If you are a beekeeper or getting into beekeeping, I can understand why. Beekeeping is such a rewarding occupation or hobby, and it’s fun! Either way, all beekeepers get a lot of up close and personal time with our gear, especially cleaning it.
A honey extractor is one of the most expensive individual pieces of equipment a beekeeper is likely to buy. It doesn’t matter if you buy your extractor or borrow from an association. Cleaning the extractor directly before and after use is crucial because it could cause diseases to spread from hive to hive.
The equipment and gear you use for beekeeping can be quite an investment. So taking a few moments to clean and care for it correctly should definitely make the list of priorities, especially when it comes to cleaning your honey extractor!
Why Clean Your Honey Extractor After Each Use?
Every beekeeper should understand that proper cleaning and maintenance of any beekeeping equipment guarantees a good service and extends its overall life. Your honey extractor is particularly delicate since that is the last place the honey leaves before it can be bottled for consumption. It, therefore, has to be properly clean and free from any dirt or contaminators.
Some beekeepers and beekeeping companies advise that this delicate equipment should be left out after use so that the bees will be able to indulge in what is left, but this is bad advice. Doing this will increase the possibility of spreading bee diseases. The safest way of handling the extractor after each use is with the proper cleaning and storage methods.
If you do not clean your honey extractor with every use, it could not just spread harmful diseases to your bees, but several bugs can and will get inside after smelling that sweet honey smell we all love dearly. This will make it even more difficult to clean afterward. In addition, the honey in your extractor will also gradually build up more and more, leaving you with a gooey mess and old, sticky honey.
How To Clean Your Honey Extractor: Step By Step
- Before starting the cleaning process, you should always ensure that the honey gate or valve is securely closed. Tilt your extractor at a steep angle so that the leftover honey will be able to flow towards the gate. Increase the temperature of the room containing your honey extractor and leave your extractor overnight.
- The following day you should find a relatively big amount of honey that has collected at the bottom of your extractor. Open the valve and collect the honey in a glass bottle or any other suitable container. You can use this for your home consumption!
- You will notice that wax and propolis will remain inside of the extractor. This has to be thoroughly cleaned. Following the exact same procedure, tilt your honey extractor on a steep angle so that what is collected will be directed to the honey gate. Correctly close the valve and fill your extractor with cold or cool water, and then leave it for the night. Be sure never to use hot water, as your honey will melt, and it would be almost impossible to clean your extractor correctly.
- The following day, you have to empty your extractor and rinse it using some more cool or cold water. You can then take any type of clean towel (it has to be 100% clean) and completely mop up the dregs.
- Ensure to keep the extractor bearings away from any source of water when cleaning if your extractor’s lower bearings are not covered by the extractor basket. You can decide to use plastic wrap to cover your bearings during the cleaning process to prevent the bearings from getting exposed to rusting successfully.
- After you are done with the cleaning process of your honey extractor, be sure to store your extractor in a clean and dry area with little to no exposure to moisture.
Correctly Maintaining Your Honey Extractor
Your honey extractor is specially designed to last for several years, but this will only be able to be achieved if your unit is well maintained. As aforementioned, you need to clean your extractor before and after each use.
Use a dry cloth to wipe your extractor after cleaning it, and always protect the bearings and gearbox from coming into contact with any source of water and moisture. Remember, the gearbox shaft and gearbox of your honey extractor itself do not require additional lubrication. Therefore, always refrain from putting oil or grease on these components of your honey extractor.
When it comes to your extractor’s bearings, those with a capacity of eight frames and above are normally already sealed, which means it needs no maintenance. This, of course, depends on the manufacturer.
In the case in which you suspect that your extractor’s bearings are not working as well as usual, never hesitate to contact the manufacturer. Never try to fix or tamper with them yourself if you are not familiar with these components, as you will certainly end up doing more harm than good.
In the case of smaller extractors, usually being those containing between two and four frames, generally do not require maintenance on the bearings. However, if you suspect any problems, always contact the manufacturer.
