Many beekeepers in our area have already harvested honey once this season, and if they are lucky, will harvest once more. There are pros and cons to harvesting once versus twice, so it’s helpful to see both sides.
There can be a lot of equipment, set up, clean up, take down, etc. involved in harvesting honey. Harvesting just once allows you to only go through the sometimes timely process once per season. However, it often requires that you have more equipment (boxes with frames) ready to add onto your hives. As they fill up space, they need more!
This requires you to go through the setup, clean up, and take down twice, which can be timely. The good news is you will not need as many boxes with frames for each individual colony since you can place harvested frames right back on the hives. And, if you’re timing is good, the bees will fill those frames back up for a second round. Another thing I like about harvesting twice is seeing the difference in the honey. For example, I have noticed in my area of Boise that the honey harvested first (in June) has a lighter more floral/citrus taste. It is also lighter in color and more golden. The honey harvested later in the season (end of July) has a richer taste and is much darker, closer to an amber color. It’s really fun to see this difference come from the same exact hive! These color and taste differences come from the nectar sources available to the bees at the time. I often harvest twice for these reasons.
Now remember, bees make honey as a winter food source for themselves, not as a luxury sweetener for us. So always make sure you are leaving enough for your bees by the end of the season. The amount of honey the bees in our area need to survive winter is different from those in southern Florida. There aren’t rules in beekeeping, so make sure you make educated decisions for our climate. I’ve found that 60-80 lbs. of honey left for the bees should get them through winter. This equates to about eight deep frames packed with honey, or just short of a full deep box worth. Anything in excess of that, harvest! Enjoy it!
Notice the differences in the tastes from different times of the season. Enjoy it on toast, in tea, or in a favorite recipe. Have fun jarring it up and giving it as gifts. Honey is a beautiful byproduct of the art of beekeeping. I will continue to talk about honey, how to harvest it, tips and tricks, in upcoming blogs.
Keep your bees buzzin’ y’all!