A device, with which Hruschka demostrated the centrifugal force influence on the uncapped honey comb on the 14th Conference of German and Austrian beekeepers in Brno. Original ownership – ZUVM

During the second half of his army service Hruschka–as a marine officer–shortly lived in Pula, Italy, and later in Venezia. As an army officer he could hardly do any beekeeping, and–on the top of it–Venezia was probably not the best place to keep the bees. Though he did have several hives here later on in seventies. It's therefore highly probable that he did the beekeeping in a bigger scope during his stay in Legnago. His daughter Marie mentions they have had bees in Legnago. Hruschka himself says that since 1863 and 1864 he was holding the educative courses on his beekeeping farm, both theoretical and practical. Comizio Agrario di Legnago a couple of years later still credits Hruschka for the Legnago area beekeeping progress. Hruschka's letter to Eichstaett beekeepers news dated on 28th October 1867 reads: "Within the last twelve years only once we had a season like this..." This indicates the year of 1856 to be the Hruschka's beekeeping start point. So by the time of the honey extractor invention Hruschka was keeping bees for about ten years. Hruschka's beefarm advertisement from 1870 offers qeen bees "with beautifull and mild mannered bees, guaranteed by 12 year long selection process." This indicates Hruschka was doing the bee breeding since1858. He studied intensively as well, he himself said he subscribed for some 12 to 14 beekeeping magazines. To sum it up, it's clear Hruschka at the time of his honey extractor invention was no beginner to the beekeeping. Though his public activities were limited to the nearby neighbourhood only. No wonder that our Vcelar (Beekeeper magazine) writes in 1868 about Hruschka as "an unknown to the beekeeping public."


We can't date exactly when Hruschka came up with an idea of the honey extractor. We know for sure he did the honey harvest in 1864 by crushing the honeycombs and straining the honey. His article from 1st July 1865 published in Eichstaett beekeeper news gives the other beekeepers an advice how exactly to do the crushing, namely cut the cells up to the honeycomb base. Quote: "These honeycombs can be easily cut as they are only 9 inches (= 24 cm) long and 6 inches (= 16 cm) wide. I hang them on the rack, and having access from both sides I cut the cells filled with honey down to the honeycomb base. The base itself is hardly ever damaged. I use a bended knife for it, it looks similar to the trowel. Cutted pieces fall down onto the strainer and the honey then flows further down to the container underneath." The article may be written in May or June 1865 and Hruschka describes this method of honey harvest in it. And in September of the very same year Hruschka announces his invention on the Brno beekeepers conference. Given the facts that during the conference the first honey extractor was already beeing constructed by Bollinger Manufacturer in Vienna and that the journey from Venezia to Brno had to take a couple of days at that time, we conclude that Hruschka came with the honey extractor principle sometime in July or August 1865. The professional literature often concludes that Hruschka was enlighted to the honey extractor idea by the boy, to whom he gave a piece of honeycomb in a basket. The boy was defending himself from the attacking bees and was turning the basket around his head and when he got home, the honeycomb was empty. Mr. J. Dennler's private letter confirms that this version was already known on the Salzburg beekeepers conference (1872). I think though that this explanation only came ex post and was inspired by the device Hruschka was using to demonstrate the honey extractor principle on Brno conference.

Thanks to the Hruschka's article in Eichstaett news we know that already before the invention Hruschka was well aware of the centrifuging machines introduced at that time in sugar refineries. There is plenty of honey supply in Italy—the article reads—but the demand is very small. It tries to solve the issue if it's possible to turn honey into a solid substance like sugar is. Quote: "Thus I kindly ask the experts in this paper whether an attempt was done to turn honey into sugar, and whether such a change is beneficial. The centrifugal machines are now introduced in sugar refineries, as to filter the gummy particles from molasses and to gain the pure, white sugar. Couldn't we use the same machine here as well?"

The question probably stayed unanswered. We can easily imagine Hruschka himself tries to thicken honey and in the process he invents the honey extractor. We know he was gifted mechanic as his talent was awarded in his qualification papers. Mr. Ciesielski indirectly confirms this when he challenges the Hruschka's invention as "being his own, proven by his own experiments," given that shortly before the invention announcement on Brno conference Hruschka was writing about the centrifugal machines in sugar refineries. We think Mr. Ciesielski is a bit wrong here; Hruschka never claimed he invented the centrifugal machines. But there is no doubt that it was Hruschka who came with an idea of the usage of the centrifugal force for gaining honey.


