honey harvest

it’s been super busy around here, the last few weeks kind of feel like a total blurr, and i haven’t had much time to post either.


a pretty significant event happened this last week; the first harvest of any little house farms hives.  we have harvested a bit from  a hive that died last winter, but never any that were still alive, and never in any large amount.

the hives

they have had a pretty good year, and ma decided that we could take at least three supers off of the hives.

there are several ways to get bees out of the honey supers, but we had time and only a couple of hives so we used bee escapes.

the bee escape

the bee escape goes under the honey supers you want to take off the hives.

escapes under the honey supers

you also have to make sure that you plug any top entrances you have.  the idea is the same as a minnow trap, the foraging bees leave the honey supers though the escape, but can’t make it back in.  bees are pretty smart, cause after a couple of days they figure out how to get back though the escape and into the honey supers.  because of this you don’t want to put the escapes on earlier than one day before you plan to harvest honey.   with the super empty you can just take them off.  this of course only works if you are harvesting full supers of honey, not if you only want a frame or two.

it’s important to check the supers to make sure that no brood is in the honey supers, if there is any, the nurse bees won’t leave the brood.  this was just the case with one of the supers we were collecting honey from.  even with an escape on we opened it up to discover bees because there was brood in the super.

the queen bee

in fact the queen was on this frame – no way that the nurse bees and attendant bees were gonna leave her.   we carefully placed her and the frame into a lower super, but there were still plenty of bees on the super.

so this meant another strategy had to be utilized.  the brush.


many beekeepers don’t use an escape at all, relying on a brush alone.  it does work, but it’s slow.   it also means you have to be careful to cover the frames after you have brushed them to keep them from being robbed by other bees.

my pants covered in honey

harvesting honey is messy work, and my pants became covered with honey, but the work does have the reward of yielding honey.

honey comb

we ended up with 3 supers full of honey and this fame that wouldn’t fit in the supers, which we of course are eating now.  ma is working as we speak on organizing an extraction party at a friend’s house, so look forward to a future post on extracting honey.


8 responses to “honey harvest

  1. Phil Chandler, author of the book The Barefoot Beekeeper has recently published a short pamphlet called, Beekeeping, Pure and Simple where his holistic approach is laid out in a very accessible manner. I recommend you all download yourselves a copy.

  2. Pingback: garlic honey | little house on the urban prairie

  3. I like the funky paint job on your honey supers! 🙂 I like the bee escape/brush approach myself.

    Love the garlic honey idea too…

  4. the paint job is from our youth program at work – we just borrowed the box.
    i have thought of doing a exquisite corpse type of set up in which you stack them up and it makes different combinations.

  5. Pingback: honey extraction | little house on the urban prairie

  6. is that a foundationless frame? if so, do you use any kind of starter strip? i like your blog very much. mckay, brooklyn, hihathoney.com
    also, i was wondering how you overwinter your hives, do you have mesh screens on the bottom? what feeding method do you use, if any?

    • we do use a strip of foundation – just to get them started, but we have used full sheets in the past and certainly see the benefits, especially in the honey supers.

      we do use screened bottom boards, even in the winter – we do feed but we are not big fans of feeding and we try to leave them plenty of honey to over winter with, usually two full supers.

      but to be on the safe side we do provide them with some cane sugar that we put on a piece of newsprint on the top of the inner cover. we spray it with a little water to moisten it and then poke a hole though the newsprint and the hole in the inner cover. we choose cane sugar for two reasons – 1. they can feed on it at even when it is cold. with liquid feeds it has to be above 53 degrees or something like that. 2. they don’t really like the sugar. we want them to eat honey not sugar – so they only go for the sugar if they are staving. – in other words we treat this as emergency rations, not primary food. hope this helps and glad you like the blog – check out this post for more info of winter feeding

    • also i forgot to mention – if you didn’t know it there is a cool conference in new york this weekend that i’m giving a workshop at – the black farmers and urban gardening conference – it takes place in brooklyn – so not too hard for you to get to. i won’t be talking about bees, but one of the other programs i’m a part of – a new farmer training program.

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