How to Gather Honey from Beehives

Learn one way to extract honey from your backyard beehives.
How to Harvest Honey

How to Harvest Honey

Jars full of liquid gold reveal the color of this summer's harvest.

Photo by: Photo by Melissa Caughey

Photo by Melissa Caughey

Jars full of liquid gold reveal the color of this summer's harvest.

It is fantastic to finally reap the sweet rewards of beekeeping. However, a honey harvest is not always guaranteed just from keeping bees. The amount of honey made by the bees is dependent on the type of bees you keep, the nectar flow in your area, weather, environmental factors and the age of your hives. 

Prior to harvesting, it is important to ensure that your bees have enough honey stores before winter. Living in the Northeast, the bees live in two deeps. Those deeps should be filled with plenty of honey as the end of fall nears. This will be their food supply during the winter months.

During the spring and summer months, honey supers are placed on top of the bees' "living space" as an extra place for bees to store nectar, which they will eventually turn into honey. The honey supers also provide more space for the bees to reside temporarily as the colony swells during the spring and summer months. When you are ready to harvest honey, you need to remove the bees from the honey supers' frames. There are a variety of techniques used to do this. Some people use bee escape boards, leaf blowers or a bee brush. All are effective and up to your personal preference. Frames of honey should only be removed for harvesting as long as 90 percent of the comb is capped.

One by one, I remove the bees from each frame full of capped honey. I walk each frame over to an empty deep placed in the sun about 50 feet away from the hive. I cover this with a towel. This keeps the bees away from the frames. It takes about 40 minutes to remove all the frames. This process can be done a few days prior to harvesting honey or on the morning of the harvest. Once you have gathered all the frames, carry them to the place where you will be extracting the honey.

Some people extract the honey in the kitchen, others in the garage. Either way, the area can get sticky, so keep that in mind. The harvesting area should also be completely inaccessible to the bees. Keep the windows and doors closed. If not, bees will detect the honey harvest and arrive in minutes. This can quickly turn honey harvesting into a disaster! 

There are many techniques used to harvest honey from the frames. Using an extractor is the fastest and I believe the neatest. Inquire with your local bee club for an extractor, as many of them will rent or loan out the club's extractors. This helps to cut down on cost. 

Once the honey is extracted, it can remain in the sealed, 5-gallon food grade plastic pails or you can add it to honey jars immediately. The jars and lids should be washed and dried prior to adding the honey. 

Honey also requires labeling. Prior to selling your honey, add the following:

  • The common name of the product: In most cases, Wildflower Honey
  • Your name/Farm's name
  • Telephone number or a way you can be reached
  • The net weight of the honey

Your local bee club can also help guide you as the to selling price of the honey per pound. Selling your own honey is incredibly rewarding and helps to pay off the expenditures of beekeeping. Raw, unpasteurized honey from local beekeepers has many health benefits and eating a bit a day can also help control seasonal allergies.

Check out the photo gallery and captions below for the step-by-step honey harvesting process. 

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