When Is The Best Time to Harvest Honey?

As a beekeeper, knowing the right time to harvest honey is a must. Perfect timing determines many things, including the quantity and quality of the honey you harvest. You should, therefore, watch the hive for signs of readiness for harvest.

Harvesting times also vary between commercial beekeepers and small scale keepers, who focus on producing honey for subsistence purposes. But, irrespective of the size of your farm, you ought to understand basic beekeeping operations.

How to Know When It’s Time to Harvest Honey

If you want to harvest honey respectfully and mindfully, knowing that the bees also need it, then you have got to get the timing right. There’s no single time that’s perfect across the world for different conditions. It depends on many factors and, therefore, harvesting times vary from one place to another.

Here are useful tips worth considering:

  • Check the hive frequently
  • Understand your bees
  • Learn the seasons
  • Capping process signals

Check Your Hive Frequently and Know Your Bees

There’s no easier way to master your bees than by being a frequent visitor to their home. However, checking does not mean you keep disturbing them. Simply look at their behavior. If there is a lot of activity, then they’re busy making food.

Although bees are always active, except during winter, they tend to reduce activity after making enough honey. This can be the best time to take out a portion of what they have in store. However, remember to leave enough honey to see them through winter.

Understand the Seasons in Your Region

Honey and nectar flows vary from one region to another. The production levels of honey depend heavily on the availability of nectar from flowering plants. When a season has a high source of nearby flowering plants, take advantage of this season.

Allow the bees to do their thing during the flowering season and, if possible, help them to access as much nectar as you can. One way to do this is to plant flowers or crops near their hives. After the season, you’ll have enough honey to harvest.

Watch Out For Capping Process Signals in the Hive

Bees usually cap their honey with beautiful fresh wax once all nectar is converted to honey. You should, however, note that the capping only happens once the worker bees have fanned and reduced moisture levels in nectar. At such times, the nectar is completely turned into honey with the aid of special digestive enzymes from the bees.

When checking, look closely at the comb’s cells. Once they’re completely capped, then it’s time to harvest the honey. Capping is, in fact, a sign that transformation has been completed, and all that remains is storage. You can then harvest the honey.

Patience is Crucial In Honey Harvesting

Bees need time to make honey, and as a keeper, you need to give them quality time to complete the process and collect as much honey as possible. If everything they need to make honey is available, they won’t only produce large volumes of it, but the quality will be high.

You should, however, not delay too much if you want to get enough honey. Beware of the dangers of late harvesting. What is needed here is perfect timing, so you get quality honey that will meet your needs.

Dangers of Late Honey Harvesting

Remember that bees don’t know that you need their food. Therefore, if you wait too long, a couple of undesirable things will happen.

  1. Granulation: The first thing that will happen if you delay harvest is that the temperatures will go too low, especially at the onset of winter. When such conditions set in, honey will thicken and even granulate. At this point, extracting such honey from the comb is almost impossible.
  2. Lack of access: In time, bees start to move the honey deeper into the hive. This makes it much harder to access as a beekeeper. At this stage, the bees won’t be making more honey and will start to eat their stores that were created when they were active.

How to Take Honey Away From the Hive

If you’re harvesting a lot, then you should get a cart. Use it to take away the honey from the hive to a room that bees won’t access. Never harvest honey and place it in an open room.

Bees are, of course, not happy when their food is taken. They take action to try to get it back. Take note that some colonies are large and very powerful as well. Harvesting honey without due care may as well be a declaration of war with them.

As you take honey, also remember not to spill it anywhere on the bee yard. Other bees will likely notice it and rob your colony. You should thus protect your hive by not spilling honey in the bee yard. That gives a signal to robber bees that there’s a weak colony.

Conclusion

Knowing the best time to harvest honey is vital to ensure high yields. Refrain from harvesting early, which is when the bees are active in the hive and still making honey. Don’t delay too long and risk a lack of accessibility and for the bees to consume the surplus. 

The best months for harvesting depend on where you keep your bees after nectar flow and before the onset of winter. At such a time, you have a better chance to harvest a lot of honey. Additionally, you won’t also lose any of it due to extreme weather conditions.

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