For most people, the main reason for keeping bees is to harvest the delicious honey that they produce, although some people do it for ecological reasons. Regardless of why one is beekeeping though, harvesting honey is probably the main benefit for most. To that end, you may want to know how many times you can harvest honey from a hive each season. After all, you will not want to take too much honey or you could leave your bees hungry over the winter when their production levels drop dramatically.
In a healthy, productive hive, it is normal to be able to harvest honey two to three times each season. Most beekeepers will harvest honey between June and September, but how often you harvest and how much honey you get will depend on a number of factors.
The size of the hive will obviously affect the honey yield, but there are other things that will play a role in how much honey you get. Weather conditions and the climate where you live as well as the surrounding plant life are all things to consider. You will also need to think about problems that could affect the health of your hive such as disease and pests.
When considering your harvesting schedule, you need to think about the weather conditions where you live. Consider when the weather typically turns colder and consequently when local plant life starts to die off. It is at these times that your bees will stop gathering nectar and hence will stop producing honey. So if you take honey too late into the season, you run the risk of taking too much and leaving your bees with little to feed on during the barren winter months.
It is worth noting that if your hive is new, you are not likely to be able to harvest much, if any, honey. The reason for this is because your colony will need to grow in size to be able to produce surplus honey. In the first year, the bees will be busy building comb and filling it with honey to feed the colony. If you try to take honey for yourself, you might leave the bees with insufficient amounts to feed themselves as their population grows.
After the colony has had a year or so to grow in both population and strength, you will be more likely to yield a large quantity of honey (depending on the size of the hive, obviously).
During the nectar flow, you can add supers to the hive and remove them as soon as they are filled with honey, replacing them with another one. When adding supers designed to be filled with honey, it is essential to add a queen excluder to prevent the queen from laying in these frames.
How Do I Know When Honey Can be Harvested from My Hive?
Once around eighty percent of the frame has been filled with capped honey, it can be removed and harvested. But do wait until the honey has been capped before taking it.
Bees only cap honey when the nectar moisture level has been reduced down to around eighteen percent. If you take honey before this point, it is likely to be raw honey and will spoil very quickly. To measure moisture levels, you can purchase a refractometer online or you could remove the frame and turn it so that the cells are facing down. If honey leaks from the frame with a little shake, then it has not fully cured yet. If you are interested, you can buy a refractometer from Amazon by clicking here (opens in a new tab).
How many times you can harvest honey from a hive during a season depends on many factors. How long you have had the hive will play a significant role as you are unlikely to get any honey in the first year as your colony tries to grow in number and strength. The weather conditions will also play a role, as will the availability of nectar in the surrounding area.
Most beekeepers harvest from their hives two to three times each year between the months of June and September, but the climate where you live might lengthen or shorten this timeframe.