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Do Bees Make More Honey Than They Need?

Honey is one of the most beneficial health foods and a great source of income for us as beekeepers. Are you concerned that you might be hurting your stinger friends by harvesting their honey?

In most cases, you are not harming bees one little bit when harvesting their honey. Bees are hoarding insects, and they often take an excess of pollen from flowers near their hive and continuously make more than they need. They make honey non-stop when they are active.

Because of the vast surplus of honey, it makes it for us as beekeepers possible to harvest our bees’ honey without endangering or hurting them or their way of living. The principles of beekeeping are similar across the world, but whether bees are hurt or not while harvesting honey depends on your approach!

Is It Wrong To Take Honey From Bees?

Many people seem to pity our honey bee friends, thinking that it could be wrong to “steal” their honey they have been working so hard to produce. The answer to this is no; it is not wrong to steal honey from bees!

A healthy colony does not feel the effect of honey when it is being harvested from the beehive and continues making more honey!

A strong honeybee colony can fill up several boxes inside the beehive in just one season! Bees can adapt instantly to the loss of their honey resources, and good beekeepers will always make sure to leave adequate honey in the beehive to survive the colony.

 With proper beehive management, a single beehive can produce many, many pounds of honey in one season!  When your bees’ honey is fully cured, your bees will seal up the cells containing honey using a light layer of beeswax in a capping process.

 Agriculture includes the production of plants as well as our animals. Beekeeping is a huge part of agriculture because there is a demand for food by humans. The desire for the consumption of honey has led to the rise of beekeeping, thus saving our bees by having more hives.

What Do Our Bees Eat When We Harvest Their Honey?

Bees eat several different foods depending on their age and role in the beehive. Your queen bee would be fed different food from larvae. The typical worker bee would eat a diet made of pollen and nectar. When forager bees can’t go out of the beehive, the honeybee colony is kept going by honey and stored pollen.

Honey in the beehive is used to feed the brood, the queen, and worker bees. In winter, the number of brood is drastically reduced by the colony, which results in slower consumption of their honey resources. In early spring, the number of brood is increased in the beehive to prepare for nectar flow season.

Beekeepers who harvest honey from beehives take away some of the honey their bees had stored. Luckily, beekeepers plan their harvesting time very carefully so it will not harm their bees. Usually, a few frames that still contain honey are left in the beehive. These frames may be full or have some honey in a few of the cells.

During the nectar flow season, you can harvest honey from one beehive several times. This allows you to get the maximum yields from each beehive. By keeping the supply of honey low in your beehive, your bees will spend more effort in collecting nectar and pollen. This is one excellent management strategy used to prevent swarming!

When winter approaches, bees will collect less pollen and nectar. Eventually, it will get so cold that they will stop going out of the hive for foraging. This is when beekeepers must make sure their honeybee colonies have enough honey supply to last them through late autumn, winter, and early spring.

If the colonies don’t have enough honey, supplementary feeding can be done using sugar syrup and pollen patties to help the bees into the next honey flow season.

How To Make Sure You Leave Enough Honey In Your Hive

Worker bees spend most of their time visiting flowers, gathering nectar, and producing honey. Honey making is crucial for bees since they rely on honey as their primary source of food. This means that there should always be enough honey in your hive to be able to feed the entire colony at any given time.

It is always advised to leave at least 30 pounds (13 Kilograms) of honey for your bees to feed on during winter. During the earlier seasons in the year, your bees will be pretty young and in top health, thus making it possible to gather more honey.

 Most beekeepers agree that it is best to harvest honey twice a year, once during springtime and then in late autumn again. You should never harvest honey from a new hive during the first year, as the bees aren’t settled in yet and need some time to build their resources.

Some years with a later spring may even allow for only one big harvest. Since the supply of nectar will be less during a year like this, bees will make honey at a much slower pace. You can then decide to harvest in autumn when your bees have made the most honey.

What Happens When You Do Not Harvest Your Honey?

By not harvesting honey and being concerned that you are harming your bees, you are actually harming them more! It’s never a good thing to leave your hive unharvested. It is possible to keep bees without harvesting their honey, but it is not recommended.

Your bees will quickly outgrow their hive, as it will get too crowded. There will be an overflow of honey, and bees will find their place being too small. Your bees will begin to swarm, leaving their hive and looking for a bigger home.

Another possibility is that your bees will not leave their hive but will store their honey in the combs designated for raising bee broods. If this happens, the colony will be unable to raise new bees, and the next generation will be weaker and smaller.

However, even if you are harvesting your honey, there is such a thing as leaving your honey frame in your hive for too long. If you do, two things could happen. Firstly, your bees will start to eat the honey they have stored after the final nectar flow. Alternatively, they can even take the honey and move it into the deeper regions of their hive, making it difficult and almost impossible to harvest.

Secondly, the weather can begin to turn colder. Once the weather changes, it is impossible to remove the honey. Have you ever put honey in a refrigerator and turned white and granular? Precisely the same will happen in your hive when you do not harvest your honey.

Honey that is in this state will not come out of the comb. The lesson here? It is always better to harvest too early than too late!

Conclusion

Whether harvesting honey hurts the bees and whether beekeeping is cruel and unethical depends on you as the beekeeper. If you are still new and inexperienced in beekeeping, it would be best to start on a high note and do it sustainably.

At the end of the day, harvesting honey with your level of skill and love will benefit your stinger friends and will not hurt them in any way. Beekeepers take many essential measures to ensure that honey harvesting is not a stressful activity for their bees.

By harvesting your honey correctly, you will ensure that your colony of bees is strong and healthy. Who knows? Maybe you will even make it possible to help the future generations of bees and beekeepers by doing it right!

Jaco Stander

My name is Jaco Stander. I’m from Cape Town, South Africa. I’m a registered beekeeper with the Department of Agriculture, Land Reform & Rural Development in South Africa. Registration number WC808. I live on a small holding where I keep my 16 beehives. Taking care of bees is a very rewarding feeling, contributing to keep our bee colonies growing and thriving, and as a bonus, enjoying that sweet pure raw honey!

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