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Harvesting Honey (Part 1)

The nectar flow is starting to wind down and it's time to get the honey off the hives and into your kitchen or extraction room. Here's how to do it, whether your harvesting 2 frames or 20 supers.


The sweet reward! But the work is not done yet. Here are a few tips before you start to pull honey off your hives:


1. Try to pull honey just as the nectar flow winds down and not after it has fully stopped. You might get a couple pounds less honey, but harvesting will be a MUCH more pleasant experience as your bees won't pay much attention to you because they've still got nectar on the brain.


2. Have some way of keeping the honey you remove covered and safe from robbing bees. You can throw a blanket over full boxes of honey, or use a plastic pro-nuc box or other sealed container.



To Harvest Individual Frames


No harvest is too small to be celebrated and enjoyed! If you are just pulling a couple of frames from a hive and not the full box, the best way to do it is with a brush.


I like to set up the box that will hold the honey frames about 50 feet away from the hive (behind, if possible).


As you remove each frame, gently brush the bees back into the hive. After most of them are brushed off, I start to slowly walk toward the transportation box, brushing the last few bees off as I go. Then quickly open the lid, pop in the frame, and close it up again.


PS. There is nothing wrong with harvesting a few frames from a hive in 2 boxes and feeding them 2:1 sugar water to replace that honey. Sugar syrup is far easier for bees to digest as it contains fewer mineral solids, and reduces the chances of dysentery and nosema over the winter.


To Harvest a Full Super (or 10)


A bee escape is a very easy and safe (for you and the bees!) way to remove bees from a honey super so that it can be harvested. There are two main styles of bee escape, the Quebec Style (triangular maze) and the Cone Style. We use both and see very little difference in performance, although we always seem to reach for the Quebec style ones first.

The bee escapes go between the brood box and the honey box, with either the cones or the triangle on the bottom. It will take about 2 sunny days to completely clear the boxes. If you need the bees out faster, you can shake most of the bees down before you put the escape on and then safely harvest the next day.


There will still be a few stragglers (not usually more than 20 bees) in each box. That can add up to a lot once they're all in your extraction room, though! To get every last bee out, you will need to either brush the frames as you take the boxes, or use a leaf blower to blow them out.


Some people skip the escape board altogether and just blow the bees out. This is very quick, but also a great way to piss off a LOT of bees. When we use the blower, it's just to help those 20 or so stragglers per box to move along.






This is the very most important part:


Whatever you do, make sure there is no brood above the bee escape. If there is brood, there will be nurse bees. Those nurse bees won't leave through the escape and you will end up with a shop FULL of bees. Ask me how I know. No, don't.


Happy Harvesting!


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