Preparing for Harvest
June and July are known as “Honey Harvest” months for most beekeepers - Some with totes full and others with buckets full! Remember: This is not a contest! Any harvest is a GOOD harvest!!
Here are some tips to help you get ready for that harvest as well as make it easier once you begin.
By: Chari Elam
- Extractor – Depending on the amount of honey you will be extracting, a small unit (2-4 frames) may be sufficient for short term use. Or for larger quantities and better quality for any scale beekeeper, Maxant (industry leader in extraction equipment) has several options. Bee clubs will often have equipment to loan to members, as do other club members willing to help out.
- Plastic Uncapping Tank
- Capping Scratcher
- Uncapping knife
- Food grade 5-gallon bucket– Most hives will produce at least 1 medium super of honey weighing from 35-45 lbs. A single bucket holds 55-60 lbs. so purchase accordingly.
- Bucket honey gate – Avoid storing in the bucket with a honey gate. It will leak… IT WILL LEAK! Use this bucket for bottling only. Tip: Perhaps install the gate on the lid and not the bucket. This allows you to move the lid with the gate from bucket to bucket for bottling. Simply lay the bucket over on its side (with lid on securely) to fill bottles .
- Strainer or Filter – For “Raw and Unfiltered” honey designation, straining would be your choice over filtering. Otherwise floating your honey would also qualify. This method is simply letting your honey sit for a period of time (a few days) allowing all of the impurities to float to the top to be skimmed off for bottling.
- Bottles – There are a number of honey bottles to choose from in various sizes. Purchase what best suits your market.
Note: Only bottle ahead what you can sell quickly. Honey crystallizes quickly and is much easier to liquify out of larger containers than smaller ones.
Another aspect of preparing for extraction is choosing the location. Fortunately for small scale beekeepers this can be your kitchen!
You will of course want to have it spotlessly clean, just as you would want any product you eat packaged in a clean area,
Using plastic on the floors and counter tops can make clean up much easier. Tape them down with blue painter's tape to secure them preventing a tripping hazard. Tip: Have a bucket of water and rags or towels to wipe your hands and any spills through the process. Another tip: Avoid extracting honey outside – Consider the consequences… bees will be all up in your business even with a screened enclosure.
Most experienced beekeepers have developed their favorite way to gather supers without bees. Here’s a list of methods to remove bees in order of slowest to fastest
- Bee escape – This method allows bees “out” but doesn’t allow them back in – often taking over 24 hours to work but this method is not highly recommended in Texas.
- Bee brush – An item already in your tool box. Simply brush the bees off your honey frames. Problem is…it’s a bit like herding cats – takes time and you never really get all the bees off.
- Leaf Blower– Somewhat fast - a bit aggressive but a gas powered blower can quickly vacate bees from a honey super. Note: Bees will hang on even with this method and the gas blower is a bit cumbersome to some.
Solar Fume Board– The fastest way for most beekeepers (large or small scale) is to use a fume board. Whether you use Honey Bandit (smells good) or Honey Robber (smells bad), the solar fume board will work within minutes when most other methods take much longer.