How to collect honey
As with every other area of beekeeping, there are lots of methods of honey collection. This method is suitable for hobby beekeepers with less than ten hives who want a high-quality product with no question about moisture content.
Honey supers can be placed on the hives as soon as the major honey plants such as alfalfa, white dutch clover or basswood start blooming in June. Use medium or shallow supers for honey; the bees usually will not completely fill deep frames and they are also really heavy when full. Only put clean, white combs or clean foundation in honey supers to ensure a high-quality honey. If your honey frames start getting dark or dirty, use them for brood boxes. Start with one super per hive. When the super is about half-full, even if it’s not capped, put another super under the first one. If you check the hives frequently throughout the summer, you will only need two supers per hive. If you prefer to only collect honey at the end of the summer, you will need to keep putting more supers on the hive as the upper ones get filled up. A queen excluder is usually not necessary if there is sufficient room for the queen to lay in the brood box.
Don’t take any frames off the hive until they are at least 80-90% capped on both sides. The bees cap the honey when the moisture content is low enough; if they haven’t capped it yet, the moisture content is still too high. Once a frame is mostly capped, take it out of the hive, set it in a clean place a few yards away and replace it with an empty frame. After all the capped frames have been taken out of a given hive, close the hive and use a bee brush to brush the bees off each frame, one at a time. This makes the bees angry, so it’s usually best to brush each frame in a slightly different location so that angry bees from the last frame have more trouble finding you to sting you. The bees will go back to their hives; the brushing doesn’t injure them.
Put brushed frames in an empty super and cover it with a clean towel or clean top cover. It’s best to devote a towel for this purpose because it will get propolis stains on it which are impossible to remove. Make sure you don’t leave any opening in the super or you will get robber bees, especially in the fall. Don’t leave these supers of capped honey outside. Take them into the honey house, garage, basement or kitchen immediately. Make sure there are no open windows, doors, dog doors or any other opening to the room with the honey supers because the bees will find it. If there’s a hole in a window screen, don’t open the window.
As it gets toward fall, make sure that you don’t take any capped honey out of the brood boxes even if they are the same size as the supers. The bees will need this honey to make it through the winter. Don’t collect any honey after Labor Day because the bees will need it.