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How Often Can You Harvest Honey?

Most beekeepers can typically harvest honey 2-3 times a year. In better seasons, they may be able to harvest 4-5 times, while bad seasons may only entail a single harvest.

The process of harvesting honey is also not as simple as one might think. 

Beekeepers must be careful when removing the wax cappings that are covering the cells where the honey has been stored.

There are specially designed tools available in order to help with this process.

In this article, we’ll talk more about harvesting honey, how much bees produce a year, and how beekeepers can get the most out of their beehives.

How Often Can You Harvest Honey

Most beekeepers can harvest honey every 6 weeks between late June and early September, a total of 2-3 times a season. In a season with strong nectar flow, beekeepers can harvest up to 5 times, while seasons with a poor nectar flow may only produce a single harvest.

Bees’ honey production depends on a number of factors, such as the amount of available nectar, the health of the hive, weather, and more.

The most important factor is nectar flow.

harvesting honey

The nectar flow is when the native flowers are in full bloom. This is often in the period between early April and late June. If the weather is bad during these times, bees won’t be able to produce as much honey.

If fewer flowers are available, either due to local climate changes, or human interference, it can affect the seasonal harvest as well.

How Often Can You Harvest Honey From a New Hive

Beekeepers should wait until the second season of a new hive to start harvesting honey. 

During the first season, it is best not to take any honey from the hive as the bees need all the honey they can make to survive the winter.

After this period, beekeepers should look to harvest honey every 6 weeks towards the end of the season (June-September).

Related: How Long Does It Take Bees to Make a Hive & Honeycomb?

honey harvesting on a new hive

How Often Can You Harvest Honey From an Established Hive?

Beekeepers can most often harvest honey every 4 to 6 weeks from a strong, healthy, and established hive, during the months of June until September.

Beekeepers should remember not to harvest honey too late, as bees need honey to survive the winter.

The frequency of harvesting depends on a  number of factors, including: 

  • Time of year
  • Weather conditions
  • Hive size
  • Hive health
  • Nectar availability

For example, when it is winter and cold, you shouldn’t harvest, as the honey bees need enough food for themselves to survive the winter months.

Also, some hives are stronger than others which may yield more honey. 

In the end, how often you collect honey is up to you, but if you take too much and the hive isn’t able to replace that amount, then you could end up killing all your bees.

Related: How Long Does It Take Bees to Make Honey?

bee keeper and honey

How Many Times Can You Harvest Honey in a Year?

Beekeepers can harvest 2-3 times per year. Some years with strong nectar flow can yield 4-5 harvests, while a bad year may only yield 1 harvest.

The ideal situation for honey bees to produce lots of honey is a long, warm summer. [1]

How Much Honey Can You Harvest From a Hive?

The average output of a beehive is about 13-15 lb (6-7 kg). Most beekeepers can expect to harvest a total of 25 lb (11 kg) of honey per year, while honeybee hives can produce up to 60 lb (27 kg).

How Much Honey Can One Hive Produce per Year?

A standard beehive will produce 25 lb (11 kg) of honey in a single year, while bigger, or stronger, hives can produce up to 60 lb. 

This is dependant on nectar flow, as well as other conditions.

The warmest part of the year, being around the summertime, with higher temperatures, means more activity for bees, which means more nectar is collected to make into honey.

Honey dripping from wooden honey spoon in jar on grey background. Copy space. Autumn harvest concept. Banner

How Much Honey Do Bees Need for Winter?

In the fall, as winter draws near, it is important for beekeepers to know how much honey to leave their bees. If there isn’t enough honey for the bees to eat during the winter months, they’ll starve and die.

In general, a strong hive of healthy bees needs about 60-100 pounds of honey stored away in order to survive the winter. 

Packing away more honey than that provides a buffer in case of a long winter or other problems. The extra honey can also be used as a food source during early spring if flower nectar is scarce.

Related: Where Do Bees Go In the Winter?

Do You Have to Harvest Honey From a Beehive?

While you don’t need to harvest honey from a beehive, there are several negative consequences if you don’t (seen from a beekeeper’s perspective).

When you don’t harvest honey from a beehive, they don’t have enough room for excess honey. The population will become too great, and the nest will eventually become overcrowded, which will trigger swarming.

