From the hive to you—exactly how is honey harvested? Well, there are a lot of different factors that go into harvesting honey, one of which is the seasonal nectar flows. Each season has a different nectar flow, and how often beekeepers pull their honey depends on the year. Beekeepers can harvest honey in every single season unless it’s super dry. For instance, they may harvest their honey in the spring and in the summer, and make their final pull in the fall time.
How Do Beekeepers Go About Harvesting Bees’ Honey?
The honey can be removed by brushing the beekeeper frames. A frame is a structural element in a beehive that holds the honeycomb or brood comb (brood is the colony and families of bees) within the hive enclosure, or in this case, the beekeeper’s box. It can be periodically removed to inspect the bees for disease or to extract the honey and harvest it! Additional frames can be replaced if the nectar flow is almost over. Beekeepers will begin by removing the frame from the hives; they typically do this when about 90% of the frame cells are capped by the bees—a natural process that protects the honey, locks in moisture and prevents it from spoiling. Honey can be spoiled by fermentation. Usually, 18.6% or less moisture will prevent the honey from spoiling. This number is from the USDA guidelines for which most honey will not spoil. Bees will fan the honey to help pull out the moisture, and when the levels are right they will cap it.
However, beekeepers do not want to pull the frame that has the brood on it. Bees are interesting and smart creatures with very unique and particular methods for their honey production and how they make their hive. Yes, bees are very smart and forward thinkers!
Methods of Pulling Honey
When harvesting, beekeepers uncap the honey and pull it out of the frame. There are different methods of doing this now that the honey is ready to harvest!
One way is called the “fork method.” There is an uncapping fork tool that beekeepers can use to slide into each cell and gently pull the wax cover off the frame. Although efficient, this is a time-intensive process.
Roller Uncapped Tool Method
Beekeepers can also use a roller uncapped tool to harvest the honey, instead of pulling each individual cell loose of the wax like beekeepers do with the fork method. With this tool, they simply roll over the frames, and the tool pulls the wax loose. While this method sounds super easy, it has some downsides. The other fork method takes a while, but this method may push some of the wax into the honey. Even though this won’t hurt the bees at all, beekeepers probably aren’t looking forward to wax in their honey.
Lastly, there is a knife method of harvesting honey. This method requires a common household object that everyone probably has in their kitchens—a sharp knife. Luckily when bees are building the honeycomb, they will build the comb In a small place. Given this, the knife method comes easy! Run the sharp knife down the edge of the comb and remove all the wax right away! Simple as that. This way is very efficient.
Beekeepers can also invest in other honey harvesting tools, like a honey extractor. The full frames are placed radially in the extractor like spokes on a bicycle wheel. During the extraction process, both sides of the honey frame are extracted at the same time! When doing this, the beekeeper can even see the honey as it collects on the extractor inner walls. This method of extracting honey prevents the spread of disease as well as allows the bees to clean up any residual honey.
Things to keep in mind when harvesting honey:
Beekeepers should always keep the importance of bees in mind. Since honey is part of what bees eat, they should make sure the bees have enough honey left to survive. If beekeepers are not careful of this, their bees could potentially starve. Usually, beekeepers will not have to think about this in the spring because bees will have enough time to rebuild their honey supply. But in the summer, bees are working hard to make honey—so beekeepers will not want to cut down their supply quite as far! When fall comes around, beekeepers can pull some of the bees’ honey, but should always make sure that bees still have what they need to survive in the winter. If they don’t have enough, the bee colonies may die.
How should beekeepers store the honey?
Beekeepers should always seal their honey with a tight-fitting lid to keep water and humidity from entering the honey. Another important note: jars and other containers should be washed and never reused. And finally, the honey level in a jar should never rise past the top ring of the jar. If the jar is filled until it is too full, then the honey will leak out of the top when it is warm.
Does this make you want to try beekeeping? Find sources below that can help to get you started!