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General Instructions for Harvesting Honey by Luan Do (May 2012)

1) Determine when and how much to take.

a) A new colony needs a full season to build up a large enough population togather a surplus of honey.
b) Harvest for individual types of honey – watch for certain type of nectar flow.
c) A medium (6 5/8”) depth super will typically yield between 35 and 40 pounds, or 3 to 4 gallons, while A full-depth   box will typically yield between 60 and 70 pounds.
d) Make sure it is capped (80%, 90% or more of sealed/capped honey) or fermentation may occur.  Honey has 18% or less of moisture.
e) Honey is food for the bees.  Leave plenty for the bees.

2) Clear bees from frame/super – use of smoke is not recommended by some experts.  Consider using one of the following:

  • Leaf blower – make sure air inlet port has a screen to prevent bees frombeing sucked in. Blow air at an entire super to clear bees between frames.
  • Air compressor – position compressor away from hive, blow bees toward hive entrance. (My favorite method!)
  • Porter Bee escape – escape device needs to be installed about 24 hours before harvesting. For example: 
  • Triangular escape board. For example: 
  • Vortex Escape board. For example: 
  • Fume board with Bee-go (Butyric acid) or the like to repel bees from super containing frames of honey. For example: 
  • Use a brush to flick off bees – very slow method.

Place each cleared frame in a box/super and cover. Remember to cover the hive as well while harvesting.  Again, keep everything covered!

3) Choose a bee-free place to extract honey – it can get sticky and messy.  Warm temperature allows honey to flow (e.g., 80 F degrees or higher).

4) You need the following to extract honey:

  1. A uncapping fork, hot knife, or uncapping plane – possible to use serrated bread knife
  2. An extractor 
  3. Buckets (with honey gate to facilitate bottling)
  4. Mesh strainer combined with nylon fabrics, such as curtain fabric or pantyhose, or use double strainer, or a 600 or 400 micron filter.

5) Wax cappings typically hold 10% or more of honey crop.  Cappings should be drained of honey through screening. Save wax capping for candles, etc.  Or donate wax to your 4H club for their projects.  Wax capping is prime and valuable, compared to brood wax, which gets dirty over time.

6) Let the bees clean the extractor, emptied frames, etc.  Return emptiedcomb/frames to hive for no more than one day for the bees to clean, if you wish to remove the cleaned comb/frames for storage outside of the hive.

7) Let the honey settle for a few days to 1 week (depending on the amount of honey).  Bubbles will rise. Debris will float or sink.  Keep honey covered, as honey absorbs moisture from the air, and honey attracts insects (duh!)

8) Bottle the honey to sell or give away.  Check with NVBA experienced members for labeling laws etc.

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