By Bernard Preston

when can I harvest honey?

by Mandy
(Howick, KZN)

Hi Bernard
I am new to beekeeping, but have been highly successful in capturing hives and now have 6. I have left them for a year and just recently harvested honey for the first time. The hives are full to the brim and I will add queen excluders and supers on the brood. I'm just not sure about how often I can harvest? I've been told now is a good time, but reading up it is said harvest at the end of summer. Or can I do both? With a lot of aloes and gum around the bees are getting summer and winter food.
Looking forward to your advice with this.
Best wishes

Hello Mandy,
You have chosen a wonderful time to make a start with beekeeping. With the generous May rains we had a fantastic season. It won't be like this every year.

There are two main flows in the KZN Midlands; one from April to June, and another in October. Early in the flow, harvest as much honey as you can; late in the flow, like right now in July, leave them something in case the spring rains are late and we go into a dearth period. This year the winter flow appears to be continuing much longer than expected.

Expect another harvest in early summer.

Provided you keep replacing at least two new frames of foundation every year in the centre of the brood chamber, you can dispense with the queen excluder.

Generally, late in the flow is not a good time to add supers, but if your hives have none, then I would add one right now with foundation wax; they may not draw it out for a month or two; not to worry. Otherwise they might swarm. Ideally, two supers on each hive, but only when the first one is full of bees. Use only Waksol treated broods and supers; painted hives don't last.

Treat your bees with respect; for unknown reasons they can become suddenly very angry and dangerous. They are wild animals; always dress appropriately when working with the bees, and make sure your smoker is burning properly. In built up areas, only open the hives in the late afternoon.

You will find the local beekeepers' association a mine of information.

Have fun, and harvest lots of honey; it will be the hobby of the lifetime; one that handsomely pays its way.


» When can I harvest honey?

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