What is a decapping knife?
A decapping knife is used to remove the wax layer that the bees cover their honey with. An electric decapping knife usually has a thermostat inside that heats the knife blade, and makes it easier to melt/cut through the cappings.
Do I need one?
No not really, if you do have a honey extractor spinner then you could use a large bread knife, that has been soaking in hot water. This will melt the cappings off. Be sure to wipe away the excess water before you use the knife, you don’t want to add water to your honey. Water in your honey can cause it to ferment. If you are not making mead, this is undesirable.
What the alternatives
Olivia at the Auckland bee club uses a small gas torch to melt off the cappings, she has great success with this method.
You can also use the crush and strain method, where you scrape the honey and wax off the frames. This is then crushed using a press and is left to strain. The honey will naturally drip out over time. If you don’t have a press then you and use a fork and large bowl.
Some people argue that this is wasteful as next season the bees have to start again and rebuild all the foundation. So this may result is less honey next season. But we know of at least one commercial beekeeper who employs a similar method and doesn’t have any production issues.
Personally we don’t use this method, as why make the bees rebuild the comb every season.
What do you use to extract your honey?
We have a two frame spinner and we use a powered decapping knife, we find this makes the process much easier. We use a strainer to filter out the honey from the cappings, and then extract the resulting wax using our wax extractor.
Do you think a decapping knife is an essential item?
For people getting started I would say no, sure it’s a useful tool. But it’s not an essential item for a beginner beekeeper. You would be better of spending that money on ways to reduce varroa mites or moisture in your hives.
How are you planning to extract your honey this season?