After taking care of a beehive, it is a real pleasure to harvest honey. Although it may seem a little intimidating, your efforts will be well rewarded if you follow the step-by-step steps and take all the necessary precautions.
Part 1 of 4: collecting the honeycomb
Step 1. Choose the right time to harvest the honey
On sunny days, the bees are outside the hive to collect pollen between 9 a.m. and 4 p.m. approximately. Choose this time slot so that there are naturally fewer bees in the hive at harvest time.
- The time of year you harvest the honey will also make a big difference in the amount and quality of honey you can get. In late summer and early fall, bees stop producing honey in order to feed the queen, leaving more empty cells. It is therefore preferable to harvest the honey earlier in the season.
- Harvest the honey two to three weeks after the main honeydew. Check with professional beekeepers in your area to find out the date or determine it yourself by weighing the hive every evening during the summer. The main honey is when the hive is heaviest.
Step 2. Wear protective gear
There is no way to guarantee that the bees will not attack you by the time you remove the honeycomb from the hive. It is therefore important to wear a complete beekeeping outfit.
- The bare minimum is a pair of thick gloves reaching up to the elbows, a beekeeping hat with a veil and a bee protection suit. It is also recommended to wear a long-sleeved shirt and pants.
- If you are really interested in beekeeping, it is more reasonable to invest in a professional beekeeper's outfit.
Step 3. Gently smoke the bees
Light the smoker and walk to the back of the hive. Then carefully lift the hive cover and send the smoke inside.
- In this way, the bees should retreat to the lowest point of the hive, away from the honeycombs that are upwards.
- A smoker consists of a metal box filled with newspaper. Just ignite the paper to make smoke and send the smoke through a pipe using a pump.
- When smoke invades the hive, the bees behave as if it were a fire. They stuff themselves with honey and become drowsy, take refuge at the bottom of the hive and end up no longer fighting.
- Use as little smoke as possible. Smoke affects the taste of honey. If you drown the beehive in smoke even after the bees have calmed down, you will only spoil the taste of your honey.
Step 4. Open the beehive
Use a beekeeper's tool to lift the inner cover of the beehive. This instrument looks like a small crowbar. Slide it under the cover and pry up to lift the cover.
The bees seal the inside of the hive with a kind of resin called "propolis." »Propolis is resistant, which is why you need a special instrument to open a beehive
Step 5. Remove the bees
There may very well be a few bees around the frame you want to remove. The best way to get rid of it is to use a small blower, gas or electric.
- If you do not have a blower, it is also possible to use a "bee brush" to sweep the bees that remain on the frame. Using the bee brush can be a bit risky as the bees can get agitated and attack you or anyone else nearby.
- If a bee falls and gets trapped in the honey, they will have to be removed by hand.
Step 6. Uncap the honeycomb
The honeycomb will be sealed against the frame with wax. Use an uncapping knife, fork or even a blunt butter knife to remove the wax layer and uncapping the honeycomb on each side of the frame.
If you have spare frames, you can remove the frame entirely and uncap the honeycomb outside the hive. Replace the full frames with empty frames. This is the safest method, as it will limit your exposure to aggressive bees
Step 7. Put the honeycomb in a closed room
If you leave the honeycomb outside, its scent will attract bees from the neighborhood, which will quickly form a swarm around it. They will try to "steal" the honey or to eat it, which will make the extraction more difficult and less successful.
- Honeycomb should be treated as soon as you remove it from the hive. At this point it is still relatively fluid, but it will quickly start to harden.
- If the honey starts to harden before you can extract it, put it in a warm, sunny place for a few minutes to let the honey become liquid again.
Part 2 of 4: extract honey with an extractor
Step 1. Place the frame in an extractor
There are electric models and hand crank models. Whichever type of extractor you choose, the frame should be placed directly into the drum of the machine. The frame should be clipped into place.
The exact method for attaching the frames depends on the model of extractor you are using. Make sure you know how to use it or get the instruction manual
Step 2. Rotate the frames
Operate the crank or turn on the machine engine. During the rotation of the frames, the honey will be projected on the walls of the extractor drum. It will then trickle down gently.
Step 3. Filter the honey through cheesecloth
Place several layers of cheesecloth over the opening of a honey bucket and place the bucket under the faucet at the bottom of the extractor. Turn on the tap and let the honey drip over the cheesecloth.
- This filtering will make it possible to eliminate any debris of wax, comb or any impurity that could have fallen into the honey.
- Extraction and filtering take several hours. Be patient.
Part 3 of 4: extract honey without an extractor
Step 1. Place the honeycombs in a large bucket
If you haven't removed them from the frame yet, now is the time to do so. Break the combs into pieces so that they can fit into the bucket.
Honeycombs are easily broken by hand
Step 2. Reduce the combs to mush
Use a large potato masher to mash the combs into a kind of thick porridge. The spokes must be broken into such small pieces that it is impossible to catch one by hand.
Step 3. Filter the honey
Place a filter, nylon filter bag, or several layers of cheesecloth over a honey bucket. Pour the crushed combs over the filter system and allow the honey to slowly separate from the wax and drop into the bucket.
- Filtering takes several hours.
- If you want to save time, you can squeeze the crushed combs by hand into the cheesecloth or filter. It will still take a little while and may be messy.
- Some of the crushed combs may remain stuck against the walls of the first bucket. If this is the case, scrape the walls so as not to spoil the honey.
Part 4 of 4: putting honey in jars
Step 1. Sterilize your containers
Wash any jars or bottles that you want to use for storing your honey with hot, soapy water. Rinse thoroughly and allow to dry completely.
- Use glass or plastic containers.
- Even if the containers are new, it is essential to wash them thoroughly so as not to contaminate the honey.
Step 2. Put the honey in jars
Pour the honey into the containers you have prepared using a spoon or funnel. Close the containers tightly.
Watch your honey jars for a few days after potting. If any debris remains in the honey, it should rise to the surface of the honey after a few days. Remove them and seal the jars tightly for long-term storage
Step 3. Put your jars away and enjoy your honey
Natural and organic honey will generally keep for a few months at room temperature if the jar is tightly closed.
The amount of honey you can harvest depends on the size of the honeycombs, the health of the bees, and the season the honey was harvested. Generally speaking, there are good and bad years. Under ideal conditions, it is possible to obtain 1.5 kg of honey per comb
If you have the possibility, accompany a professional beekeeper when he collects his honey before embarking on your first harvest
- Do not collect "green honey". This is uncapped honey that has not been cleaned and prepared by the bees. This nectar contains a lot of water and is often prone to mold, which makes it unsuitable for consumption.
- Your tools and utensils must always be perfectly clean before they come into contact with the honey.
- Never harvest honey yourself if you are at risk of allergy to bee stings.