Harvesting honey is an essential highlight in our life on the farm. Twice a year, we open the hives and collect honey from our bees: once in midsummer and again in fall. We harvest our Spring Honey over a few hot, humid days in the middle of July. In this blog, we offer a peek into everything that goes into our summer harvest. The most important thing to mention is that the power of the whole is greater than the sum of its parts when it comes to harvesting honey. It takes many hands to make this happen, and every year, I learn something new. The most important thing that I have learned is how critical the team of people is to achieve success. Just like the hive, everyone has a role to play, and they must take it seriously, or it upsets the flow. Literally.
Harvesting Honey on Chesterhaven Beach Farm
We currently have 17 hives on our farm, and these give us hundreds of pounds of honey each harvest. All of these hives mean lots and lots of bees, and when we remove their honey, they get pretty riled up. In order to safely access the hives, we use smokers to subdue the bees. Smoking the bees doesn’t harm them; it calms them down enough to make it less hazardous for us to open the hives.
After smoking the hives, we begin to pull out the frames one by one. The frames are the internal structure within the colonies where the bees build their comb. The frame must be 80% capped. “Capping” is when the bees cover the comb cells once they are full of honey. To harvest the honey, you must pull out the frames and puncture the capped cells to allow the goo to drain out. We then use an extractor that spins the frames and pulls the honey out into a large barrel for further processing.
We return the emptied frames to the hives, where the bees clean them up and rebuild the honeycomb. This gives them a chance to produce more excess honey for us to harvest in the fall, which they produce from later flowering blossoms such as sunflowers, goldenrod, and asters. We never take all the frames of honey. We always leave at least 100 pounds for the bees to eat during rough patches in the season and for the winter months.