Harvesting honey is one of the main goals and desired outcomes for most urban beekeepers. Getting honey out of the frames can be fun and usually messy but it is always an experience! In this article, we are focusing on the extraction process. See our other articles if you're interested in dealing with comb honey, or best ways to remove the honey frames from the hives. For now, let the information flow, just like honey!
Top tips from beekeepers that have collected honey many times, in several different ways, throughout BC:
"Hot" Tip: Speaking of flowing honey, remember that warm honey flows more easily and faster than cold honey. If you harvest during summertime, you will notice how easily honey will flow out of your honey extractor or frame spinner and into your pails, buckets or bottles. However, harvesting in the Fall is fine too but you might need to place the extractor under a small lamp, or bring your operation indoors.
"Inside" Tip: Extracting honey inside can help your honey flow. But keep in mind that honey can and will likely get spun everywhere and make every surface very sticky. Consider a garage, tented area, or patio with a water hose nearby. At the end of the day, you may be happier.
"Fan" Tip: One advantage to indoor honey extraction is less bees, wasps and flies. The flip side is that the bees may smell that sweet air and come by anyway. Harvest the honey is an enclosed area with ventilation. Open windows can help to keep the air moving on a warm summer day.
"Timely" Tip: Harvesting honey is often an all day event. Give yourself plenty of time to not only prepare your supers but also set up your uncapping space and the extractor. Plan for a few hours to extract and filter the honey and don't forget to allow an hour or so for clean-up. Plus, add an additional hour or two to bottle your harvest.
"Big" Tip: Once you're set up, you might as well harvest in a large batch. Harvesting the honey in volume quantities is much easier than using an extractor for just a few frames. A lot of time and work goes into extracting the honey, so make it worth your while. Set-up and cleanup time spent will not change.
"Clean" Tip: Keep it clean! Bowls of warm water and damp cloths or tea towels go a long way into keeping uncapping forks, rollers or cutting knives honey-free as you go along. Periodically wiping down your equipment is a great way to avoid getting everything sticky with those honey-covered fingers. And no, you can't avoid getting sticky.
"Auto-clean" Tip: Once the extractor is finished, use the bees to start the clean-up process. Place the “wet” frames after the honey harvest back into the supers and onto the hive for a few days. Leave the extractor a metre or two away from any hive to let the bees access any residue of honey. A quick wipe and rinse should all that is necessary following that donation. Work smarter and let the bees work harder. They get their rewards.
"The More, the Merrier" Tip: Don't do it alone, if you can avoid it. Honey harvesting can be a fun, helpful and even educational experience. Recruit an additional set of hands. You will welcome the extra help and there is always lots of work during honey extraction day! Many hands make light work.
"One step at a time" Tip: Consider extraction for one day and bottling for the next. After the extraction and clean-up are complete, let the honey drain completely from the filter cloth or steel sieve overnight. Come back another day to bottle and/or store. If further filtering, re-jarring or labeling of bottles is the next step, do these tasks when time and energy are back on your side.
BC Bee Supply is your local beekeeping supply shop with the bee removal equipment, extraction material, uncapping tools and bottling containers you need to make your honey harvest a success! Rent our in-house extractor by day and have fun using it! Thank you for letting us be a part of your beekeeping experience!