So, let’s talk about the outcome. Is there a place for the heatgun in beekeeping? That is a resounding YES. Is it good, great, or fantastic at uncapping the honey frames? In our view, it is not. It works OK at the best of times, and only on very specific frames, where tiny air pockets exist in between the honey and the wax capping itself. In absence of such air pocket, the wax did not pop open or melt at all. It simply heated the wax, heated the honey (which is what you want to avoid if possible – although the hot knife also heats it, so the comparison is on par for both methods), and then the wax hardened again, thus sealing the #raw honey inside the cup/cell again, never to be extracted unless further uncapping process, such as the use of an uncapping fork is used.
There is a valid argument for the use of #heat gun for the uncapping process in that it reduces the need for beeswax cappings processing. This does take considerable time if you choose to harvest the cappings, strain them (to reduce loss of your honey harvest), then wash, clean, melt, filter, and refine a few times to produce a product ready for further utilisation or sale to the many beeswax dependent industries, such as cosmetics and candle making. You can watch our 3 part video series where we cover the beeswax processing for small home based quantities:
However, the amount of beeswax
that is left behind on the frame itself is substantial as it is not removed by the knife, leaving a mess on the comb itself. It also leaves the frame dirty and uneven. The hot knife tends to level the comb nicely to maintain a healthy bee space in between your frames and the comb is nice and straight to pull in and out of the hive as required during the hive inspections and honey harvests if done on a frame by frame basis. Then there is the much reduced efficiency of honey extraction to take into consideration. All beekeepers
are aware of the hard labour that it takes to go to their apiary location, open the hives, inspect, collect the frames, transport back to the processing sheds, extracting the honey/beeswax and by-products, and so on. Then the trip back, re-deploy the honey supers and frames. The work is immense. Now if you use the heat gun, the yield is almost ¼ or more less than it otherwise would be using the more traditional, tried and tested methods. So yes, the honey and wax are returned to the hive, so nothing is essentially wasted (unless you are going into winter, in which case there is a problem with so much honey retained inside your frames, but that is a separate issue), but all that means, is that you will have to make the next visit much sooner, and extract on a more frequent basis as the bees will fill the frames much faster – obviously… as they are half full already.
If you choose to use the uncapping fork, then the uncapping time taken per side of the frame is about the same and the hot knife, AND THEN you have to deal with the tiny amounts of the uncapped beeswax
anyway. Get all your gear dirty, get the strainer out, get the beeswax washed, dried, processed, filtered, and poured into molds anyway.
Lastly, you don’t have the by-product that can also bring in more revenue, or save on further costs by reusing your own beeswax for foundation if that is how you choose to assemble your honey frames
To conclude, this little experiment was fun and interesting to do. It was certainly exciting at first to see all the beeswax cappings just pop almost instantaneously, and one would be forgiven for thinking they found a holy grail in the time consuming uncapping process, BUT… once the entire process was completed, it was clear that it was just that. A mirage, a fun experiment, and one that we will probably only undertake to show and teach others about the pros and cons in our educational courses
We hope you found this 2 part HOT knife vs HEAT gun
series educational, interesting and that we provided you with an unbiased objective perspective on the issue. We appreciate your support and trust we can see you come back regularly to check out our weekly video updates. We value your feedback and invite you to SUBSCRIBE
. Enjoy your beekeeping!
Music composed, performed and provided by Groovey – Adam Kubát a Pavel Křivák. You can visit their website on: http://www.groovey.cz/
Also, a big thank you goes to Train Robbin’Scoundrels for providing “their royalty free music “Murrow’s Boys”. We appreciate your kind contribution.