How to harvest  your hives and make honey?

How to harvest your hives and make honey?

Albert, Manager of a gardening service, Leicester

Guide written by:

Albert, Manager of a gardening service, Leicester

49 guides

Harvesting honey from you very own apiary is how beekeepers reap the sweet fruit of their work. A lot of factors go into this process, including choosing the right period to harvest, using a bee escape and a beekeeper's smoker suit, having an extraction room with the right temperature and humidity, and choosing the frame, extractor, maturing vessel. With all that in mind, here's a quick look at the important points in harvesting your honey.

Important features

  • Setting up for harvest
  • Retrieving the frames
  • Extraction room
  • Making honey
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Harvesting honey in 4 steps

Harvesting honey is the highlight of any beekeeper's work, be they amateur or professional. It is the fruit of all the labour that has been put into the apiary all year round. It is also the perfect opportunity to share the benefits of your passion for beepeeking with others around you, and finally, of course, you will never find a better tasting honey than the one you make yourself!

A harvest is carried out in 4 steps. Before getting into the steps, it is imperative to carefully choose your harvest week. It should idealy be located around the end of June for low-lying lands and mid-July for anything in altitude. You also need to take into account the possibility of any adverse weather conditions. The best day to harvest a sunny one, where the busy bees are out finding fresh flowers.


1. Setting up the harvest

There are several types of different approaches to setting up for a harvest, which may be more or less commonly used depending on the region and local culture. With all these techniques in mind, the use of a bee escape is one of the mostinteresting, and is starting to become more and more common.

The installation of this simple accessory between the hive's brood chamber and the honey super blocks any bees that descend into the hive's chamber from going back into the frames, using a funnel effect. This makes it easy to remove the frames from the honey super without provoking the bees' ire.

When opening the cover to remove the frames, use a smoker to apply an appropriate amount of smoke. You can also use a blower or awater sprayer to ward off any particularly agressive bees. It's wprth noting that wearing the essential beekeeper's outfit for harvesting is crucial.


2. Retrieving the frames

In some cases, the honey super can be completely removed provided that there are no broods, or in other words, frames bearing larvae. To be sure, one must carefully inspect each of the frames of the increases.

As they are removed, frames must be stored using harvest boxes or empty racks. The loaded frames should only be set down on a base, away from the ground to avoid the intrusion of ants or other insects before transporting them to your extractor.


3. The extraction room

After harvest, the frames are transported to an extraction room, where all the equipment required for this operation is located. It must be well sealed and isolated to keep any bees out.

The humidity in the room must be kept low. If necessary, a dehumidifier can be placed inside to help keep it down. The temperature inside the room must be maintained between 25° and 35° C. These two factors, the low humidity and  the high temperature, help maintain the honey's properties intact. This is very important, as honey cannot not have a humidity level above 17.5%. To accurately monitor this, a refractometer should be used in every stage of honey production.


4. Making honey: from extraction to bottling

Making honey is a multi-step process. The first step is to take the cappings off the frame. In other words, you remove the wax that covers the honey filled alveoli. For best results, hangthe frames above a tub and remove the wax with a knife or an uncapping harrow.

The frames are then placed in an extractor, which can be manual or electric. Extractors are either radial or tangential. A radial extractor expunges the honey using centripetal force and basically propelling it towards the center of the tank. It is the recommended method for obtaining a more liquid honey. A tangential extractor is designed more for thicker honeys, with the slight disadvantage of not being able to fit as many frames into the machine.

An extractor, be it radial or tangential, operates on a  simple concept. The frames are introduced into a mechanism which then rotates inside the tank. With this motion, the honey is ejected from the alveoli and collects in a pool at the tank's pit. It is then recovered using a tap installed at the bottom of the tank. Using a strainer, the honey is filtered as it comes out of the tank.

Finally, the honey is filtered again before entering the maturator, as it goes through a heated filter. A maturator is a tank used to decant honey. Once inside, the honey will sit for three to seven days, depending on the type of honey and the size of the machine. During this time, any impurities will rise to the surface and are then easily scooped away. Once all this process is complete, you can finally reap the honey from the tap installed at the bottom of the maturator and offer one of life's greatest pleasure!

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Uncapping harrow

More information

Harvesting honey is the result of a long process. To make sure that all the steps preceding the harvest are done right, follow the links below for apiculture-related accessories, advice from our editors and more helpful guides:

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Guide written by:

Albert, Manager of a gardening service, Leicester, 49 guides

Albert, Manager of a gardening service, Leicester

For several years I have been running a garden service with a clientele of both individuals and companies. I manage a team of gardeners and ensure the creation and maintenance of green spaces. At the same time, I bring my expertise to my clients in terms of the maintenance and improvement of their gardens. In fact, as a trainee and working in the hospitality industry at the beginning of my career, I focused on landscaping in a local community where I acquired solid technical skills through in-house training and the follow-up of major projects in a rapidly changing town. On a personal level, I am equally oriented towards the art of gardening. With my wife, I created our garden from start to finish and I maintain it carefully, the same goes for the vegetable garden. As for DIYing, it’s not to be outdone. Yes, gardening is also tinkering: pergola, hut, pavement, fence, and so on...There is always something to do in a garden. After working well together, my wife and I are proud of the result and delighted to be able to take full advantage of a friendly and warm environment. So, let us give you advice and help you in your choice of tools, maintenance, or improvement of your garden, nothing could be simpler.

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