Harvesting honey is an important 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. A few weeks ago, we harvested our Spring Honey over the course of a few humid July days. This is a peak into everything that went into our summer harvest.
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 hives that the bees build their comb onto. To be harvestable, the frame must be 80% capped. “Capping” is when the bees cover the cells in the comb when they’re done filling it with honey. In order 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 daisies, goldenrod, and asters.
We never take all the frames of honey. We always leave enough for the bees during rough patches in the season and weather.