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Bee-Ginner's Guide

Welcome to the Bee-ginner's Guide Blog. Here we will go over topics and tips you might need as you go through your first year as a beekeeper.

We are getting to the time of year where beekeepers are starting to think about harvesting honey. Most hives have had a couple months to develop and many may have already started to produce honey supers. It's difficult to specify a certain time of year as the best time to harvest honey because harvesting depends on several variables. For first year beekeepers, it is most likely that you will extract little to no honey your first year. With a young colony that hasn't fully developed they will most likely need all the resources they can muster to survive their first winter.

Here are some signs to look for when deciding if and when you can harvest your honey:

Observing the Nectar Flow: A nectar flow is when local vegetation is in full bloom. There can be a handful of different nectar flows each year and their timing varies from location to location. You will want to learn what the native vegetation is in your area so you can read their blooming patterns. Without a good nectar flow the bees are unable to produce honey and wax. Since nectar is a vital resource for multiple components in a hive, the bees may not immediately begin to produce honey so you will want to keep an eye out when inspecting the hive for when they begin to produce honey.

Multiple Supers Full of Honey: One of the most important things to remember is that honey is a significant resource for the bees. Plan your harvest accordingly so that if you experience a nectar dearth in the dry summer, you have not robbed your bees of the resources they will need to survive. The colony will continue to store nectar and pollen as long as the resources are available. Beekeepers are able to harvest and extract excess honey stores once the colony has surpassed the amount they will need to consume during the winter months. Be mindful of your colony’s honey stores and note that in temperate climates a colony may need 60 - 80 lbs. of honey in order to survive through winter.

Capped Honey Cells: One of the best signs to tell if you have frames ready for harvesting is if a majority of the honey cells are capped. You will also want to watch out for nectar with high water content that has not cured yet into winter. Non-cured nectar is runnier than regular honey. A good water percentage for honey is if its water content is 18% or less. A Honey Refractometer is a great tool to help you read the moisture content of your honey to double check if it is ready to harvest.

Want to learn more about harvesting and nectar flow? Below are additional articles (some of which were resources for this article).

How to Know When to Harvest Honey from Your Beehive by Howland Blackiston

Importance of the Nectar Flow in Beekeeping by Betty Taylor: