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It’s Christmas time… for beekeepers!  Depending on where your hives are, you may be close to the time when you can inspect your hives for a potential honey harvest.  So how much honey should you take?

How much honey should you take?
Actually, the question  you must first ask is “How much honey do my bees need?” The answer to this question will depend on the strength of the hive, the strength of nectar flows in your area, and how long you have until you expect another nectar flow. Stronger hives with more bees require more food. Areas with more frequent and stronger nectar flows mean you may not need to leave as much honey as areas with weaker nectar flows. Depending where you live, your hives may need anywhere from 30-90 plus pounds of honey. In Central Texas, we have shorter winters, and earlier opportunities in the year for nectar flows, so we can leave less honey. Beekeepers in the Northern part of the United States have longer harsher winters, and may not have any food available for their hives until July or later, and therefore must leave more honey. Chat with local experienced beekeepers for their recommendations. Your own experience collected from one year to the next will help inform your decisions as well. (Yet another reason to keep very detailed notes!) If you are here in the Central Texas area, I recommend leaving at least 30 pounds on your hive before you start harvesting.  

A Math Problem 
Once you know how much honey to leave, it’s a simple game of math to determine how much you may harvest.  In a Langstroth hive, a medium frame of honey, when completely full on both sides, will contain anywhere from 4-6 pounds of honey.  A deep frame, when completely full, will contain anywhere from 6-8 pounds of honey.  Obviously this isn’t an exact science, but can help you get a good estimate on how much honey your hive contains. (I tend to teach to use the minimum numbers to stay on the conservative side.)  If you are using a top bar or other type of hive, you can use a scale to get a better idea of how much a full frame or bar holds.  Add up all the honey and nectar stores in your hive, then subtract the amount you need to leave for the bees.  The total remaining is the maximum amount you should consider harvesting. 

Need more help harvesting honey? Join us tomorrow, Friday June 24, at our monthly Ask A Beek night at the Honey Ranch. Celia will be leading a free workshop on harvesting honey and provide some best practices. Remember, we usually only harvest once or twice a year, so it's easy to forget some of the critical techniques.  (We harvest thousands of pounds every year, and we always do a mini harvest to start off the year to help refresh our memories of how to do it!) Drinks at 5, workshop starts at 5:30. And keep reading to learn about whether or not you should sell your honey.

Are you getting your first harvest this year? Hit reply and tell me about it! I love hearing about beekeepers and their first harvests! 
For the bees, 
Tara Dawn

This month was the 5th class of our Spring Apprenticeship.  This month the class learned all about harvesting honey, from assessing how much honey a hive has to give all the way through jarring.  In the bee yards, the students learned how to use a fume board to safely remove supers, and then spent the day in the air conditioning, learning all about extracting honey, how to build a crush and strain bucket, cutting comb honey, and rendering beeswax. The benefit of our apprenticeship is all  the hands-on experience, as the apprentices performed their first full honey harvest and  learned to make body products from beeswax comb.  Of course, the day, as always, was spent full of good food: a good old fashioned pizza party for lunch and we ended the day with a private honey sensory class, sampling several super rare honeys.  

The fall apprenticeship is NOW OPEN for registration.  We are 1/3 sold out.  Will you join us?  If you've been on the fence for a while, email me for a discount code to save a little dough on your tuition. 


In one word: yes! I always cringe when I see students giving away huge amounts of honey to family and friends. I understand the want and need to give away some honey as holiday gifts, but please be mindful of giving away large amounts of honey after the harvest. Doing so sends the message to your community that honey is easy to produce and has no value. If you’ve gone through the trouble of managing hives to get to a successful harvest, and then actually experienced a honey harvest, extraction, and (the worst part) clean up, then you know that honey isn’t easy to produce. One honey bee will make 1/12 teaspoon of honey in her entire life. A single weather pattern can ruin a honey crop, and I don’t dare count the number of stings and the amount of my own sweat (and sometimes blood) that goes into producing, extracting, jarring, and selling a single jar of honey. Even if you aren’t in the business of selling honey like me, posting on social media or inviting members of your club or church to purchase your honey helps promote the notion that honey is not a commodity and is a valuable product. And yes, you should definitely be charging more than the grocery store! Your honey is a far superior product (and often, that grocery store honey is adulterated honey, meaning it has been cut with cheap sweeteners). Plus, beekeeping can be an expensive hobby even when you don’t consider the time involved, and charging for your honey helps pay for the cost of the hobby. By charging for your honey you are not only doing yourself a favor, but also those of us that make our living off of selling honey. 
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