Bees experience stress when you take the honey from the hive. A bee colony that produces enough honey to use for harvesting mainly is a large bee colony: A hundred to a thousand bees process the honeycombs.
1. Install a bee escape
Bees experience stress when you take the honey from the hive. A bee colony that produces enough honey to use for harvesting mainly is a large bee colony: A hundred to a thousand bees process the honeycombs. Bees experience stress when you take the honey from the hive. It is therefore very important that you remove all these bees in a gentle and respectful manner.
Brushing the bees is an option. Keep in mind that a lot of bees will fly up because they see what you're up to. It also can become a 'sticky mess' since you brush the bees over the honey frames. Sometimes honey will stick to the brush, causing some bees to stick around. So not the best option.
A better option is to install a bee escape. A bee escape is nothing more or less than a shelf with a special 'entrance gate'. Place the bee escape the day before you start swinging. At night the bees huddle together to keep the brood chamber warm. The bee escape ensures that the bees can descend to the brood chamber, but cannot go back up to the honey chamber.
The next morning you can easily remove the honey frames you want to harvest. Only a few bees are left on the combs, but you can brush them off very easily.
Placing a bee hive is the most practical and bee-friendly way for us to get the combs out of the beehive.
2. Work hygienically!
You are working with a natural food product so hygiene and additional cleaning are just as important. It even actually takes as much time as the honey harvest itself. Harvest the honey in a clean kitchen, so wash your hands properly and preferably wear an apron. We recommend you to use new jars that you've previously rinsed with hot water.
After harvesting, it is best to rinse your material and tools as well. (such as the extractor, stainless steel sieve and uncapping tools) with very hot water. We use the kettle for this. You'll get everything clean without using soap!
Are you a pet owner? Make sure they are not in the same room!
3. Keep all doors closed!
Honey bees possess a magnificent sense of smell. If you leave the kitchen door open – it's summer after all right? – they will buzz around in your kitchen and lick up honey in no time! Before you even realize it, your kitchen will be filled with dozens of bees. You'll have a hard time trying to get them out! We recommend you to keep the doors closed, so that the bees cannot find your 'harvest site'.
4. Leave enough honey for the bees!
Strong bee colonies make more honey than they need to get through the winter. It doesn't hurt to remove honey from your bees in a responsible manner. However, we do not relieve the bees from all their produced honey since it contains a bunch of beneficial health properties for them as well.
Leave enough honey for your bees. It is the nutrient they have worked hard for all season long and which they also desperately need to get through the winter. We usually leave 15kg in the bee nest. Is that exaggerated? Maybe, but you better play it safe.
5. Keep your honey safe!
After twisting and sifting, it is essential to store the honey properly with a ripener. After one day, some small impurities will appear on the surface, which you can remove with a saucepan, damp towel or cling film.
Make sure that your honey is stored airtight. Honey is hygroscopic: it absorbs humidity from the air, which can increase the moisture content in the honey. The more moisture in your honey, the shorter the shelf life will be. Make sure that the moisture content remains below 20%. Check your humidity percentage with a refractometer and aim for 17%, which is the ideal percentage.
You can pot the honey while walking or stir it first to produce a creamy honey. We will explain how to make a cream honey in a separate blog post.
Honey is a luxury product. It takes a lot of work and energy from the bees, but also the beekeeper. Be creative, and pot your honey in special jars and/or with a beautiful (self-designed) label. Also make sure that the lid is on tightly, and that you keep it cool (around 15 °C) and dark.
And above all: eat and/or taste the honey with respect!
Do you have any tips for harvesting honey or do you have questions? Comment below or contact us via [email protected]
Click here for our basic beekeeping course!