What Honey Harvest Looks Like for a Beginner.

We are beginning bee keepers. "Apiarists"is the technical, fancy term. We, however, are not fancy people especially when it comes to beekeeping. You'll see that in this post, and I am delighted to share all of the photo evidence with you. 

Honey harvest takes place in the late summer in the midwest, for us it was mid-August after the honey flow, but before all of the fall flowers are blooming. The main reason to harvest in August is to leave enough honey for the bees to sustain them over the winter. 

When it comes to harvest day, there is a little bit of preparation, like loading and lighting the smoker. This is an essential tool that we wouldn't dare be without when opening up our hives. 

 


Then, my dad gathered an empty honey super covered with a clean towel. When we pulled full frames of honey we placed them in this empty super and covered it with a towel to keep the bees out.


My dad has 4 hives and John and I have 2 hives. These are two of my dads, which he'll be relocating a few feet next year. They're located in a sunny spot, almost too sunny.


Since these two hives are brand new this year, we didn't harvest any honey from them. There are a few frames that have bare foundation (the black piece you see below).


Many of the frames are full of comb, brood, or capped honey. The frame you see below has comb drawn on it, and will eventually be filled with honey. This honey is likely going to be very dark and like molasses in flavor because of all the fall flowers blooming.



It can be intimidating at first to open up a hive and see all of the bees staring back at you.


My dad and I have a good system in place and work our bees calmly and slowly. We wear all of the protective gear and take our time.


We smoke the bees before and during hive inspections and at harvest. At harvest we use less smoke as to not alter the flavor of the honey. The smoke prevents bees from communicating with each other and keeps them more docile.


My dad has a hive that is 2 years old this year, which is where we harvested all of our his honey. If you count the boxes in the photo below, the bottom two deeper boxes are 'brood' boxes. That's where the queen lays her eggs. A little bit of honey is down in those boxes, but not a lot. The top two shallow boxes are 'honey supers'. The queen isn't allowed up there (thanks to a 'queen excluder') - only the worker bees who fill the comb up with honey.


We inspected each of the supers, and found the top super to be nearly full!


The bottom super was also full, but we left that for the bees to consume over winter. There's nothing more discouraging than harvesting too much honey, and therefore starving your bees.


This is a full frame of capped honey:


We used a bee brush to gently brush the bees from the frame of honey, then placed them in an empty super and covered it with a towel.


After we had all of our frames pulled from the hives, we closed up the garage and began extracting the honey.


My dad has a 2-frame extractor that makes the job much easier:


We used a heat gun and a fillet knife for uncapping the honey, although I think next year we'll invest in a special uncapping heat knife to make the process smoother.


From the small number of frames we harvested from one of my dad's hives, we yielded 8 quarts of honey. One quart went to my sister, one to my brother, one to John and I, and my parents kept the rest.


They're really generous and are sharing with friends and family. Next year when my hives and my dad's new hives are a little stronger we will likely have triple this amount of honey.


Are you a beekeeper? Tell me about your honey harvest. 



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1 comment:

  1. This is our first year with bees and we opted for the non-traditional warre hives. My hive was very successful, one we lost and one is doing ok. We won't haevest honey this year either. In order to try and keep them over winter.

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