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Bee center filling up, honey extractor moves in

A honey extractor rests on a trailer.
The WSU honey bee program's honey extractor is a large piece of machinery that separates honey from the honey combs.

Delicious honey will soon be made at Washington State University’s Honey Bee & Pollinator Research, Extension, and Education Facility in Othello after a large equipment move.

The WSU honey bee program is still moving equipment and materials from the Pullman campus to the Othello location, the latest being the honey extractor. It’s a large piece of machinery that separates honey from the honey combs.

“It took a lot of work getting it disconnected and loaded up,”said Brandon Hopkins, assistant research professor in WSU’s Department of Entomology. 

The machinery was disassembled and loaded onto a wooden structure to support the weight after the bolts were removed, and was loaded onto a large trailer for the two-hour journey west. It’s currently unloaded from the trailer, but not installed in Othello.

“We still have to make some decisions,” Hopkins said. “We’ll ideally cut a giant hole in the concrete to install a heated pump. We never had that in the original location, and it’s a standard piece of equipment for honey extraction. It will definitely make the process easier for us when we’re collecting honey next summer.”

He hopes to have everything in place by the time the team needs to extract honey in June or July of 2022. The team moved the equipment after they finished bottling the 2021 honey.

The honey is extracted once or twice a year, when the bees fill boxes of honey comb. The team leaves a percentage for the bees, but removes the rectangular frames of honeycombs. Those frames are spun at high speeds in a centrifuge, with the honey collected. The new heated sump will allow gravity to do more of the work, as the honey is pumped higher to filter out impurities.

The new building has more space and is closer to a large population of WSU bees and important pollination dependent agriculture. The team has around 200 hives around Othello. The extractor will have its own space and won’t get in the way of other experiments and work being done, as it did in the previous location.

The honey is sold online and at Ferdinand’s on the WSU Pullman campus. Money raised from sales go back into the bee program, allowing students to work as they learn about bees and funding the infrastructure that allows research to happen.

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