I will show you how you can make a two-bucket honey strainer system to filter honey from natural honey comb. You will be able to completely strain your honey comb of wax and debris. In addition, with the use of a honey gate, you can pour clean honey directly into jars.
Gone are the days of the centrifugal extractor, if you are a beekeeper allowing your bees to make their own natural foundation instead of processed stamped wax or plastic comb.
I stopped using factory-made foundation in my Langstroth hives (top bar hives don’t use it) to control varroa mites and small hive beetles. By allowing my bees to make naturally-sized comb, there is less room for pests to enter the brood chamber.
Another plus, is the constant recycling of wax comb. Often pest, like nosema, and toxic build up from pesticides can reside in old comb.
What you will need:
- two, food-grade quality 5-gallon buckets with lids
- bungee cord
- 5-gallon paint strainer netting
- utility knife
- hole saw
- honey gate
You can obtain food-grade quality, 5-gallon buckets from restaurants or grocery stores. Sometimes you can also find these at animal feed supply or home brewery stores. Check the bottom on the outside of the bucket for the recycle symbol number to ensure it is food grade quality. Look for the number 2 for the best quality food grade plastic. As a general rule, 1, 4, and 5 are also food grade and safe to use. KTA in Hilo, HI often has these buckets cleaned and ready for resale in their store.
For the bottom bucket, you will need to buy a honey gate or honey tap. These are threaded plastic or nylon pour spouts with covers made specifically for honey or food use. They have stainless steel hardware and O-rings to prevent leaks. You can purchase these online at Amazon.com or through beekeeping supply stores.
Measure the circumference of your honey gate and use an appropriately sized hole saw. Hole saws can be found at any hardware store.
They will fit on a regular hand held drill, similar to attaching a regular drill bit. Before you start cutting, make sure that you give enough clearance from the bottom of the bucket to attach the plastic nut on the inside. Too low and you’ll be needing a second-try bucket. Drill slowly to cut a nice clean hole.
Clean off any burr plastic and insert honey gate.
Next, you will need to cut out a large circle in the middle of one of the bucket’s lids. You can outline or eyeball a circle to cut out. Use a utility knife to cut the circle out. Leave enough plastic to support the weight of a 5-gallon bucket with honey comb on top. The hole should also be large enough to allow the honey to drain down from the top into the bottom bucket.
The bottom bucket will be the bucket all your yummy honey drains into. The honey gate will allow for easy pouring and jarring of your honey. Just make sure the gate is on nice and tight before you start adding honey comb to the top bucket. Once you have the lid and the honey gate completed, you are ready to start working on your top bucket.
The top bucket will need to have holes drilled into the bottom similar to a colander. The holes should be large enough for the honey to drain through easily. It might be tempting to drill from the outside bottom in, but it will be easier to clean up if you drill the holes from inside the bucket out. Little plastic burrs will stick out from each hole and it’s easier to use the utility knife to cut them off from the outside. Any burr plastic on the inside can tear nylon strainer bags.
After the holes are made and cleaned of burrs, you can add the nylon paint strainer bag. You can reuse these by hand washing and shaking off bits of wax. Use the bungee cord, on the outside of the bucket, to hold the nylon bag in place.
This bucket will rest on the bottom bucket with the honey gate. I take my buckets with me when harvesting comb. By the time I’m finished harvesting, I could easily have one gallon of honey strained already.
Usually, I like to have two sets; one for sealed honey comb and one for nectar. Each top bucket should also have a lid to keep the bees and bugs out of the comb.
Fill your top bucket (with the paint strainer) with cut honey comb. They can get mighty heavy, so be careful not to overfill. Always check your honey gate to ensure it’s on tight.
You can either mash it as you put it in or mash it later when it’s all full. I use a poi pounder but you can use a wooden bar from a top bar hive or a kitchen potato masher. The newer the comb, the easier it is to mash.
It can take a few days to a week for the honey to drain from the comb. You can pour out clean, wax-free honey from the honey gate along the way.
If you want to store directly into a 5-gallon bucket you can use one with or without a honey gate.
After the honey is drained, you can remove wax from the paint strainer bag for processing. I use a homemade solar wax melter. Which is basically an old Langstroth box fitted with a tilted aluminum pan with holes at the bottom to drain wax into a catch underneath. A tempered piece of glass is placed on top.
Well, that’s all there is to it. The entire 2-bucket system can cost about $20 or less and will take an hour or two to put together. Happy beekeeping!