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Honey Harvesting from Your Own Beehives
There are many reasons to get involved in beekeeping. For many people the idea of harvesting honey from bees in your own hives is number 1. Of course, keeping honey bees has other rewards too. But the promise of fresh honey straight from the hive leads thousands of beekeepers to invest the time and money into a beekeeping project. Producing a good honey crop requires good planning-it doesn’t just happen.
Producing a good honey crop takes some time. In many regions, those of you who start new colonies from scratch may not get a honey harvest the first season. I know, I know – its difficult to wait a whole year.
However, your beekeeping adventure will not be successful unless your bees are able to survive Winter. In order to do that, they need to be strong and have plenty of food.
The amount of honey needed by the colony will vary greatly from one region to another. If you have to start over every year because your bees starve that’s not good beekeeping.
Best Hives for Honey Production
Bees make honey from plant nectar collected from blooming plants. This natural process takes place in any type of beehive. There are several different types of honey bee hives in use in the United States.
Langstroth Hives have been the industry standard for commercial beekeepers for many years. The stacked format of this hive style is well suited to honey production.
I suggest beginners start beekeeping with a Langstroth Hive. This is especially true if harvesting honey is a major goal.
When Will You Have a Honey Harvest?
This is one of the first things that students in my beekeeping class ask, ” When can I expect a honey harvest? In a few weeks, or will it be a few months?
Well, yea – it is usually a much longer wait. Available forage for the bees, the length of your growing season and whether your bees are starting from scratch- all these factors affect the timing of your first honey harvest.
It may be your hives second year before they are able to produce a honey crop for you. The colony has a lot to do that first season.
Honey Harvesting Process
During your first honey harvests, you may feel a bit overwhelmed. From getting the honey off the hive to getting the honey out of the comb, you have several things to consider.
In my post how to collect honey, we consider the best ways to get honey off the beehive. Then, how to separate the honey from the comb.
There are several methods to do this. Some beekeepers have access to a honey extractor and others use the old “crush and strain” method.
Both work well. You will need to choose the one that works for you, your time and budget.
Protect Your Harvest – Extract Quickly
“I have harvested several boxes of honey, now what? ” Don’t stand there ! The bees will take that honey back if they can get to it !
Have some extra equipment (beehive tops), canvas clothes, etc to cover each honey super as you remove it from the hive.
As soon as you finish in the bee yard, get those honey supers inside a bee tight room.
Extract your honey within 2 days if you live in an area that has Small Hive Beetles as a pest.
Beetles and/or their eggs can be inside your supers. They can ruin boxes of honey left unattended by bees.
Storing the Honey After Harvest
Protecting your honey harvest is just as important as collecting it. If you have a lot of honey, you will probably store it in 5 gallon buckets.
Smaller producers usually bottle up the total crop into jars. Quart jars are the most common size for storing honey.
These are not as heavy as buckets and are easy to re-pour into smaller containers if desired.
Preparing Honey to Sell or Give Away
Most beekeepers sell or give away jars of honey in smaller sizes such as quarts, pints, bears and other decorative containers.
Present your jars of honey in the best manner possible. Take the time to choose nice clean containers.
Wipe away any stickiness from the outside of the jar and create a nice honey label. Take pride in this wonderful product that you and the bees have made.
Beekeepers have many different choices when it comes to honey containers. Good honey always deserves a nice clean container.
If you plan to give away or sell honey, plan on having containers of different sizes. Consumers who use a lot of honey will go for the big jars.
Those who are not as familiar with raw honey like to buy smaller containers. Now let’s get that honey packaged and bottled and ready to use.
Do Your Honey Jars Need A Label?
Once your honey crop is ready to sell or give away – you have another consideration. Labels for your honey jars!
Honey labels are be purchased ready to use – where you just add the weight and contact information. Or, you can design and print your own label.
Either way, the honey harvest is not complete until you have the correct information on each jar.
This is especially important if you are planning to sell them. In my honey labeling guide, I cover the key elements that need to be in place on every honey jar.
Frequently Asked Questions About Harvesting Honey
Harvesting honey does not hurt the honey bee colony. This is true as long as you practice good beekeeping and do not take too much.
Greedy beekeepers often end up with starving bees. That is just not right – in my opinion.
No harm is done to the bees with responsible honey collecting. Always leave the bees enough honey for Winter.
Know normal foraging conditions in your region. Learn when honey producing plants bloom and when the honey season is over. Don’t leave your bees to starve.
How much honey your bees produce varies from year to year. But over time, you learn what the average honey production is for your area.
Your location factors into all aspects of honey production and harvesting honey. The length of Winter cold (and amount of honey your bees need to keep) will also vary.
When you are harvesting honey from a beehive, don’t be greedy. Your bees need good nutrition that only honey can provide. Sugar syrup is an emergency plan not a nutritious diet.
Yes, of course. Many people keep bees and never harvest or collect honey. They want the hives for pollination or just because they enjoy watching them.
Having bees on your property increases the average yield of your vegetable gardens & orchards – including those of your neighbors!
Final Thoughts on Harvesting Honey from Your Beehives
Producing honey requires a level of patience. Some hives will not produce extra honey – even in a good year.
Educate yourself and understand the needs of your colony. Strong, healthy hives produce more honey.
I always tell students in my online beekeeping class, ” nothing will ever taste better than honey from your own beehive”. A lot of hard work is involved in harvesting honey from bees. Make the most out of every drop.