The summer is nearing it’s end. The air is still warm but you can tell by either listening to the local weather person or perhaps you can feel it in the air, it’s about to start getting cooler soon. Now is the time that we harvest honey bee honey the final time for the year. In the upper midwest in the United States, that means it’s roughly mid August.
Bee Fact: Honey Bees consume honey during the winter for survival. They group up and use their wings for frictional heat and consume honey to make it through those cold months. Be sure and leave enough for them too!
Before we discuss the process for harvesting honey from your hard working bee hive swarm, I wanted to make a couple of quick notes about
the tools we will be using. While you don’t specifically need a honey harvester, especially if you are just getting your first year wings for beekeeping, I would suggest working toward getting one. The amount of time that is saved and the final product that comes out, we feel is absolutely worth the investment. Things to strive for!
In keeping with the spirit of this beekeeping 101 or how to be a beekeeper guide, we will opt for the less expensive manual method for describing our process. The tools we will need are a honey scraper, a bunch of buckets, a few strainers with different filtration levels, whatever medium you plan to store the bee honey in such as jars, your bee suit and related protection equipment, bee smoker, pry tool such as a flat bar, bee brush, carrying trays for the filled honey bee panels or supers as they are referred to in the industry, (we have used anything from plastic totes to unused bee boxes for this) and some water to stay hydrated.
Just like everything else we do being a beekeeper, having a system in place for processing your honey is key to saving time and energy. Having all the tools set up and ready to go prior to starting the honey harvesting process will make the job as efficient and stress free as possible. Let’s walk through the process.
Now that we have all of our tools laid out, and we are all geared up, I like to fire up the bee smoker to get that rolling. Most smokers can take just about any debris to generate the smoke. We have a row of iron pines that drop needles by the ton each year it seems like. So I take those to a big pile in the woods nearby. They don’t do much for soil improvement in my garden unless I’m very acid deficient (which has never happened) so I keep them separate when I’m clearing the fall leaves. This way, I have a nice pile for the bee smoker that are easy to stuff a bunch into a bucket when I’m heading to a remote location.
Once the smoker is up and running and set off to the side, I start by removing the top cover on one of the bee boxes and peer down inside to see if the panels are loaded with honey or not. We don’t want to have to do this daily so if they are even a heavy half full, i’ll pull them. If I find a bunch of frames that are loaded with honey, I start puffing the smoker over the top of the beehive box to get the bees on top to vacate. Then I use the beekeeper tool or flat bar to start wiggling out the super. I pull the super up and out confirming it’s filled with bee honey. I give it a little shake to get the initial bunch of bees off of it. I brush the rest of the honey bees off using the bee brush. Now, I put this super into a container with a lid to take it back home with me and replace it with an empty one.
This process is repeated until I have gathered most but not all of the bee honey. Leaving enough for the honey bee swarm to feast on as well. I shut down the bee smoker, making sure not to leave a hot burn cherry either in the bee smoker or on the ground. When the smoke stops completely, give it another couple stomps and your good. Watch it for a few seconds to make sure. We don’t need to be starting a fire.
Check to make sure all the bee hive box covers have been replaced and everything is as it should be. Get all your tools gathered up and put away and now we head home to process all this delicious honey bee produce. Make sure the lid on your bee hive frames is on well enough that it won’t spill out in a tip. Thankfully there was only one time when we had to use the car to do this but I lined the trunk with 3 mil plastic to make sure that if it did decide to tip, I didn’t have an expensive cleaning bill to follow.
Next, we will discuss processing the bee honey once we get it home or to your place of processing. Please click the arrow below to advance to that section.