When Is the Right Time to Harvest Honey?
For first-year beekeepers, there is usually not a significant amount of honey produced because a majority of nectar is used to build up the wax production in the hive to create a base. One of the main reasons for this is that bees need a lot of nectar to produce wax, around 6 to 8 pounds of nectar to create just 1 pound of wax. After the comb is built up in the second year, beekeepers will begin to see honey stores in the honey supers. However, if the conditions are ideal, some beekeepers will see a good amount of honey production in first-year hives. Once bees have filled the cells with honey, they seal or “cap” them with a layer of wax. This seal makes sure the honey stays at an ideal moisture level (less than 17.8%). It is imperative that you do not harvest the honey until the comb is capped. Harvesting the honey before it is capped will result in the honey fermenting and spoiling.
What Tools are Needed to Harvest Honey?
When harvesting honey it is important to check that you have all the necessary equipment. To harvest honey you will need:
There are a variety of hive tools out on the market and the type of uncapping tool beekeepers use largely comes down to preference. Many beekeepers like to use a cappings scratcher or serrated uncapping tool because it uncaps the cells while only removing a small amount of honey. However, this can be a tedious and time-consuming process. Other beekeepers prefer an uncapping plane or electric uncapping knife as these tools glide easily over the cells with precision, making it a quick and easy process. Although they make the process easier, uncapping planes and electric knives skew on the more expensive side of uncapping tools.
Honey extractors can be either hand cranked or electric. A manual extractor has a crank that is used to spin the frames without needing a power source. Hand powered extractors generally hold 2 to 4 frames and it takes around 15 to 20 minutes to spin the honey out of the frames. On the other hand, electric extractors do all the work for you so you can just turn them on and have liquid gold in a matter of minutes. The downside is that electric extractors tend to be a lot more expensive than hand-powered ones.
The last item needed in this process are storage containers to contain your precious honey. The containers will be put near the extractor and are what will hold the honey as the honey is spun out of the frames and down the extractor.
How Do I Extract Honey?
The first step in the extraction process is pulling the honey supers. Once the honey supers are pulled, the bees need to be removed from the super. This can be done in a variety of ways such as brushing the bees off of the frames, blowing the bees off the super, using bee escapes that allow the bees to exit but not to re-enter, or a fume board. A fume board is placed on top of the super with a chemical on it that forces the bees out.
Once the bees are removed from the supers, the cells will need to be uncapped with your uncapping tool of choice. After being uncapped, the frames will be put in the extractor to be spun. As the frames spin around in the extractor, honey is collected at the bottom of the extractor which has a valve that then pours into your storage container. A majority of beekeepers also take the time to strain their honey as it is being extracted. While the honey is pouring out of the extractor, a strainer can be placed over your storage container to ensure your honey is strained properly.
We’ve created a pdf to show how small, midsize, and larger honey producers set up their extracting area as a guide. Shown in the numbered circles is a system to grow into. Some intermediate steps may be appropriate for you. Our suggestion is to ask questions and plan ahead.
After your honey is extracted, the last thing to do is to bottle it. There are a variety of styles of bottles that come in either plastic or glass to ensure your hard work is shown off in style. From Muth to Hex to the traditional honey bear, we have everything you need to make your liquid gold stand out.