not that much difference in price for a 9/18 over a 6/12. 6/12 seems to be the smallers radial around. I dare you to try to stay with 4-5 hives. Anything bigger than 9/18 is too hard to get through the door and carry around. Anything smaller is much more work when extracting. For the difference in price, I'd by the 9/18.
>If you use plasti-cell or permacomb, hand crushing may not be the best option.
That is true. You can scrape it off of the plasticell, but you'll have to extract the PermaComb.
I just think an extractor is overrated, overpriced and does nothing to improve the quality of your product nor the amount of work to harvest it. A good double bucket strainer will process a lot of honey, and if you just cut it for comb honey, it will bring more money.
The comb honey option is a very valid one, something to think about especially if space is at a premium.
However, if space is not an issue and you really want to produce extracted honey. I think an extractor is a wise investment. At current honey prices I think an extractor could pay for it's self within five years, but I doubt honey prices will stay stabel for too long... either way extractors seem to hold their value well.
My thoughts on fives years or less is based on the amount of honey lost in replacing the lost comb, cost of foundation, (either buying new or having processed and shipping or transportation involved) and time spent in replacing foundation.
Back to the extractor. I think it would be hard to go wrong for you to purchase a stainless steel, radial, electric, manual speed control extractor. Check around with your local bee club first.
[This message has been edited by Brandon Shaw (edited January 23, 2004).]
I agree that an extractor is over rated.
The only arguement that extractor user might have is that they save honey by not destroying the wax. Well if you don't mind my saying I think its a rather weak arguement.
the ratio of honey to wax for wax production is 8:1, meaning 8 lbs. of honey go into making 1 lbs. of wax. Ok seems like a lot, but have you ever weighed virgin comb? 1 Lbs of wax builds a HUGE amount of comb.
Cut comb honey draws more money per lbs and its less work. If you really want extracted honey, then crush and filter and then you have surplus wax you can use for other things, or sell separately.
Filtering the comb is much much easier, just crush the comb through your hardware cloth and let filter through the double screening. After you are finished crushing, cover it up and go watch some TV, play with the kids for an hour or do something else useful other than watching the honey drip.
"The only arguement that extractor user might have is that they save honey by not destroying the wax. Well if you don't mind my saying I think its a rather weak arguement."
Not if you want or need to maximize honey production - in my experience you make much more honey per season using supers with drawn comb than in supers with foundation. Regardless of how many pounds of honey it takes to make a pound of beeswax, it takes time, bees, and energy to build comb. If comb is already there, much of that could be diverted to filling other supers with honey. It also takes time and money (or more time to turn wax into strips or foundation) to reload frames.
There is more than one argument for using an extractor. Whether it works for a particular operation really depends on the goals of the beekeeper.
Here's a direct quote from George W. Imirie
[Maybe now, you understand why I refer to frames of drawn comb as "a beekeeper's MOST VALUABLE POSSESSION", because it is an exhausting process to get properly drawn comb from foundation!]
Complete link: http://www.beekeeper.org/april2002.html
I agree that drawn comb is a wonderful asset. It's especially a boost for a new package. The queen can lay almost immedeately (after they get organized) and they can start storing nectar and pollen to feed the brood.
The bees will certainly make more honey if they don't have to build the comb to store it in. But how much more, is more complex than just a formula of how much honey makes how much wax. I've seen bees build comb very quickly when they had just starter strips and no foundation. They seem to build it slower with wax foundation than just startrer strips, which in theory should be faster because it requires less wax. I think they also build it slightly slower than that, on plastic foundation. The thing that I LIKE about the plastic foundation is it's durability. Again, if drawn comb is an asset, durable drawn comb is a bigger asset.
Thus the appeal of PermaComb. Already drawn comb that is pretty much impervious to the ravages of wax moths, bored bees and small hive beetles.
For the hobbiest, I think all of this is minor. The cost of buying an extractor, the room it takes to store it, the work it takes to setup and cleanup is hardly worth it for less than 10 hives. But if you just have to spend some money on your hobby, it's a fun toy to have around. The PermaComb is also a nice toy to have around.
