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Is My Honey Ready to Harvest?

Indicators for Harvest Time

There are several indicators to help you know when to harvest your honey, and people in different areas will see them at times weeks apart from people in others. Some of you will see these start as early as mid-June, others in mid-July, or some northern regions even go into August and September. Regardless, the same applies.

1. Time of Year

As indicated, each geographic area will consistently start and stop around the same time each year. Weather may have a bearing on the start and end of the flow but typically won’t affect them by more than a week or two. If you are new to beekeeping and not aware of when your major nectar flow begins and ends, contact a local beekeeper. They will be a valuable resource for this and the following indicators.

2. Major Nectar-Producing Flowers Begin to Die

The types of flowers will vary by region, but every region has one or a handful of flowers that produce large amounts of nectar, which the bees store as a surplus for us to harvest. If you don’t know what flowers those are, visiting with local beekeepers will be incredibly helpful. When the flowers begin to die, harvest time is right around the corner. Thankfully, this usually happens about the same time each year, give or take a week or two.

3. What are your bees doing?

When the nectar flow completely ends, you will notice that the bees begin to uncap the capped honey and eat it. Ideally, you want to harvest before that happens. You will also notice that the bees are no longer storing large amounts of fresh nectar in the cells but instead are capping honey, and there are fewer and fewer uncapped open cells of honey in the hive.

4. Bees will become more “robby”:

Robber bees from other hives may try to steal honey as you open and inspect hives. Be very cautious of this. See "I'm Being Robbed!"

Watch as I demonstrate the "shake test" to see if your honey is cured and ready to harvest.

5. The bees have capped and cured the honey:

This can be one of the most confusing aspects of honey harvesting for new beekeepers since bees will often not fully cap every cell on every frame. That’s OK. Sometimes the flow ends suddenly, and the bees don’t get everything capped. Pay attention to the factors above and then do a shake test on any frames containing large amounts of uncapped honey cells. This entails holding a frame horizontally over the top of the opened hive and shaking the frame. If nectar rains out of the frame, the honey is not yet cured and you should wait another week before testing again. If no nectar rains out or only a couple drips form after vigorous shaking, it’s cured and ready to harvest. A full super of uncapped frames is often not ready to harvest, but if half of the cells are capped and it is the end of the honey flow date-wise, it’s typically fine to harvest.

Here is a collection of honey harvesting equipment you might need:
5 Gallon Bucket with Premium Honey Gate & Lid
400 Micron Honey Filter
Or check out our Honey Extraction Class

is my honey ready to harvest?
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