One of the most important and lucrative moments for a beekeeper is harvesting honey. After spending hours researching and selecting the ideal equipment, and waited until the weather is right, picked up the ideal location for the brood box, let in the bees, and cared for them. But how long does it take for bees to make honey and how long can you wait to harvest from your new hive?
The process of keeping and harvesting bees is not that straightforward. Some beekeepers may choose to take honey from new hives earlier than others but it is best if you wait for one season before you start harvesting the honey.
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Why you shouldn’t harvest honey from a new hive during the first season?
If your goal is to establish a strong colony that will be strong enough to make money for years to come, it is best not to harvest honey at all during the first season or harvest only a very small amount of it.
This is because bees will need to produce wax and draw out the comb which will take most of their energy. Bee colony will need the comb for the queen to be able to lay eggs so that the whole family can grow stronger.
The pace at which bees build combs depends on the location of the hive, and if they have access to flowers and good weather.
If you wait until the first season is over and approaching the second season, your bee colony will have more time to establish itself and get stronger.
How much honey can you expect from your new hive?
Average beehives produce about 25 pounds of honey each season, but in a good season, the yield can be up to 50 pounds of honey.
When you are ready to harvest, it is important to ensure you have all the necessary equipment and you should use at least 3 hours for the task.
It is important to note that honey bees do not hibernate and, over the winter, they live off the honey stored in the honeycombs. This is why it is essential for you to only take the surplus during the harvest because if you take too much, your bees will not have enough to survive.
How Long Does It Take for Bees to Make Honey from a New Hive?
Usually, it takes about 3-4 weeks for bees to start producing honey from a new hive and you can harvest some amount of honey from a new hive within 4-6 months from when the bee colony was introduced to the hive. But it is advisable you shouldn’t harvest at all or keep it to a minimum during the first year.
Factors that limit the possibility for harvesting honey from a new hive
Here are the most common reasons why the amount of honey from your new hive might be lower than what you expected:
1. If you choose a low-quality beehive or if you choose a beehive that is too big or too small for your bee colony.
2. If you place the hive in a spot that doesn’t get enough sun. If you give your beehive enough sunlight and space (at least 10ft around) you might yield more honey when harvesting.
3. If you don’t feed your new colony enough – You need to supplement your new bees nectar with sugar water when you first get them this is because bees are usually weak and depleted after being shipped and need a boost to get going.
4. If you wait too long to harvest – Chillier temperatures may cause the honey to become too thick thus makes it very difficult to extract. So, make sure you harvest before the onset of the winter season i.e. early fall or late summer.
5. If you harvest too much honey – During the winter, your bees live off the honey stored in the honeycombs so, if you harvest too much honey and don’t leave reserves for your bees, your bees might not survive and you will start a new season with a depleted colony.
How to store honey after harvesting?
Honey has an incredibly long shelf life and if stored properly, it can essentially stay good for decades. Honey is primarily made up of sugars and it is known as one of the most natural stable foods out there.
According to the National Honey Board, most honey products have an expiration date of around 2 years. The shelf life printed on the jar is mainly done for practical purposes, specifically because certain conditions can make honey vulnerable to physical and chemical changes.
However, if the honey is packaged and stored properly, it can retain its freshness for decades, sometimes even longer.
Below are some helpful storage tips:
Your honey should be stored in an air-tight glass jar and you should place the jar in a cool dry area away from the sun or any heat-producing appliances in your kitchen. The best place to store honey is in the kitchen pantry at a temperature ranging between 50 – 70 degrees Fahrenheit.
Never store honey in the fridge or anywhere in the kitchen where it will be exposed to high temperatures because when honey is exposed to high temperatures or excessive sunlight, it can darken in color and lose its aroma and fresh flavor.
The jar must be tight enough to keep the water content of the honey stable and away from crystallization (not enough water) and fermentation (too much water).
Summary: How Long Does it Take for Bees to Make Honey
It can take up to 3 weeks even 4 weeks for bees to start producing honey from a new hive and the best time to harvest is after the first season. Make sure you harvest before the onset of the winter season in early fall or late summer and while harvesting, leave some honey behind for the bees to feed on during winter.
Always store your honey in an air-tight glass jar and place the jar in your kitchen cabinet or pantry. This will keep it away from heat and sunlight and can make the honey last for decades.
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