If you want to end up with empty drawn comb, you can always uncap some, put it above an innner cover and let the bees clean it out.
When I was at 8 hives years ago, I was being driven nuts extracting on a small extractor. Again, a strong colony can easily fill 5 supers, potentially 50 frames/ea. Thats 400 frames for 8 hives. At that time, I shelled out the $ and bought the Dadant 20/40 frame SS radial. Haven't regretted it for a minute. Not that much work to clean and doesn't take that much room up.
Rob hit the nail on the head. The time to draw foudnation is also a major issue. Here in the mid-atlantic states our major honey flow is only 6 short weeks. Too short to have the bees drawing comb when then can bee filling the cells with honey.
Mike's assessment of the PermaComb is also right on the money. In addition to the benefits he mentioned, older waxed comb gets brittle over time and incidences of comb breakage during the extraction process increase. This is not the case with the PC. And I'm still using and extracting the same PC I initally bought it '75. Good stuff.
Also, I neglected to mention that PermaComb is ideal for beekeepers who only have a few hives where an extractor would not be warranted. Simply scratch the cappings and up-end the frame(s) over a container in a warm/hot environment - say using a hairdryer in an exclosed space. Do this to all the frames at nite and by morning, all the honey has run out into the container. I wouldn't try this with wax comb, tho.
>I shelled out the $ and bought the Dadant 20/40 frame SS radial. Haven't regretted it for a minute. Not that much work to clean and doesn't take that much room up.
I waited and got Mann Lakes 9/18 and I haven't regretted it either. Anything smaller just isn't worth the money or the work. It takes just as much work to clean a small extractor as a big one, and the small one takes up about as much space in your garage etc. But if you don't have that many hives, I'd just wait until you really NEED an extractor.
I've had as many as l5 hives and as few as one. At one point I had an old Kelly two frame reversible which worked well but was as slow as cold honey. At other times I used a four frame non-reversible, about the same as a two frame reversible.
A couple of years ago I bought an Italian made 9 frame radial from Brushy Mtn. It is sort of a tinkertoy, lots of fibreglas where Kelley would put cast iron. However, it does a good job, has a stainless barrel and cleans up well.
I would not keep bees again without an extractor. For strained honey you can hardly operate without drawn comb. As stated above, it is not the lost honey, it is the lost time. Bees can fill 4 or 5 supers in the time it takes them to digest honey, form wax and build comb. With a six week honeyflow I do not want my bees playing house when they should be bringing home the bacon.
If John's permacomb is accepted well the price tag on it will look pretty cheap.
I think the point is academic. If you're a hobbiest, why not sink a $1000 bucks into it, the investment will increase you pleasure. If you're serious, it is a moot point. Michael, I can't believe you would throw away that much honey by destroying your comb each year. At 7 to 8 lbs of honey / Lb of wax your method gets expensive fast. At $4/lb of honey retail, assuming a super has ~1lb of drawn wax; $4*7*20 =$560 if you get 4 supers/hive and 5 hives, then the lost money from wax production covers the cost of a good used extractor. I didn't include the cost of foundation vs the revenue from wax. Also, if you have drawn foundation you will get some small honey flows stored that you would not get if they have to draw the foundation every time.
As always everyone has differing opinions.
I bought a old 36 frame Jones from a big beekeeper for next to nothing. It does the same job as a newer modle extractor, I have put thousands of lbs through it. Those big complete units are looking really appealing to me, perhaps I will sell my good old reliable to a small beekeeper,as I was, for dirt cheap. Those extractors last forever....
>I think the point is academic. If you're a hobbiest, why not sink a $1000 bucks into it, the investment will increase you pleasure. If you're serious, it is a moot point.
I waited until I could afford a 9/18 radial. I think it would NOT have been worth buying anything smaller.
>Michael, I can't believe you would throw away that much honey by destroying your comb each year. At 7 to 8 lbs of honey / Lb of wax your method gets expensive fast.
For a hobbiest, you have more honey than you can eat, and usually more than you can sell. The wax, especially if you keep a chemical free hive, is worth quite a bit. It is not expensive at all to NOT spend money. If you are a commercial operator and you sell a lot of extracted honey, of course it's worth it to have an extractor. But NO ONE needs a 2 frame extractor. They are too much work and too much money.
