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How to Know When to Harvest Honey
There are a handful of indicators to help you know when to harvest your honey.
- The major nectar producing flowers begin to die. What those flowers are will vary by region, but every region has a handful of flowers that produce the majority of nectar which the bees store as a surplus for us to harvest. Visiting with local beekeepers to determine what those flowers are is incredibly helpful. When they begin to die, harvest time is right around the corner. Thankfully, this usually happens about the same time each year within a week or two. Once you discover the time the flow typically ends in your area, you can often harvest roughly the same time each year.
- What are your bees doing? When the nectar flow completely ends, you will notice that the bees begin to uncap the capped honey and eat it. Ideally you want to harvest before that happens. You will also notice the bees are no longer storing large amounts of fresh nectar in the cells, are capping honey, and there are less and less uncapped open cells of honey in the hive. Bees will also become more “robby” and robber bees from other hives may try to steal honey as you open and inspect hives.
- The bees have capped & cured the honey. This is often one of the most confusing aspects for new beekeepers, since bees will often not fully cap every cell on every frame. That’s OK! Sometimes the flow ends suddenly and bees don’t cap everything. Pay attention to the factors above and do a shake test if there are large amounts of uncapped honey in your super. This is done by holding a frame horizontally over the top of an opened hive, and shaking the frame vigorously. If nectar rains out of the frame, the honey is not yet cured and you should wait another week before testing again. If no nectar rains out, or only a couple drips rain out after vigorous shaking, it’s cured & ready to harvest. If a full super has very little to no capped honey, it’s generally not ready to harvest. But, if half of the cells are capped, it is the end of the honey flow date wise, then it’s typically fine to harvest.