You can enjoy the sweet rewards of beekeeping by harvesting honey.
An apiary full of beehives means two things: beeswax and honey. As a beekeeper, your hard work of caring for your bees pays off with the sweet reward of honey. September is the best month to start harvesting honey. If you’re a first year beekeeper, you’ll probably only have a small amount of honey to harvest. A new bee colony will need at least a full season to gather and make a substantial amount of honey.
Checking the Beehive
Before you start harvesting honey, check the beehive frames to see if there is enough capped honey to harvest. Capped honey is covered in wax. At least 80 percent of the frame should be filled with capped honey in order to harvest it. When you’re handling the frames, wear beekeeping clothing to avoid getting stung.
It’s also a good idea to use a smoker to calm your bees. They may get aggressive if you’re invading the hive. Bees communicate to each other using pheromones; the smoke blocks the bee’s pheromone receptors so they don’t alert other bees to defend the hive. Otherwise, they would release a pheromone that stimulates the attack response to other bees. They will defend their hive to the death by swarming and stinging the perceived assailant.
Once the bees are calm you can then proceed to gently brush away any bees on the honeycomb frames. The frames, full of honey, will be heavy. You will need a frame lifter to take them out one by one.
Uncapping the Honey
Once you have the frames out of the hive, the fun can begin. Bring the frames inside where you’ll be extracting your honey. Using an uncapping knife or scratcher, uncap the wax-sealed honeycomb. Do this on both sides of the frame. Keep a washcloth and hot water handy in case you make any messes with the honey.
Extracting the Honey
Put the frames in your honey extractor. Extractors come in both electric and hand-crank models. Using centrifugal force the drum holds the frames; honey is forced out of the comb, without destroying the combs. As the extractor spins, the honey is forced onto the walls of the drum. It then drips to the bottom of the drum. Use the spigot at the bottom of the extractor to release the honey into a plastic beekeeping bucket. Strain the honey through a few layers of cheesecloth to remove any debris. Once you’ve strained your honey, you can store it in a labeled honey jar.
For more information on the care and keeping of your honeybees, visit our beekeeping blog.