>At $4/lb of honey retail, assuming a super has ~1lb of drawn wax; $4*7*20 =$560 if you get 4 supers/hive and 5 hives, then the lost money from wax production covers the cost of a good used extractor. I didn't include the cost of foundation vs the revenue from wax.
I've seen what the bees do when given just starter strips and they draw comb much quicker than they draw foundation. I think the whole mathematcial formula of how much wax makes how much comb etc. is not very realistic. First a pound of wax holds a lot of honey. Empty comb weighs almost nothing at all. Second, if you use a starter strip, they not only draw it faster than foundation, but you don't have to BUY much foundation, and if you make sheets to cut your own blank starter strips you don't have to buy foundation at all.
>Also, if you have drawn foundation you will get some small honey flows stored that you would not get if they have to draw the foundation every time.
Probably true. Again, not enough for a hobbiest to be spending over $500 (counting shipping probably close to $550) for a two or three frame extractor.
I'm not saying you shouldn't buy an extractor, I'm saying if you don't need at least a 9/18 radial, then you don't need an extractor. If I had four or more hives and wanted to sell extracted honey (I know of people with a couple of hundred hives who sell nothing but comb honey and don't have an extractor), and you have a thousand to spend, by all means buy a good radial extractor. I did.
>As always everyone has differing opinions.
And we are all entitled to ours.
>I've seen what the bees do when given just >starter strips and they draw comb much >quicker than they draw foundation. I think >the whole mathematcial formula of how much >wax makes how much comb etc. is not very >realistic.
I seen these figures repeated often. Yet, the only references I can find concerning them are based on commercial honey and wax production. That is the ratio of honey to wax that is harvested from a typical extractor/uncapping type operation.
My tbh wasn't set back in either brood or honey production as they drew out new comb when compared to my standard hives with comb.
The economics of hobby beekeeping is often deceptive. I'd hate to figure the cost/lb for a couple of hives and the extracting equipment. $1000 doesn't go very far in that direction, maybe a few hives and lots of expensive extracting equipment that's only used a short time every year.
A $1000 in a different direction could fund a 30 to 40 top bar hive operation. Any hobbiest want to run 40 hives? Cheap? And still park the car in the garage?
The best extractor is one that meets the beekeepers needs. They're not much fun in and of themselves, for me anyway. I have worked them(or maybe they worked me) since the 60's as a commercial beekeeper.
As a hobbiest, I pursued the only route I knew. Yes, I own a two frame, hand powered extractor. But I wouldn't go that route now.
My favorite extractor works while I sleep. http://bwrangler.litarium.com/harvest/
My two frame extractor has been permanently replaced.
For some additonal thoughts and alternatives check out:
For a hobbiest with just a couple of standard hives, comb or chunk is the best route.
Last edited by BWrangler; 04-07-2017 at 07:25 AM.
Reason: updated link
It's wonderful and horrible to get so many opinions on this subject. I am starting my first two hives this coming spring and the issue of how to extract the honey and which foundation to use has been hands down the hardest decisions for me. I would guess that for the other hobbyists like me with < 4 hives they feel the same way. I live in Southern M.D. and as John Seets mentions, the honey flow here is restricted. However, I do know of a few beekeepers who crush their surplus comb each year rather than use an extractor. Then again, George Imirie lives about 60 miles from me and he would probably scoff at such a process.
So what to do? I've decided the only way to figure it out is to try both. So I'll put wired wax in the supers for one hive, and use starter strips in the supers for the other, and let the chips fall where they may!! I'll rent an extractor for the wired wax and then crush whatever comb the bees make from the starter strips. I'm using all medium supers, btw.
Sorry, John, permacomb may be the best, but its also the most expensive, and until I can be sure this will be a lasting hobby I just can't justify the expense.
I think it's a great plan. If you can try out extracting without buying one, you can decide for yourself.
> I'm using all medium supers, btw.
Just curious . . . I assume that this means that you're using medium honey supers, but the word "all" in there throws me off. Are you using full size brood boxes?