The first time Hruschka announced the honey extractor invention in front of wider public was on the 14th German and Austrian beekeepers conference in Brno held on 12th to 14th September 1865. He was enrolled as "Edler von, k.k. Platzmajor aus Legnago in Venetien".

He told the basic idea of the invention a day before the conference started to a few beekeeper colleagues. The news spread around the other beekeepers the very same evening. Hruschka's lecture was scheduled for the second conference day.

The chair of the conference, Mr. Cyril Frantisek Napp, the Brno Augistinian monastery abbot, asks shortly after that that Mr. Hruschka demonstrates the invention to the assembled beekeepers. Major Hruschka comes to the speaker stand, he receives a tumultuous welcome from the audience and says: "Gentlemen, I am honored to show you the thing we dealt with for long time, namely a new way to gain honey from the honeycombs without their destruction. The whole thing reminds the Columbus egg, and can be summarized by a couple of words: Let's use the centrifugal force. We can easily demonstrate it in a small scale if we repeat the experiment which lead me to the idea. Let's attach the device with a small piece of the uncapped honeycomb to the string, turn it round and see how easily the honey separates from the honeycomb.

Using this principle I have built a machine, which gives very satisfactory results and which guarantees extra benefits with respect to the honey quality as well as the harvest speed, especially for the larger honey quantities. On the top of it is saves the valuable honeycombs undestructed.

Let me describe the machine shortly. Let's imagine the horizontal disk with a mechanism similar to the mechanism of the water mill wheel. There are eight wooden posts on the edge of the disk, on them there is attached a wired netting thus shaping the regular octagon. If we hang the uncapped honeycombs on the wooden posts inside of the octagon and spin the disk at the speed at least 6 times per second, the honeycombs drain completely within a minute or two. The honey is caught on the walls of the cylinder shaped drum and flows into the container under the machine by two draining holes.

A single worker can process some 8 to 12 quintals of uncapped honeycombs per day on this machine, the honeycombs are cleaned by the centrifugal force so perfectly they are absolutely dry. The honey gained by this method is much more pure then the honey gained by other methods. It's not contaminated by pollen nor any other pieces and as such gains the durability. It's important to work at the temperatures at least 20° Celsius, otherwise—at the lower temperatures—the honey is too stiff and honeycombs—especially the virgin ones—too fragile.

I've got a smaller device here, not of much use for practice, which I've brought only to demonstrate the basic idea, should the congress wish."

To comply to the general wish of the attendees major Hruschka put a bit of an uncapped honeycomb to the device looking like a drainer closed by a cap at the bottom and hanging on three strings at the top; he spun the device and after few minutes the assembled beekeepers could enjoy the view on the pure honey pouring from the drainer into the glass. The cells were completely dry and the honeycomb undestructed.

One can not describe the cheer of the whole assembly; the inventor is praised indefinitely by everybody. When the cheer got a bit quiet, he continued: "I've got just a few words to add. The big machine to process 8 to 12 quintals per day can be used even by the small beekeepers, though it won't be economical. It's possible to lower the machine performance while using the same basic idea; I've build smaller machines for one, two or four honeycombs, using the horizontal or vertical rotation with different mechanical assembly and I've got the same results. I'll write an article about these for our newspaper very soon."

Everybody was excited by the extraordinary result of the simple experiment which major Hruschka shown in front of the congress participants and which every beekeeper could replay. The whole assembly was like electrified and enthusiastically applauded.

Then the chairman Mr. Napp continued: "Gentlemen, the problem we've tried to solve for so long and vainly, was greatly deciphered. The invention has a tremendous meaning to our beekeeping practice; and it makes the movable honeycomb frame invention of our grand master Mr. Dzierzon even more important and valuable. Speaking from the hearts of everybody here I thank heartily to Mr. Hruschka for this wonderfull invention he just shown unselfishly to us and thus to the whole beekeeping public."

The chairman hugs the brave soldier, the son of Mars, whose chest is decorated by military honors and who succeeded on the field of apiary so bravely and greatly. The whole assembly joined this praise calling "bravo" and three times excited "glory".


As we can read from the conference records Hruschka demonstrated the centrifugal force on the uncapped honeycomb by using a special funnel like device. As per the private communication of Mr. Josef Matzenauer Hruschka had at least three such devices of different sizes.

