Last Updated on November 6, 2022
Is harvesting honey bad for bees? This will depend on your skill as a beekeeper. We work with the bees to help them make more honey, and then we take some of this as payment for our help. Read on, to find out how this works.
The Basic Principle Of Beekeeping
When we work with bees, we are forming a symbiosis. Symbiosis refers to a situation where two species interact in some way. Generally, we strive for a mutualistic symbiosis with bees – in other words, we work with them so that the net result is positive for us and for the bees.
We know the seasons, know when certain flowers will flower, know how to treat bee diseases, and how to transport and move bees around. We know how to build nice hives for them, and we know how to help them produce more brood at certain times of year to capitalize on impending honey flows.
In other words, we are like landlords who rent out a piece of prime real estate to a business. We make sure that the business location is excellent, the building is well maintained and conditions are perfect for our tenant to make the maximum amount of money. We then take a bit of rent to cover this and make a profit. So both ourselves, and the tenant makes a profit more than if they worked on their own. We are in the business of making property for bees to rent – and the bees are in the business of making honey and providing pollination. We work together.
Is Harvesting Honey Bad For Bees?
If we look at the above analogy, if a landlord charges too much rent, the business will go under as it cannot make a profit. The same applies to bees – if you work with them, and help them produce more honey than they need, you can take some of this honey as payment for your services and the bees will not be hurt.
If you take too much honey or do not help the bees to produce more, then this will hurt them. Is harvesting honey bad for bees? If you take too much it is!!
Do Bees Get Mad When You Take Their Honey?
Taking honey from bees… mmm. If you are a skilled beekeeper you know how to stop bees from getting angry. Generally, if you use smoke and work gently, the bees will hardly even notice you removing a super of honey! However, if you do not use smoke correctly, bang the hive, and are generally rough, the bees will get angry. This is just normal defensive behavior.
What Happens To Honey If Not Harvested?
If you do not harvest honey on time the bees will end up with a number of problems. If there is a strong honey flow, they will plug the brood nest with honey, meaning that the queen has nowhere to lay eggs, and the hive population will then decline and the result will be fewer bees, and less able to make honey.
In some cases, the honey will crystalize, and this makes a big mess for you and the bees! Crystalized honey is not of much use to the beekeeper, as it is difficult to remove from the combs, and for the bees, it is a difficult type of honey store to use.
Generally, we need to pay attention to the hive and ensure that we remove and harvest honey diligently to avoid the above problems.
What Do Bees Eat When We Take Their Honey?
There are a few things we must consider here.
A beekeeper never takes all of the honey from a hive! If they did this would be a case where we would ask “Is harvesting honey from bees bad if there is no honey left?” to which the answer is “yes that is bad.” There must always be enough “working capital” honey for the bees to keep alive. There are times when we can substitute honey with other sugars.
When we provide bees with sugar feed, we can provide them with a substitute for honey that we have taken. This allows us to provide the bees with an alternative source of energy, and we can even make this work in our favor! If you provide bees with powdered sugar in winter, this can help to absorb moisture in the hive and help the bees avoid stress and diseases.
We can also provide the bees with liquid sugar solution at certain times of year to stimulate brood rearing and wax production. If you provide a dilute sugar solution, it encourages this. If we wish for the bees to store sugar in their combs so as to provide adequate winter stores for a cluster to survive winter, we can provide a concentrated sugar solution.
During summer when the bees produce honey, we harvest this – honey is more expensive than sugar. Hence if we are good at our accounting, we can keep some of this honey money aside to buy sugar to feed the bees so they have enough energy to survive winter. We do not ever feed sugar to bees in such a way that sugar can end up in honey that we wish to sell as honey – this is immoral, illegal, and just not what we should ever do.
In Conclusion – Is Harvesting Honey Bad For Bees?
If you do it wrong, yes. If honey is harvested correctly and we work with the bees, we are able to make a profit and able to help the bees do better than if we had not taken the honey from the hive. In this situation, everybody wins and we can safely answer “Is harvesting honey bad for bees?” with a firm “No.” I hope this answered your question and please enjoy all the other cool articles we have on this site too. I got a lot of stings to learn the stuff I share!!
Dr. Garth A. Cambray is a Canadian/South African entrepreneur and beekeeper with 28 years of experience in apiculture and specializes in adding value to honey. His Ph.D. research developed a new advanced continuous fermentation method for making mead that has resulted in a number of companies globally being able to access markets for mead. His company, Makana Meadery, exports honey mead to the USA where it is available to discerning connoisseurs. He has also developed technologies to commercially manufacture organic honey vinegar in Zambia for export globally. He holds a few patents globally in the ethanol industry and believes in technology and knowledge transfer for human development and environmental sustainability. One of his proudest achievements is the fact that the wind farm he started at one of his old apiary sites has essentially made his hometown carbon neutral.