Last Updated on June 5, 2022
When is honey harvested? The short answer is when there is honey to harvest! Bees are not like cows, where you milk them at specific times based on a schedule. There are many factors that determine the answer to the question of “When is honey harvested?” In this article, we will have a look at these factors.
There are a lot of misconceptions about bees and honey production. It is really important to understand the logistics of how the bees make honey, what they need, and how this impacts the rate at which they produce honey, how much, and how often we can harvest. To understand this, let us look at a few really cool facts to demonstrate how the hive works.
The amount of time the bees can be out collecting nectar is really important. Bees need light (mostly) to be able to navigate to flowers. This means that when the Sun is down the bees will not collect nectar. In certain parts of the world, you can have very long day lengths that coincide with large flower blooms. This means that the bees can work up to 24 hours a day (arctic parts of Alaska, Canada, Scandinavia, and Russia are good examples of where this is possible).
Even if there is Sunlight, it is possible that it is less than 50-55°F. If this is the case, the bees will not be able to venture out of the hives. Even if the Sun is up for 24 hours a day, the bees will do nothing if the temperature is too low. So if we have a long photoperiod and temperatures in the 60°F or above range we are looking good for honey production. However…
If the temperature is right, and the days are long, we may have a situation where the bees do not have enough workers. It is important to select genetics suited to your climate. It is also important for you to ensure that they have enough food in terms of honey/sugar stores and sugar feeding in winter and spring to give the bees the boost they need!
Forage – Flowers
You can have a huge beehive, perfect flying temperature, and a really long photoperiod, but if there are no flowers, your bees will not make honey.
Bees produce the most honey if the flowers they are working on are very close to the hive. Crops such as buckwheat can produce very strong honey flows. In some cases, there are parts of the world where incredible honey flows actually occur in the middle of winter when days are the shortest.
In South Africa and Australia, Eucalyptus species that flower in the middle of the winter can produce intense honey flows, despite the bees only being able to forage for three to five hours a day.
It also helps if it rains! Sometimes you can have an irritating situation where there are good rains, causing lots of plants to flower, and then a sudden drought sets in, and the flowers have no nectar because the ground has dried out and the plants have no water!
Ok, So We Have Got Through The Bits and Pieces, But When Is Honey Harvested?
Quite simply, honey is harvested when it can be harvested!! This will depend on your management style as well. How much honey do you want the bees to have as backup stores? When a super is full, and the bees are working hard, harvest the honey. That is simple!
Honey that is in your honey house is converted to cash and quality of life relatively easily. Honey that is sitting on a hive is occupying space that the bees could refill with honey. The longer honey stays in a hive, the greater the risk that a bear, a human, or some other pest will pinch it.
During strong honey flows, such as Canola, Buckwheat, Sunflower, Eucalyptus, and citrus to name a few, you should check hives at least once a week during the flow. In a strong flow when is honey harvested? Hives should be emptied of honey and replenished with empty supers to fill as fast as possible. This maximizes your honey flow. This can mean that you will be pulling 40 or more pounds of honey per hive per week if you are lucky. Don’t count on this sort of thing, but when it happens enjoy it!
When Is A Good Time To Harvest Honey?
If you are a skilled beekeeper, and there is a strong honey flow, you can harvest honey at any time of day. It really does not matter. The bees will be so busy they will hardly even notice you doing things.
If you are starting out, when is honey harvested? I suggest taking honey off just before Sunset. The reason for this is not that this is the best time. It is because if the bees are really strong and working hard, and you get them all angry, then there is not too much time for them to wreak havoc on stinging things they find.
When there is a strong honey flow on the go, you can find the bees get a bit tense and cranky. This can be due to certain pollen types. When this happens, even the most placid calm beehives can become very unpleasant to work with. I have had this in Slovakia when working bees in Sunflower fields there. These bees are genetically some of the nicest bees on Earth. They normally would give you three weeks’ written notice of their intention to sting you. When they are tired and exhausted from working 16 hours a day on Sunflowers in mid-summer heat and humidity, their sense of humor is however stretched and they can sting a lot. In an area like this, harvesting close to Sunset also makes sense.
So when is honey harvested? When there is honey in more supply than that needed by your bees. Honey in a bottle on your shelf or in a shop is worth more to you than honey taking up space in a hive. Get your honey into storage as soon and as often as possible. Because remember, time is honey. Honey is money. If you enjoyed this please share.
Read more about: How Do You Harvest Honey?
What is the best time to harvest honey?
If you are a skilled beekeeper, pretty much any time of day is ok. But if you are a beginner, try to harvest in the last hour or so before sunset on a warm, calm day. This means that if you get the bees a bit angry, they don't have too much time to cause trouble before they have to be in their hive for the night.
How often does honey need to be harvested?
Honey needs to be harvested when the combs are capped and the honey is ripe - during a strong honeyflow this can be as often as weekly. In more normal settings, once a month if you are lucky for a few months a year. In some parts of the world, honey is only harvested every second year!!
How much honey does a hive produce in a day?
This will depend on the hive! A good hive can easily collect and ripen enough nectar to produce one or two pounds of honey per day if there is a strong honeyflow on. This is a bit like asking "what is the economic output of a city". New York for example has a somewhat higher output of goods and services than the Vatican City. Both are cities. The Vatican has a population of 825 and New York 8,25 million....
What are two cons/downsides to raising honeybees?
1) You will get stung on the eye from time to time and look like a clown for a day or two. This is in fact character building, but embarrassing if you need to get married or something like that (I know someone who had this happen).
2) Beekeepers can get a venom headache if you get stung a lot. This is a bit like PMS and makes you say things you should not say. Venom headaches cause people to be too honest to other people. You may end up telling somebody who is an idiot that they are an idiot. That person may then act like an idiot would and punch you. This has happened to me.
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.