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What is a Decapping Knife?

A decapping knife in action

Well its the time of year in New Zealand to think about extracting the last of the summer honey, so here is an article that explains what a decapping knife is.

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.

Graham Crush and Straining

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?


Gary Fawcett

Gary enjoys designing new kiwimana products which we sell through our on-line shop.He is passionate about saving the Bees and encouraging urban beekeeping.Gary loves to write about issues that affect the Bees and our environment.He is also into tramping/walking in the beautiful New Zealand bush.
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4 thoughts on “What is a Decapping Knife?

  1. Great site, Kiwimana! “Good on ya, mate!”

    1. Thanks Karen for the comment, fantastic that you love the site. Be sure to subscribe to our mailing list, so you don’t miss out on any new posts…thanks…Gary

  2. Alternatively, use a cappings scratcher – designed for scratching the cappings off the bits you miss with an uncapping knife, there is nothing to stop you using it for the whole frame. The only drawback is when you do large numbers of frames, your strainer fills up with wax quickly and clogs up a bit. Cheap and easy to use though.

    1. Thanks for the feedback Paul, yes indeed that is a good idea indeed.

      You are correct about the increase of wax in the honey and it does make a mess of the frames as well.

      See ya…Gary

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