He donated one of them to the Moravosilesian economic association, the Beekeeping section. The annual record from 1865 reads: "6. from Mr. Frantisek Hruschka, c. k. local major in Legnago in Venezia area, the funnel device used on the 14th German beekeepers conference in Brno to demonstrate the honey extraction by the centrifugal forces." The inventory list from the same year values this device "used for honey harvesting from the honeycombs without their destruction" for 1 Gulden and 50 Kreuzers. The historical device Mr. Hruschka used on the memorable Brno conference is nowadays stored in the Beekeepers association museum in Brno. It was later again described by monsignor Adamec in "Moravian Bee" magazine. There is no doubt about the identity of the device, as today's Beekeepers association museum is a direct successor of the Moravosilesian economic association, the Beekeeping section.

A device, with which Hruschka demostrated the centrifugal force influence on the uncapped honey comb on the 14th Conference of German and Austrian beekeepers in Brno. Original ownership – ZUVM

There were two very similar models stored in the Beekeeping museum in Vienna. As per the communication of Mr. Josef Matzenauer the first one came from the former Reich Beekeepers Association museum at Vienna, the second one then from the private owner Mr. A. Gatter, who inherited it from his father and dedicated it to the museum. Unfortunately both models were destroyed together with other invaluable things during the museum fire on 18th September 1937.

Both Vienna models had a shape of the quadrilateral funnel. The low prism continues with a quadrilateral pyramid which continues with a bended tube closed by the cap. The smaller model had the prism base 21.5 cm, the hight was 7 cm. The pyramid part is 13 cm tall and the edges are 19 cm long. The bigger model had the prism base 31.5 cm long and the prism hight is 7 cm. The pyramid is 10 cm tall and its edges are 20 cm long. A dense wire netting is attached to the middle of the prism part of both models. We lay the uncapped honeycomb onto the netting during the extraction. Both models have a solid iron handle with a noose in the middle. We can attach a rope to the noose and spin the device—thus the extracted honey flows to the pyramid part of the model, and can be drained by the tube.

Man powered honey extractors stored in the Viena beekeeping museum. Photo by J. Stummvoll

It shall be mentioned Mr. Hruschka manufactured this type of hand operated honey extractors later on after the Brno conference. For example he had them on display during the Milano exhibition in 1868.

Man powered honey extractors stored in the Viena beekeeping museum. Photo by J. Stummvoll

A description and a picture of the hand operated honey extractor was published by Mr. Gaetano Barbo as well. The only difference to the Vienna models is that the prism base is not a square, but a rectangle 31 x 23 cm. The prism is 6 cm tall and is covered by a tight-fitting lid.

Dimensions of the smaller device, by J. Matzenauer
Dimensions of the bigger device, by J. Matzenauer
Gaetano Barbo

The Hruschka's honey extractor itself was not build yet at the time of the Brno conference. That's why Hruschka only brought with him drawings, with which the Bollinger manufacturer in Vienna was building the machine. The original Hruschka's drawings were published in the first issue of Eichstaett beekeepers news in 1866 (pict. 5 and 6) and were thus preserved. The drawings show us the machine was attached to a massive three feet (95 cm) high table. The basic part of the machine was a horizontal disk, the size of which was determined by the number of honeycombs to be processed at the same time and by the length of their top bars. The original honey extractor was built for eight honeycombs and for 12 inches (32 cm) long top bars. There were eight wooden posts attached to the edge of the disk, the height of which was given by the honeycomb height (12 inches for the original machine). The wired netting of the cells size 1/8 inch (3 mm) was attached to the outer side of the wooden posts, thus forming the octagonal. The whole machine was covered by the iron sheathing. Top ends of the wooden posts were attached by a strong wire to the rotational shaft. The toroidal container was attached to the top side of the table under the horizontal disk and was catching the honey flowing down from the iron sheathing. The sheathing and the toroidal container were split by a partition into two halves. Each of them had a separate draining via their own groove.

Hruschka's honey extractor viewed from the top, By Eichst. Bztg. 1866
Hruschka's honey extractor viewed from the side. By Eichst. Bztg. 1866

The disk rotated on the vertical shaft, the top steel pin of which was attached to the iron frame holding the whole machine, the bottom one was attached to the iron plate fixed to the table. The bottom pin had a horizontal conical teeth cogwheel attached to it. A horizontal shaft was mounted under the table, one end with a handle the other with conical teeth cogwheel linked to the horizontal cogwheel of the vertical shaft, thus getting the whole mechanism into the rotation. The original machine cogwheels ratio was 1:3. A special lever could detach the horizontal shaft, so that the cogwheels were not linked and the machine could rotate by its own inertia. This lever position is marked on pict. 16 by the dotted line. There was a protection screen between the machine and the handle, so that the person operating the honey extractor was not sprinkled by honey.

