Harvesting Honey 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 can take 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.
Is Harvesting Honey Bad for Bees?
Harvesting honey is not bad for bees. Honey bees have the capacity to produce much more honey than they need.
There is no reason a beekeeper should not share the harvest. This allow the beekeeper to recoup some of the expenses involved in keeping the colonies healthy and productive.
However, the beekeeper has a responsibility to practice responsible hive management. This is no time to be greedy.
It is important for any beekeeper to refrain from taking too much honey. Without good food stores, your hives will be dead before Spring.
A good beekeeper learns how much honey is required for the bees to have plentiful stores for Winter. If that means the beekeeper doesn’t get a harvest… well he/she needs to wait for next year.
How Many Times a Year Can You Harvest Honey?
Exactly when your harvest is ready and how many crops you get depends on many local factors. Hive strength, local weather conditions and other factors come into play.
Honey is not harvested year-round in most regions. I harvest once a season whereas some beekeepers have 2 harvest periods. Honey production varies across different areas.
After learning about local beekeeping conditions, you can plan your time to collect honey from the bees. Perhaps you will have a Spring harvest and a Fall harvest – some regions do.
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 about how to harvest 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.
Bringing in a honey harvest is a lot of fun but it can be hard work too. I have a collection of a few quick tips for harvesting honey that might help you get off to a good start.
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.
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.