Honey is typically harvested 2-3 times each year or season by most beekeepers. Honey is typically gathered between the months of June and September. The frequency with which you harvest is determined by your local environment and plant life. Poor weather, sickness, and pests infiltrating your hives will all have an impact on your harvesting timeline. If you are unable to harvest during certain periods, then more honey will build up over time.
The amount you collect depends on how much honey is in the hive at any given time. If there isn't much available, then you won't be able to harvest as much. But if there's plenty to go around, then you can take some home without affecting its quality or yield.
Harvesting honey doesn't require any special tools other than a hive knife to open the supers or boxes containing the honey. Wear protective clothing when harvesting honey to avoid being stung by bees.
Honey has many uses beyond cooking and baking. It can be used as an alternative fuel source for heating homes and businesses, burned in fireplaces, added to stoves at low temperatures to remove impurities, and smoked using corn cobs or herbs as flavorings. It can also be made into honeysuckle wine, liqueurs, and salves. There are numerous ways to use honey that don't involve eating it!
Honey has many health benefits too.
If you pick honey before it has reached 80 percent capped, you risk the bees ceasing to produce for the season. However, you should harvest before the cold months to minimize loss. The greatest months are most likely late July, August, and mid-September. In very hot climates, some beekeepers recommend harvesting before there is any honey at all in hopes of preventing swarming. Of course, this also means you lose the season if they swarm.
The next best times are early October and late November. If you wait until after these dates, you increase your chances of getting late honey that will still be good after winter.
You can expect honey to reach its peak flavor around three years after it is harvested. Before then, it will start to lose its color and taste slightly metallic. After four years, it is considered old honey and should not be used for cooking or eating directly. Instead, use it as a sweetener or add it to food as an additive.
Honey contains many different minerals and nutrients. It is estimated that a person could get 90% of their daily value of several vitamins and minerals from just one cup of honey. This makes it very useful as a natural fuel source for people who do not eat much processed food.
To minimize complications with heated honey, I aim to harvest before mid-August. Some beekeepers stack supers with a 60W bulb at the bottom of an empty super and old blankets on top if it's a chilly year or if you've left it too late. If you leave it like this for 48 hours, the honey will be ready to be extracted. You can also use a microwave - put 6 cups of water into a bowl that is large enough for the jar to fit in and place it inside the cupboard (or another room) where the temperature is about 75F. Leave it for 3 hours and then check to see if it starts to get cloudy. If it has, then that means the honey is ready to be taken off the comb.
If you want to extract honey from bees you have kept yourself, then you will need to clean out all the combs, remove the cells from the frames, boil the honey for 5 minutes, pour it into sterilized jars and store it in a cool, dark place.
Extracting your own honey is easy if you know what kind of equipment you will need. First, you will need a deep container with a tight-fitting lid such as a food-grade plastic bucket or a stainless steel pot with a lid. Next, you will need a candy thermometer. Finally, you will need fine mesh screens or filters to strain out the pollen and other particles from your honey. You will also need a hot water bath to bring the boiling point down below 120F.