The best part of nurturing honeybees is when they come to maturity and honey is ready to harvest. Honeybees, as you know, are not friendly critters that they may sting whenever they feel threatened. Not a surprise, this makes farmers overwhelmed when it comes to harvesting honey. How to harvest honey the right way?
When you decide to collect honey from beehives, make sure you are fully equipped. Especially if you are a beginner, bee-fortified safety clothes are crucial. A veiled hat helps protect your eyes and face from bee stings when you start to open the hives. Gloves are also a necessity that keep your hands and arms save from the fierce bees.
How to Harvest Honey
There are at least 5 steps to harvest honey. Starting from opening the hives to bottling the honey, each step must be carried out in a careful manner. This avoids unexpected things such as bee stung or low-quality honey due to the wrong way of harvesting. Are you ready to harvest? Follow these 5 steps to collect honey from your own farm.
1. Open the hive
This may be the most challenging part of harvesting honey. Particularly for beginners, opening the hive requires courage as wrong handling can make them furious. Fear not, you already clad yourself with special armor that bee stings will not cause any harm to you.
Use a smoker to open the hive safely and repel honeybees. From behind, approach the beehives and smoke around the entrance. Remove the top, then smoke the opening. This will drive bees into the hive and prevent them from flying around. Then, remove the inner cover. To help you out, use special hive tool to pry the cover as it may be sealed with propolis.
2. Remove honeybees from the hive
After opening the hive, it is time to repel the homeowners. It is important to remove lingering bees from the hive that you want to harvest. There are several methods to do this, ranging from using simple and wide bee brush to gas. You may also use electric blower to remove the bees. Do this carefully so that you do not trigger their fury.
When you are ready to bring the honey frame for extraction, make sure it is free from bees. The presence of honeybees inside extraction room will cause problem.
3. Uncap the honey
Honey-laden frames are safe to carry as it has wax seals honey inside. Though you put it upside-down, honey will not come out from honeycomb. Before extracting the honey, you need to uncap the honeycomb and remove the wax seal. You can use either fork, scratcher, or uncapping knife on both sides.
This step requires skill because you do not want to cut the honeycomb too deep and waste the honey. The most effective tool to uncap the frame is using long knife as you can scratch in a single stroke. This way, the honeycomb will be evenly uncapped.
4. Extract the honey
When it comes to extracting honey, you need special tool called honey extractor. The extractor comes in electric version and hand-cranked version. Simply put the frame into an extractor and spin the frames. When the frames are spinning, honey is forced to the drum walls and drip to the bottom. After all the honey comes out, release the honey using a spigot outside the drum.
5. Filter and bottle the honey
Finally you have honey extract. But it is not ready to consume for there may be strange particles or debris from the frame. To clean the honey, strain through a filter with a container beneath. You can also use layers of cheesecloth to remove wax or debris.
Whenever the honey looks clean and free from debris, you can bottle the honey. Use only clean and sterilized bottles to avoid contamination, thus you can safely consume the honey and store it for months.
Tips and Tricks to Harvest Honey
From this step by step explanation, harvesting honey is quite simple. But in practice, handling honeybees, beehives, and honey-laden frames and bring to extractor is not that easy. If you are not skillful, even opening the hive can be a big matter. Get to know tips and tricks to harvest honey and get quality honey from your own farm.
1. Harvest without harming the workers
Bees are the precious workers that produce honey. It goes without saying that the best harvesting is one that does not harm the workers. How can you collect the honey without harming any bees? A beehive may have thousands of honeybees, which means you have to get rid of them. Surely it requires appropriate method to nicely remove the bees.
There are some ways to get rid of honeybees. While using a bee brush may be the simplest, it is not effective when you have more hives. For this case, choose a bee repellent. Place a fume pad sprayed with bee repellent on top of honey super. Wait for approximately 4 or 5 minutes to see the effect.
Another way to get rid of bees is to use bee escape. A bee escape is commonly a board with maze of mesh triangle. It helps prevent the bees from going up. A day before the harvest, place the bee escape beneath honey super. But make sure not to leave the bee escape on too long because honeybees will find out how to go back up. The tool is known to be the most effective ways to remove bees without harming.
2. Uncapped honey vs capped honey
Sometimes you find honey framed with uncapped cells. The cells are uncapped as the nectar has not been dehydrated to a level required for long term storage. Uncapped honey is also called green honey. In fact, extracting uncapped honey is not recommended for it contains high moisture that will make the honey ferment. To make long story short, it is unsafe to consume green honey.
Meanwhile, capped honey comes from well-dehydrated nectar that it can stay for long time. The quality of honey inside the cap is far better than uncapped one. This is what you need to have on slice of bread or a cup of tea.
However, farmers with hundred hives tend to extract both uncapped and capped honey. To reduce the moisture, honey will be dried in large drying tank until its water content reaches 17 to 18 percent. What if most of the frame comes with uncapped cells? You can actually keep them, but in one condition. Extract the uncapped honey and dry until its water content reduces to 17 or 18 percent.
3. Use electric uncapping knives for easier work
Uncapping honey seems easy as all you need to do is only to cut the cap surface. In fact, it requires skill and extra effort as the cap is made of bee wax. When you do not handle it right, chances are that the result will not be perfectly even.
As a solution, you may use electric uncapping knives. The tools release heat that can soften the wax, allowing you to uncap without too much effort. It is also designed to uncap your honey evenly, giving smooth result on the frame. This helps you extract the honey far easier.
4. Quality is a priority
Some beekeepers tend to be obsessed with the quantity that they neglect the quality of honey. In truth, it is not about how much honey you can collect but about the quality itself. There are some measurements to determine the quality honey ranging from the flavor, color and bee’s behavior.
There are over 300 varieties of honey, each of which is influenced by plant, geographic location, harvest time, and soil condition. For instance, honey harvested on spring tends to have light-golden color, while summer harvested honey tends to have more robust color. Some toxic flowers may also result honey with toxin content that can cause nausea, convulsions, dizziness, and other side effects.
For experts, it is quite easy to measure the standard of honey with bare eyes. Or else, the digital honey analyzer can also be used to measure the standard precisely. However, it should be noted that knowing the toxin content of honey requires further examination.
5. How to clean up extractor easily
When you finish extracting honey, you find the extractor and other equipment will be covered with honey. No need to worry about the cleaning as you have reliable workers to do the job. Set the extractor and other equipment next to beehives and let the honeybees do their job. The bees will take the honey and place it back to the hives.
This is a natural cleaning that you can try. And the most important, the bees are happy for getting honey for winter use. After finding the extractor clean, at this point, you have to wash using water and liquid soap, dry them and store for the upcoming harvest.
Now you know how to harvest honey the right way. Though you are a beginner, harvesting and extracting honey is pretty simple. Just make sure you are well equipped and well protected and do each step carefully.