The machine stability was increased by the weight laid on the bottom desk of the table. The whole machine was 6 feet 4 inches (2 m) long, 4 feet 5 inches (1.40 m) wide and 4 to 5 feet (1.26 to 1.58 m) tall. It was very heavy and not easily portable.


After the Brno conference Hruschka fulfills his promise; he leaves Brno for Vienna Bollinger manufacturer, which worked on the construction of the honey extrator as per the drawings shown on the conference.

He sends a letter to the Eichstaett beekeepers news on 24th September, which was published already in 19/20 issue from 15th October 1865. It is the first news about the honey extractor in papers ever. The literal translation of the Hruschka's letter reads: "Announcement. To all my dear friends to whom I've promised on the 14th Brno conference that I'll order my properly built honey extractor, which I was in effigy in Brno displaying, I announce warmly that during my stay in Vienna in my presence was the similar machine built by the S. Bollinger manufacturer, c.k. court machinary in Leopoldov, Franzensbruecken-straβe No. 13, for eight honeycombs of any size, exactly concordant with my machine and it was by me tested as well. Dear Messrs beekeepers can save time and contact the aforementioned manufacturer directly, as it obliged itself to build the machines and ship them at the production cost, alternatively they can renew their already closed orders. The prices as calculated by the manufacturer are:

  • The big machine for eight honeycombs processing 400 to 600 pounds of honey daily
  • with the wooden stand – 72 Guldens
  • without the wooden stand – 66 Guldens
  • The middle size machine processing 80 to 100 pounds of honey daily – 45 Guldens
  • The small machine for bits of honeycombs size 5 inches – 12 Guldens"

It appears Hruschka didn't come home to Legnago from Vienna at all, as on 20th October 1865 he's back in Brno to test his invention in front of the test committee. In Brno however the first poison drop dripped into the cup of sweets: the commissional examination didn't succeed, the test failed.

The protocol of commissional examination of the honey extractor as recorded by Mr. Zivansky reads:

"15. The test of the machine to extract honey invented by Mr. major Hruschka.

As for the device to extract honey invented by Mr. major Hruschka and displayed on 20th October in the museum meeting room the chairman said: This invention is greatly important.

a) The beekeepers will be able to extract honey from the full honeycombs by the cold processing method and re-use the honeycombs in the hives again; it was not possible as of now as hot processing method dissolved the honeycombs as well. And everybody knows it's so important to have emply honeycombs handy.

b) It will enable to get honey without any wax adulterants and with its original fragrance. As of now we could sell the lime, maple, acacia, sulla etc. honey only in the honeycombs, the hot processing method caused the loss of the fragrance and the resulting honey from all kinds of flowers was same, with no fragnance. Also the healing practices will gain by this device, as it will enable to serve the patients the lime, acacia and other substances in a form of honey as well.

c) Who ever is used to handle swarms and kill them by sulfur to do the undercut, will be better off with this device, as the honey will keep its fragrance and he can sell it for better price, regardless whether or not he minds the honeycombs re-use. He won't have to haphazardly mess the capped and uncapped honeycombs with honey and with the brood together and will come off better this way. The buyer will trust the honey of these beekeepers better and will be able to use it to feed the bees without being afraid of the foulbrood.

However the device as we've seen it on 20th October and the test done by the inventor don't encourage us to promote its purchase. At first it's very big, massive and thus very expensive. Not even the biggest beekeepers are going to spend 72 Guldens for it easily. As well—the stand has to be massive and heavy, and thus the whole thing can hardly be moved from place to place. Beekeeping is as will be a hobby entertainment for less wealthy and they seek for the inexpensive and portable devices.

At second the machine emptied four honeycombs of various age very imperfectly, the honeycombs were ripped up and damaged and of no future use. The whole test indicated its the very first test, as many things would be assembled better or differently if it was tested before. However the idea used by the machine and the mechanical laws on which it's based indicate that—after some adjustments—it should fulfill its task.

As for now we must pardon the inventor and manufacturer eagerness, as he slightly too early stepped up with the imperfect machine. Don't let the gentlemen stop the effort, nor skim the money and time for experiments and fixes and without any doubts they'll do a magnificent work the beekeepers community will benefit the same as it does from the work of immortal Mr. Dzierzon.

When the machine is improved and ready for sale, we will have to issue a manual for its usage, so it's clear when to process the honeycombs taken from the hives and what their temperature is to be; how to handle the old and newer honeycombs etc. When this is done the committee will surely inform the members of the beekeeping association."

Disappointed by the failed test Hruschka probably leaves directly for home in Legnago, where he faced new worries, as he got retired in meantime.