Understanding Honey Harvesting
Honey Harvesting Process
The honey harvesting process begins with identifying when the honey is ready for harvest. This is typically when the hive is full of capped honey, meaning the cells are fully covered in white wax. The beekeeper removes the honey-filled frames from the hive and carefully uncaps the honey cells. After that, the honey is extracted from the frames using a honey extractor, or the comb is cut and crushed. That releases the honey from the cells. The honey is then strained to remove debris and bottled for consumption.
Factors Affecting Harvesting
Several factors contribute to the appropriate time for honey harvesting. One of the main factors is the time of year. The end of summer, sometime before September, is generally considered an optimal time to harvest honey. Additionally, the beekeeper should ensure that enough honey is left in the hive for the bees to survive through winter, typically 40 to 60 pounds, depending on the climate.
Another crucial factor in timing honey harvests is the time of day. Harvesting honey during cooler hours of the day, such as early morning or late evening, is less disruptive to the bees, as they are less active at these times.
Best Time of Day to Harvest Honey
Harvesting involves a lot of heavy lifting. Getting the hive open, identifying the frames or boxes for harvest, and then hefting them can be back-breaking. Doing that in the presence of justifiably angry bees slows things down significantly. Mid-mornings and late evenings are cool and the ideal time to harvest. The bees are less active, and the beekeeper doesn’t risk overheating in his/her suit.
Bee Activity and Behavior
For Flow Hives, which do not require opening the hive, honey can be harvested at any time of day or night3. However, when using other types of beehives, harvesting honey when the bees are less active will reduce the likelihood of bee aggression and stings.
Benefits of Harvesting at the Right Time
Minimal Disturbance to Bees
Harvesting honey at the right time can minimize stress on the colony. This is because bees are their most active during the day, and by choosing to harvest late in the afternoon, most of the foragers are away, and the bees are less active. The fewer bees you have to deal with, the easier it is to harvest from the hive.
Additional Tips for Successful Harvesting
Wear protective clothing, such as a bee suit, gloves, and a veil, to protect yourself from bee stings. Work gently and methodically, as bees are more likely to become agitated when you’re moving too quickly or loudly. Avoid working on rainy or windy days, as this can also stress the bees and make them more likely to sting.
Equipment and Tools
First and foremost, you’ll need a smoker to help calm the bees and make it easier to work with the hive. A hive tool is also necessary for prying apart frames and scraping off excess beeswax.
Make sure to have a bee brush handy to gently remove bees from the frames before removing them from the hive. You’ll also need an uncapping knife or roller to remove the wax cappings from honey-filled frames, and a honey extractor to spin out the honey If you don’t want to damage the honeycomb.
Finally, have clean containers ready to store the harvested honey, and use a strainer or filter to remove any debris or wax particles from the honey during the extraction process.
In this article, we’ve explored the best time of day to harvest honey from a beehive. Based on the information and sources available, there isn’t a definitive answer as it largely depends on location and the bee subspecies you keep.
In the U.S., harvesting honey during daylight hours allows for better visibility and safety, especially when the bees are more active. However, it’s possible for those using a Flow Hive to harvest honey at any time of day or night, as there’s no need to open the hive (Honeyflow). In other parts of the world, for instance, in East Africa, most beekeepers harvest at night to avoid bee attacks on neighbors.
Many beekeepers find that the best months to harvest honey are between July to mid-September. The key is to look for signs of substantial nectar flow and a beehive filled with cured honey.
Ultimately, beekeepers should closely monitor their hives and make informed decisions based on their unique circumstances. By doing so, they can ensure a successful harvest and maintain the well-being of their bees.