Harvesting Equipment for Top-Bar Beehives

By Howland Blackiston, Unknown

Harvesting honey out of top‐bar hives (such as a Kenyan or Warre hives) involves a different approach. You don’t use an uncapping knife and an extractor, because you don’t have durable four‐sided wooden frames that will stand up to the centrifugal force of an extractor. Instead, you can cut the capped honey comb (wax and all) from the top bars and find a way of packaging these sections of comb.

It’s a sticky, messy job. More likely, you want to extract the liquid honey from the comb using a honey press. The comb is cut off the top bars and put into the press. Any debris is strained out (as with the traditional extraction techniques), and the honey is then bottled.

When using a honey press, the honey combs from the top bars are packed in a filter cloth and squeezed under high pressure by means of a screw ­mechanism.

[Credit: Courtesy of Swienty Beekeeping]

Credit: Courtesy of Swienty Beekeeping

If you are familiar with an apple cider press, this uses similar equipment and a similar process. Honey presses are not that easy to find, and they can be expensive. You are more likely to find honey presses from suppliers in Europe, where they are more commonly used. But if you are clever at building things, the Internet will turn up an array of plans for making your own.

When using the pressing method, you destroy the comb. The bees will have to take the time to build new wax comb on the top bars before they can store more honey. This crushing or pressing method sets honey production back a bit for the next season. That’s one of the disadvantages of top‐bar honey harvesting.