It is your duty as a beekeeper always to ensure the honey gate is kept in impeccable condition. Clean your extractor’s honey gate correctly and thoroughly after each use. Also, remember to adjust the pivot screws so that the valve will be able to move as required and that it will seal properly when fully closed.
The honey gate also does not require any kind of oil, wax, or lubrication. However, if you do desire to lubricate your honey gate, you should use a food-safe lubricant.
When cleaning your extractor, always avoid using hot water. The hot water will melt the residual wax and make it a lot more difficult to clean. The easiest way to clean your extractor would be to place your extractor in your garden late at night after your bees have stopped flying and then fill it with a hosepipe.
You can then leave your extractor full of water overnight and empty it early the following morning. You will notice almost all of the honey residues will have dissolved. You can then wipe out your extractor with a clean cloth and even dry it with something as simple as a hairdryer!
The proper cleaning and maintenance of your honey extractor will guarantee long-lasting and quality service. If you regularly clean your honey extractor, it will also help to ensure the honey being extracted is free from dirt and contamination.
You can simply hang your hairdryer inside your extractor for about half an hour on its lowest setting. By doing this and repositioning the hairdryer every five minutes, you will increase the heat flow and get into all the corners where there is honey left. The stainless steel drum of your extractor will warm up quickly, transmitting the heat all throughout the extractor.
By properly cleaning and maintaining your honey extractor will ultimately guarantee long-lasting and quality service. It will also help ensure that your extracted honey is free from dirt, pests, and other harmful contaminations.
In The Case Of Shared Honey Extractors
Because the honey extractor is probably the most expensive piece of beekeeping equipment any beekeeper can own, it is quite common that some beekeepers do not own their own honey extractor. This is not a big problem, as it is quite common. However, whether you are one of these beekeepers or are a beekeeper who lends out their extractor to other beekeepers, there are some things you need to know.
The spores are extremely resistant to heat, dryness, and many other chemicals, so a used honey extractor that is not thoroughly cleaned can easily spread spores to the next beekeeper. This, in itself, is not a danger to us as humans because the pathogen does not affect humans.
However, suppose you, as the beekeeper feed any of this contamnated honey to your bees. In that case, you could introduce the disease into a once healthy colony and run the risk of completely destroying it.
Like any other tool you can possibly think of, if you could use it for beekeeping, a used extractor has to be so much more than visually clean because the spores mentioned earlier are so small and well protected. The best treatment recommended by the best beekeepers globally is removing all debris followed by soaking in a solution of household bleach and water.
The knowledge of correctly cleaning shared honey extractors is of utmost importance. This is because unless the bleach used is in direct contact with the spores, it will not successfully kill them. It is also for this exact reason that bleach will not work on infected wooden products.
The spores are often well-protected between the wooden fibers. It, therefore, goes without saying that if you use a stronger bleach solution, your honey extractor will require less soaking time. However, it is also important to remember that a stronger bleach solution is evidently harsher on the extractor, especially the metal parts, and there are many of them!
Cleaning your extractor, especially if you share one with other beekeepers or rent one out, is all a balancing act! To sum it all up, if you share a honey extractor, the best thing you could possibly do is keep your honey for human consumption and do not feed any of it to your or anyone else’s bees.
There is no doubt that the most interesting and rewarding part of the beekeeping activity is, of course, the harvesting of your beautiful bees’ honey! Because of this exact reason, your honey extractor will always remain a very important and crucial tool used for extracting honey without damaging the combs. Therefore, when buying yourself an extractor, always go for quality!
I always recommend storing your bee equipment where it has plenty of shelter. Ensure that you at least store it in a building or barn. If you do not have any space for it yet, just make sure it has a waterproof tarp to protect it from the harsh elements. This will also help with the longevity of your equipment for sure.
I hope that this information will help you all to clean, maintain and protect your bee equipment to the best of your abilities! As said, your honey extractor is quite the investment, so it needs to be taken care of!