Harvesting Honey at Home

Bee hive frame getting put into a honey extractor

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Honey is one of those useful staples that everyone should keep in their pantry. Its uses can range from baking, skin use, a myriad of health uses, to of course, eating! Who wouldn’t want this easy and nutritious super-food in their home? Problem is, if you are wanting to buy good quality, local honey you’re most likely going to have to pay a pretty penny for it. Next thing you know, your pocketbook will start complaining and trying to talk you into running to your nearest supercenter and buying their cheap honey!

Local honey vs. storebought honey

So, before we start talking about harvesting your own honey at home, let’s explore the benefits of pure, local honey! In general, anything you can grow yourself or get locally is going to be better for you and your family. Honey is no exception. While a big box store could have lots of options for honey, some temptingly cheap, beware of the possible hidden ingredients inside! Some people may add extra sweeteners or water it down, then want to sell it to you as “pure” or even “local.” I would encourage you to not fall for it and do your own research.

Better yet, go to your local farmers market or a friend you know and trust that does bees, and buy some honey from them! This honey, strained straight from the comb will most likely also still contain some pollen and other natural compounds that make pure honey that much healthier! Don’t miss out on all the health benefits available to you for the sake of your wallet!

Getting your own bees

bee hive frames stack on top of each other

Okay, so now that I’ve talked you into getting local, pure honey, let’s talk about how you can start with your own backyard beehive! Getting started is expensive, I’m not going to lie, but I think its worth it in the long run. A couple of Christmases ago, I had purchased a whole bee-keeping set for my husband. He had been wanting to start doing it, so I figured what better, practical gift!? We had a friend that did bees at the time, and he had promised to get us started with bees that spring. We were off to the races!

Like I said, to purchase the bee boxes, bee suit, smoker, scraper, etc. is not the cheapest thing. It will probably cost you around $200 or more, plus extra down the road to buy more boxes and supplies as your hive grows. This price will increase if you need to buy your bees. I don’t have experience with that because, like I said, we had a friend that was nice enough to give us the bees once we had everything else!

Although your hive growing means more money buying extra boxes and frames, more bees=more honey! And more honey means less money spent on buying it, or money made if you decide to sell some of your liquid gold. You can then use that money to put back into boxes, etc.

Things you may need

Listed below are some bee items to get you started with your own hive!

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Bees are probably one of the easiest things you could have on your homestead. They do all the work for you; you just need to check on them every few weeks to see how they’re doing and how their honey (their food) supply is. If you want to have the purest honey, try not to feed them sugar water much. However, if its winter or a part of the year where there’s no flowers around and you don’t think they have enough honey saved up then you should feed them.

You also need to check every once in a while, and make sure there’s no sign of wax moths or other intruders!

Harvesting your honey at home!

Honey straining into a cheesecloth covered bowl

Once you’ve had your bees for a year or so, (you can’t harvest that first year you have them), you should be able to finally reap your harvest! This is the exciting part, and the reason many people start keeping bees in the first place. We like to harvest in the summer and possibly the fall., when we know they’ll have time to build up enough supply for the winter again. However, the task of harvesting your own honey might be intimidating to you at first. To make the process easier on yourself I would recommend either purchasing a spinner extractor or finding someone local that has one and will let you use theirs. Buying one would be an investment, but a wise one if you plan on doing this for a while.

The other things you need, like a cheese cloth, scraper, and uncapping knife can be found easily and affordably. The scraper many times can be found in a bee kit if you bought one when you got started!

Harvesting Equipment

Harvesting process

Inside of antique honey extractor

Okay, so how do you even start the process of harvesting your honey at home? First, choose a sealed building to harvest the honey in. This step is important, and I’ll tell you why here in a minute.

Next, suit up and go gather all the frames that are now full of honey. You are now ready to choose your harvesting method.

Methond one

Honey pouring into a cheesecloth to get strained

This method is the cheapest way, but honestly the worst one for you and the bees. First, you’ll gather your frames and go into the sealed building you plan to harvest the honey in. Remember to leave the bees outside! They will be mad and follow you, so the sealed building is an important step, please don’t skip it! Once you have your frames inside, you’ll take your scraper that should have come with your beginner kit, and scrape everything off…comb and everything. Now that you have it off you can place it in a cheesecloth and squeeze the honey out. After you’ve squeezed most of it out, place it all in a cheese cloth and let it sit and drain out into a bowl. As you can imagine, this is slow going for you, especially if you have a lot of frames, but its also slow going for the bees.

You’ve just scraped off all their work of building the comb and honey up, and now they have to start completely over once you return the frame to their hive. Although it’s annoying and slow for both of you, it is possible! So, if you’re on a tight budget and just getting started, this is completely fine to do.

Method two

Inside of antique honey extractor

With this method you’ll be using the spinner extractor I linked above, or one like it. If you have a friend that has one and will let you use it, that would be great too. You’ll take your gathered, honey-laden frames and simple uncap the comb so the honey can come out. You’ll then place the uncapped frame into the spinner and spin away! The honey will come out, gather at the bottom, then you can just turn the nozzle on the spinner and let the honey pour into a cheesecloth covered bucket or bowl.

As you can tell this is the easiest and best way, as you are also the saving the bees some work too. However, like I said whichever way is best for you for now, is the way to go. In the end, you’ll have fresh honey from your hive and there are few things more satisfying! Below are a few pictures of our spinner and the process.

Antique honey spinner

Our spinner is old, but it does the job!

Bee hive frame getting put into a honey extractor

Honey-laden frame getting put into the extractor!

Inside of antique honey extractor

Inside of the spinner!

Honey spinner extractor is spinning around.

The extractor doing it’s thing!

Honey pouring out of spout of honey extractor

Super satisfying!

From your bowl/bucket of honey you can now transfer it into mason jars, and either sell some or keep it! To get more honey out of the comb, you can place it in a cheesecloth and let it hang over night into a bowl to be sure you get all the honey! When we’re done with our spinner extractor, we’ll usually place it outside near the bee hive so they can get the remainder of the honey out.

And there you have it! Let me know in the comments below if you decide to start you own hive, or which process you use to harvest your honey at home!

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