Honey extractors

There’s no doubt that one of the most rewarding parts of beekeeping is harvesting your own honey but before you invest in an extractor, it’s a good idea to consider your options. In the early days, why not borrow one from the association so you can find out what best suits your needs? Equipment loan

A honey extractor is used to remove honey from the honeycombs. It works by using centrifugal force to flick the honey from the frame without destroying the comb. The frame may then be returned to the same hive from which you took it for the bees to clean and repair.

As demonstrated in Louise’s film (Honey processing), the frames must be uncapped before they are ready to go into the extractor for spinning. Louise’s expert hand is welding nothing more than a sharp, long-bladed knife but various methods can be tried including an uncapping fork (photo) or a special heated uncapping knife (video below) and you will quickly find the best method for you.

Rebecca’s steady hand

After a frame is uncapped, it is placed into a drum or container which holds a basket of frames. When spun, the honey is forced out of the comb on to the inside walls of the drum. The honey then drains to the bottom of the drum, where it’s stored ready for pouring and filtering. There is a number of different types of extractor and Meridian has a couple of extractors that members may borrow.


Manual honey extractors have a built-in hand crank that is used to spin your frames. Manual extractors are cheaper and you can use them without a power source. Manual extractors are generally suitable for the hobby beekeeper with fewer than about 10 hives.


Electric honey extractors have a powered motor to aid the convenience and speed of extraction. Electric extractors are favoured by commercial beekeepers or those with more hives. Once the frames are loaded, the beekeeper is free to start uncapping the next batch of frames. 

Radial or Tangential?

Tangential baskets

Tangential honey extractors are the most popular amongst small-scale hobby beekeepers. The frames are held in the basket and the honeycomb faces outwards. Tangential extractors only extract honey from the outside surface of the comb so the user needs to flip the frame and repeat the process to extract honey from the other side.

Radial extractors

Radial extractors are designed so that the frames sit with the top bar facing outwards. The frames are therefore perpendicular to the outside wall and honey is forced from both sides.

Size of extractor

There are a number of factors you should consider:

Cost – larger extractors are more expensive.

Space – larger extractors take up more room.

Time – You can fit more frames into a larger extractor which saves time during the extraction process.

A handy rule of thumb is an extractor can reasonably handle twice as many hives as it has frames! For example; a three frame extractor can easily handle up up to six hives. A four frame extractor can handle up to eight hives. Nine frame extractor up to eighteen hives and so on.

Back to Honey processing

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