Beekeeping,  Honey

How to Use a Honey Extractor

It’s what beekeepers look forward to all year – harvesting honey.  If you have top bar hives, you will use the crush and strain method.  But if you have Langstroth hives, you probably want to use a honey extractor. 

Honey extractors spin the frames and comb, using centrifugal force to remove the honey from the comb. The honey then collects at the bottom of the extractor’s drum.  The drum has a tap that drains the honey into a container of your choice.

Using a honey extractor is a huge time saver, as several frames can be spun at once.  Another benefit of using a honey extractor is that the wax and comb are left intact. That means that they can be returned to the bees to be used again. 

Read on to learn how to use a honey extractor and how long to spin a honey extractor. 

Types of Honey Extractors

The 2 types of honey extractors are tangential and radial.  These extractors can also be manual or electric. 

Tangential Extractor

Tangential extractors remove honey from one side of the frame at a time. A 50-100-50 formula is used when using this type of extractor.  First, harvest 50% of the honey from one side of the frames. Flip the frames and harvest 100% of the honey.  Then, flip the frames back and remove the remaining 50% of honey. 

This is done to ensure the weight remains balanced.  Tangential extractors make the harvesting process take longer, but the advantage is that the comb stays better protected.  

Radial Extractor

Radial extractors remove honey from both sides of the frame at the same time.  Commercial beekeepers and people with a lot of hives prefer radial extractors because they are quick and efficient. 

Manual or Electric

Manual Honey Extractor

The power source of a honey extractor can be manual or electric.  

Manual extractors are also called hand crank extractors because that is how they are powered. The beekeeper uses a crank to manually spin the frames. 

While manual extractors do require a bit of elbow grease, the advantage is that they can be used in places that do not have electricity.  The drawback is that manual extractors are slower than electric ones. 

Electric extractors are motorized, so the beekeeper simply needs to turn it on.  It is the preferred honey extractor for beekeepers with a lot of hives because it can quickly harvest a large amount of honey with little effort.  

How to Use a Honey Extractor

Learning how to use a honey extractor is a pretty straight forward process. 

  1. Remove capped frames from the supers. 
  2. Use an uncapping knife to uncap the cells.
  3. Place the frames vertically into the honey extractor.  Make sure they are properly held in place.
  4. Close the extractor.
  5. For electric extractors, flip the switch to turn it on.  For manual extractors, use the hand crank to spin the extractor. 
  6. After 10 minutes, turn off the extractor and check on the frames. All of the honey should be harvested at this point. 
  7. Remove the honey from the extractor via the tap. At this point you want to strain your honey for any bits of wax or debris.

How Long to Spin a Honey Extractor

It is important to spin the extractor for the right amount of time. Too little and all of the honey will not be removed.  Spin it too much and you risk the chance of the combs being damaged.  

Many beekeepers have different opinions on how long to spin a honey extractor. But the general consensus is that you should spin a honey extractor for anywhere between 5-10 minutes.  

There are few things that affect how long you need to spin. The speed of the extractor, temperature and thickness of the honey need to be taken into account. It isn’t recommended to harvest cold honey, as warm honey flows better and allows the machine to run smoother.  


The 2 types of honey extractors are tangential and radial.  To use a honey extractor, place the frames into the drum and spin it by turning it on or using the hand crank.  In general you should spin a honey extractor for 5 – 10 minutes, but that can vary.