Modus operandi harvesting honey

Modus operandi harvesting honey will vary enormously according to your circumstances; are you extracting the honey in your kitchen, or do you have a dedicated room?

Every professional beekeeper once started with a couple of hives in the back garden. Noticing that what he produced is so much better than that from the supermarket, he began to expand.

Suddenly he had ten hives. Now there is more honey than he could consume and give away as Christmas presents; he finds the family has some extra pocket money. You could do it too.

First fruits of the honey harvest.

Two hives

If you have two hives, then it is unlikely that you have a dedicated honey-room. You will want to rob both of them, get everything processed and the kitchen clean, or you will be in trouble from the boss.

So, you will don your overalls, veil and gloves, light the smoker and venture forth to the hives. Take a wheelbarrow and an empty super with you.

Having kitted up and got the smoker burning properly, then gently waft some around the entrance of both hives. Wait for a while, giving them time to ingest a little honey and quieten down. Repeat a few times.

Using your hive tool, gently pry off the outer lid, and then the inner cover, taking your time so as not to upset the bees, and smoking around and into the gap.

Smoke down between the frames and, starting in the centre where there is most likely to be honey, pry out a frame, check it and gently shake the bees off back into the box. Then blow off any of the angry critters that you can see, and place the frame into the empty super on the wheelbarrow.

Remove all the frames that are at least two-thirds capped, going down through the supers, and replacing with the frames from above that are not yet ready to be harvested.

Try to remove a whole super at least, if possible.

This page was last updated by Bernard Preston on 15th February, 2020.

Then move onto the second and third hives, consolidating the frames that are not completely capped. You can easily move them from one box to the other, aiming for full supers on one of them, even if you cannot achieve it, so you do not have to reopen it.

Barrow the honeycombs to the kitchen; no more than three supers to save your back. Blow off as many bees as you can before taking the frames inside.

Uncap the frames, place them in the centrifuge and spin out the honey. You may need to turn them a few times if you do not have a radial extractor, otherwise the combs may break.

Before the extractor gets too heavy, raise it onto a shelf and drain off the honey, straining it through a coarse sieve. Pour it into a bottling tank, if you have one.

I no longer strain it through muslin as I want the pollen to remain in the honey; it helps with allergies.

Once all the frames have been extracted, trundle them down to the bee hives and replace the now empty combs.

Allow the honey in the tank to settle for a few days; scrape off the scum that rises to the top, and bottle.

Clean the kitchen meticulously or you will no longer be welcome.

Modus operandi harvesting honey

Modus operandi harvesting honey is completely dependent on your circumstances; are you robbing 2 hives or 300? Do you have a dedicated extracting room, or will you be using the kitchen to process the combs?

Ten hives

By the time you get to ten hives, you will want to have a dedicated room where you can extract the honey and not infuriate the lady of the house.

Or, are you the lady of the house?

Modus operandus 1

You can harvest the honey from all ten hives before starting to uncap and extract. Then you will have to work late into the night to get everything done. You would want to complete the processing before the honey becomes cold and difficult to remove from the combs. Do not leave some of it to the next day.

Modus operandus 2

I do it differently. My electrically driven extractor holds 24 frames, so I open a few hives and remove exactly the number needed, and process them immediately.

It takes about half an hour in the radial centrifuge for most of the honey to be extracted. Having strained it through a coarse sieve, and poured it into the bottling tank, I can go to bed.

The following afternoon, I will take the now empty frames down to the apiary and, as I rob the next hives, I will replace the full honey combs with those extracted the day before; this saves a huge amount of work and means you do not need to disturb the bees twice.

So you choose which modus operandi harvesting honey suits you best.

You may be doing your beekeeping in a built-up area; in the suburbs, or even on an apartment rooftop. Did you know that city honey is better than that from the agricultural areas. It is far less likely to be contaminated with Roundup, or the pollen from GMO crops.

Allow the honey to stand

The pressure within the bottling tank slowly forces bubbles and many of the tiny bits of wax that have penetrated the course sieve to the surface; you can then scoop it off. This pertains to both modus operandi harvesting honey.

Then you have the option of keeping liquid honey, or creaming some of it.

Creaming honey using a heavy duty drill press, seeding it with fine crystals.

Creamed clover honey is a world favourite.

100 hives

Once you reach 100 hives you have a little business that should produce a turnover in the region of R300,000 with a tidy supplement to your primary occupation. It is getting to the stage where you have to make a decision. Do you go full-time as a beekeeper and quit your other job?

The most I have ever had is 54 hives, so this is rather speculative.

It is now getting more difficult to produce raw honey. During the flow you will be harvesting honey several times a week; to get it filtered, settled and bottled before it crystallises really requires another pair of hands.

Does the good wife have an interest in the family business? Marketing 5000 jars of honey is a job in itself.

The modus operandi harvesting honey remains much the same, only on a much larger scale. Harvest the honey from 10 hives, say, uncap, extract, strain and get all of it into settling tanks.

The following day, you take 15 odd empty supers and harvest the next 10 hives, replacing the full frames with empty ones as you go. You really need extra boxes of dry combs.

Both modus operandi of harvesting honey will work; and there are others, especially if your hives are far from your home.

This honey is one week from the hive; depending on various factors it may soon crystallise.
  1. Bernard Preston
  2. How to start beekeeping
  3. Modus operandi harvesting honey


Our newsletter is entitled "create a cyan zone" at your home, preserving both yourself, your family and friends, and Mother Earth for future generations. We promise not to spam you with daily emails promoting various products. You may get an occasional nudge to buy one of my books!

Here are the back issues.

  • Mill your own flour
  • Bake your own sourdough bread
  • Microplastics from our water
  • Alternative types of water storage
  • Wear your clothes out
  • Comfort foods
  • Create a bee-friendly environment
  • Go to bed slightly hungry
  • Keep bees
  • Blue zone folk are religious
  • Reduce plastic waste
  • Family is important
  • What can go in compost?
  • Grow broad beans for longevity
  • Harvest and store sunshine
  • Blue zone exercise
  • Harvest and store your rainwater
  • Create a cyan zone at your home

Did you find this page interesting? How about forwarding it to a friend, or book and food junkie; or, better still, a Facebook or Twitter tick would help.


56 Groenekloof Rd,

Hilton, KZN

South Africa