Uncapping our honey harvest is probably the most satisfying job on our farm. Watching that luxurious curl of wax that slices off the frame and rolls away revealing the smooth golden honey is one of life’s great pleasures.
There are several ways to uncap your honey frame. Whichever you choose, the end goal is to remove the wax cap from each individual cell so that the honey can be removed. The tools that I will talk about in this post are mostly used for frames that will be spun in a centrifugal honey extractor. I will list them from the most expensive to the least expensive and show the benefits and drawbacks to each.
The heated knife is just as it sounds. A long blunt edge knife that you plug in and electrically heats up. The blade is long enough to span the honey frame and it essentially melts the wax caps off.
-It leaves less wax to be filtered out in the end filter due to it’s clean cut.
-Allows the bees to clean up the hive easily
-Fast, which is important if you’re doing a lot of frames
-The most expensive of the methods
-You have to find a place to plug it in
So this is a new method to me. I just read about this while doing research for this post. A heat gun can be used to melt the wax caps off the honey. It only takes a second for the wax to shrivel and melt so it’s not a danger to your wooden frames. Starting with the lowest setting you wave the heat gun, quickly over the frame starting at about 10 inches away and moving closer if needed.
-Easy on the body as you don’t have to use force to scrape the cap away
-Some say it’s faster but I sort of feel like it took almost the same amount of time as the heated knife
-Any time you apply heat to honey it does lower the beneficial enzyme count. Now, the heat is only in contact with the honey for a short time so how much is it really affecting the honey quality? Probably very little.
-Not quite as complete as using other methods. As the wax melts it runs down the frame and blocks some of the cells. It’s also hard to get into the corners without melting a lot of wax
This method is also new to me. The capping roller is covered in small pins that pierce the wax cappings. It must be rolled several times in different directions to be sure all the caps are pierced.
-Very non-invasive to the frame so the bees can quickly recover the frame for more honey storage
-Very little wax is removed so your bees don’t have to replace a lot of wax
-It is time consuming
-You may miss cells due to the rolling nature
The cold knife is very similar to using an electric knife only you use a serrated back and forth motion to cut the caps rather than melting them.
-Does a clean job
-You don’t have to plug it in
-You can use a long serrated bread knife (Not having to buy a second tool)
-It takes a little longer than the electric version
-A little more manual strength is required
The uncapping fork is similar in looks to a hair pick. It has long wire-like teeth that slide under the wax caps and pick the wax off the honey cells.
-The least expensive tool
-Less intrusive with wax removal
-Allows you to get in corners and odd shaped comb
-Probably takes the longest to use