A part of the colony will leave, and honey production will be reduced in the near future.

Beekeeper holds open frame with honeycombs filled with honey

What Happens to Honey if Not Harvested?

Honey has a very long shelf life if kept sealed tight at room temperature [2]. There are many unlucky beekeepers that open their storage room only to find that all of their harvested honey has crystallized.

Some of these beekeepers are unsure if their crystallized honey can still be used. If you have gone through the process of crystallized honey, then you know how hard it is to remove it from its container. So, what happens when your honey stays in its container? It won’t go anywhere!

What Happens to Honey if Not Harvested?

Several things may happen if honey isn’t harvested:

  1. Bees will store it to be consumed during the winter months.
  2. Other bees and insects may invade the colony and steal the honey.
  3. The nest will become overcrowded, and the bees will nest.
  4. The bees use their honey storage to jumpstart the next season.

For beekeepers, several of these points are bad news. In nature, they’re quite natural, and won’t pose a threat to the colony in the long term.

swarming of bees on a hive

What Happens if You Harvest Too Much Honey?

Beekeepers must be careful not to harvest too much honey during the summer. This will decrease the bees’ food supply and can threaten the well-being of their bees. 

If beekeepers were to take more than can be replaced, there wouldn’t be enough food for the hive come wintertime.

Beekeeping is a very delicate process. The beekeeper needs to understand how much honey they can take each time without risking the well-being of their bees over the winter.

If you don’t use the honey, it can eventually go bad, though it takes about 2 years if stored at room temperature.

When Should You Stop Collecting Honey?

When to harvest honey, and when to stop harvesting honey, is delicate questions. The answer is almost always “it depends”.

There are some definitive time periods when it comes to harvesting honey.

When winter is near, beekeepers should stop collecting honey, as bees need food for the winter months. Honey harvesting usually stops around September but may be extended if September is warmer than usual.

It’s better to stop early than late.

Most beekeepers designate one or more supers as food storage for the bees, leaving a full super for the bees to feed on during the cold months. This is done to avoid food shortages and hive damage.

bee apiary at winter

How Do You Harvest Honey?

The first step when harvesting honey, is to make sure the bees are calm when handling them. This will avoid unnecessary aggression, and make the overall process easier and more enjoyable.

To get good results, here are a few tips that can help you harvest honey without too much effort:

  • Be careful. You need to find a way of getting the honey without hurting the bees.
  • If you plan on harvesting honey from wild beehives, be ready for some action. These beehives aren’t used to humans and may be more inclined to attack. 
  • Make sure that your equipment is in good condition before attempting this adventure.
  • You can try enticing bees with flowers or other sweet-smelling things. Flowers that attract bees are lavender, honeysuckle, aster, and many others.
  • Use a bee smoker. The smoke will mask alarm pheromones, making sure the bees don’t turn aggressive.
  • Use protective gear, such as a protective bee suit. You should also wear gloves, to avoid getting stung on your hands.

Three main tools are used for harvesting honey: a bee brush, an escape board, or a fume board.

  • A bee brush is used to brush bees away.
  • An escape door is used to allow bees to escape the super, but not enter. This is placed between the super and brood chamber.
  • A fume board is placed on top of the super and is sprayed with bee repellant. The bees hate the smell and will fly out of the super.

Do You Only Harvest Capped Honey?

Yes, generally, honey is only harvested from capped honeycombs cells. When bees store honey, they will cap the honeycomb cells they’ve placed it in with beeswax, the same material they use to make the honeycomb.

They use this method of storing, as it protects the honey, and makes sure it’s stored safely.

A general rule of thumb is to only harvest when 80% of the frame is filled with cured and capped honey.

Conclusion

Most beehives produce about 25 lb of honey per season, which is harvested over 2-3 times by beekeepers. Some hives can produce up to 60 lb per year.

Beekeepers can harvest honey every 4 to 6 weeks in the harvesting season (June-September). In a bad season, with a low nectar flow, beekeepers may only get a single harvest.

About Teodoro Pittman

Teodoro is a nature and animal lover. He specifically focuses on insects, such as ants, bees, and the like. In his free time, he takes care of his own ant farm, where he analyzes their behavior. Teodoro has spent the last 7 years studying the intricate behavior of these small creatures.