Harvesting honey is one of the most exciting jobs of a beekeeper (click here to see a video showing how to harvest honey). It is the time when all your hard work pays off, and it is such a thrill to taste the first honey from your own hive. But, as with everything to do with Beekeeping, there are a few pitfalls you need to watch out for! Here are 5 tips to help ensure that your first honey harvest runs smoothly.
1. Honey is very sticky
Obvious, but still worth remembering. You will get honey on your hands, and everything you touch will get sticky. A bucket of warm water is essential to keep rinsing your hands. Be well prepared, with all your extraction equipment at hand before you start. If possible, do your extraction in a garage or basement rather than in the kitchen (provided you can keep the honey clean and the bees out).
2. Beware of robbers
Your extraction room must be bee proof. Bees will be attracted to the honey, and if they can get in, they will. Not only will they take back their honey – it is also very difficult to extract honey with bees buzzing around your head.
If possible, do not leave full supers sitting around for long before extraction. Bees are not the only insects who like honey – ants, earwigs and wasps will all steal it if given the chance.
3. Warm honey flows better
Extracting honey is much easier if it is warm – ideally 80 degrees Fahrenheit (27 c) or more. In the summer time this is not usually a problem, but if it is cooler try warming the frames before beginning the extraction. The easiest way to do this is by putting the supers under a light bulb overnight.
4. You don’t need to buy all the extraction equipment.
Many household items will be good enough substitutes for extraction tools, rather than spending a fortune on beekeeping supplies. Rather than an uncapping knife, you can use a serrated bread knife. Kitchen Strainers (or nylon stockings) can be used as honey filters. Tupperware containers are good for honey and the wax cappings.
One thing that you will need is a centrifugal honey extractor, but you can often borrow or hire this from your local beekeeping association – or even build your own honey extractor.
5. Make use of the wax cappings
About 10% of the honey will be in the wax cappings, so be sure to strain these to get all the honey you can. The cappings themselves can then be melted down and are ideal for candle making. Do not use everyday pots to melt your wax – anything in contact with melted wax will remain forever waxy and cannot be used for anything else.
6. Bees are great cleaners
Once you have extracted your honey, put the ‘wet’ super with the empty frames back on the hive. The bees will do a great job of cleaning off any remaining honey, usually within 1 day, and the dry super can then be put into storage.
Enjoy your delicious honey!