plastic foundations: extracting honey

mrtulinJune 2, 2009

A friend loaned me a hive which he couldn't use this year. It has these plastic foundations. I'm trying to get last year's honey out of six of them and I am stumped. I don't own an extractor, and for this little amount it isn't worth renting one. This isn't honey comb that I can mash and strain! It is too cool in the house for it to liquify and drip. I have the frame lying on a big pan, but it sure isn't dripping much on its own. I've tried a hair dryer and a heat gun (carefully so as not to melt foundation, start a fire or ruin the honey) I melt the honey, it liquifies, I flip the frame over so it will drip in the pan, but only tablespoons come out.

What a waste of time. If there'nt several pounds of honey in those frames, i'd say screw it and give it back to bees. But the frugal in me won't give up yet.

Advice, suggestions, commiserations?


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Hi Marie, I've heard of people putting the super over an empty box with a light underneath to warm the frames up.
I actually need to build a warming box myself, because I just sold my last case of bottled honey and have some crystallized honey in buckets to bottle. If it's only 6 frames, personally I'd put them in the freezer for an emergency. I try to keep 8 or 10 deep frames full of honey in the freezer all the time. They have come in handy for spring feeding, to give a new package a jump start or for starting a nuc. Tony

    Bookmark   June 2, 2009 at 10:09AM
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Konrad___far_north(3..just outside of Edmonton)

I usually don't bother getting honey out of these frames, I put it out until it gets cleaned out by whatever, bees, bumbles or
wasp. This year I found a easy way of softening up, put a old window over the box out in the sun, ...keep an eye on it,
it could also melt the wax.


    Bookmark   June 2, 2009 at 9:30PM
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Without an extractor the only thing I can suggest is scrape the honey wax and all off the foundation.

    Bookmark   June 3, 2009 at 9:33PM
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Thanks, guys. There's something about those plastic frames that just doesn't work like wax, Several of the six had no built out comb, but each plastic cell was filled. I stuck something in those cells, and honey dripped out, so honey is in there. I tried pans with lightbulbs, carefully modulated hair dryer, propping up in a slightly warm was ridiculous but I was determined to figure it out.

My friend invited me over to use her extractor, which is nice but still doesn't answer my question about why the honey is so hard to get to manually in those plastic cell frames.

I know this sounds ungracious, but these troublesome frames have seriously affected my appreciation of this generous loan!!


    Bookmark   June 3, 2009 at 10:00PM
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Yep, hive frames are designed for use with an extractor. Plastic frames are build to be durable and cheaper than wiring in new foundation. They provide durability in an extractor where even wired frames brake or squish under the centrifical force.
That said, the reason you are having trouble getting the honey out has to do with the surface tension and density of honey rather versus water.
Take one of those plastic frames with just the foundation on it. Run water over it and turn it upside down. If you smack it with your hand, roughly half a cup of water will fall off the frame. Smack it again and another handfull will come off the frame again. The shape of the hexagon, let alone the filled out cells, holds onto water pretty well. Now honey is much thicker and more dense than water, so short of scraping all the wax and honey off the frame, you aren't going to get all the honey out by gravity or heat.
Frugal beekeeper - it costs the bees 8 pounds of honey (energy) to make 1 pound of wax. So if you are filling the frames, then smashing them to squeese the honey out, you are really losing more honey than you are making. There is almost as much wax in a honey comb as there is honey and the wax costs 8 times as much to make than honey. This is the beauty of the invention of the extractor and the removable frames over the older skep hives that require destroying comb to harvest honey. The extractor lets us remove the honey and place it back into the hive for the bees to immediately use again.

    Bookmark   June 24, 2009 at 7:38AM
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Thanks! Your post is full of just the kind of information I wanted. I appreciate your help.

Do you use these plastic hive frames?


    Bookmark   June 24, 2009 at 1:39PM
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Konrad___far_north(3..just outside of Edmonton)

I use them


    Bookmark   June 26, 2009 at 2:03AM
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Aren't they beautiful?!

    Bookmark   June 26, 2009 at 1:46PM
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