First Season Honey Harvests

Brag alert! This post is all about my fantastic honey harvests. I’m unashamedly blowing my own horn while modestly giving a nod to my hard-working bees who actually did all the work. To those of you who struggle with harsh winters and Varroa mites, I sympathise with you, but not enough to be silent about my mega-harvests!

Honey Harvest

Honey Harvest

A season in beekeeping is counted from spring to autumn rather than on a calendar year (in the northern hemisphere they are actually the same, but not Down Under). I have heard a lot of people talk about how much honey a beekeeper can expect to harvest per hive per season, but mainly I’ve heard that it’s unknowable; dependent upon weather, hive health and the attitude of the bees. Nonetheless, I hoped to harvest enough to set myself and maybe a few friends up with honey to last the full year. Talk about setting the bar low!

We bought two established beehives in mid-October of 2012. That was spring here and the bees were pretty much at their peak production. The hives were full of honey so we needed to harvest as soon as the ladies all settled down into their new surroundings. This might have given us a head start for the season but if we’d had the bees all year, we just would have harvested earlier so reaped the same honey in August or September rather than October. I really don’t think the timing of bringing our bees home effected the total harvest. Anyway, we harvested our first frames on Halloween, quite the good omen I’d say. And it was all go for the next 6 months.

Inspecting a honey frame

Inspecting a honey frame

Wax collected via a solar melter

Wax collected via a solar melter

Extracting Honey

Extracting Honey

Here are the stats, read ’em and weep:

31 October:     47.0 kilos of honey;
2.9 kilos of wax

5 December:  49.2 kilos of honey;
0.7 kilos of wax

23 January:     24.4 kilos of honey;
0.3 kilos of wax

10 March:        39.7 kilos of honey;
1.1 kilos of wax

SEASON TOTAL:      160.3 kg honey;
4.9 kilos of wax

If we had been ruthless, I am sure we could have harvested a few more frames, but we wanted to leave our girls with extra honey over our first winter together. The last thing we want to have to do is feed them through winter and, if there is surplus honey, it will just be harvested in spring. It certainly won’t spoil in the hive (though it just might crystallise).

This means that for the season, we harvested 80 kilos of honey per hive. That’s the equivalent of 160 normal jars of honey (a jar being 500 grams or 1 pound) PER HIVE!. Not to forget an abundance of wax for candles to last more than 1 winter.

As if all that wasn’t enough, we scored maybe 10 small boxes (takeaway container size) of honeycomb full of honey for eating with cheese and crackers (yummmmm).

Needless to say I’m chuffed. I never dreamt my bees would be this productive and I couldn’t be happier. Plus we now have our swarm which has become a 3rd hive for us (we hope).

What more can I say except bring on the 2013/2014 season!

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About Laura Rittenhouse

I'm an American-Australian author, gardener and traveller. Go to my writing website: www.laurarittenhouse.com for more. If you're trying to find my gardening blog, it's here.
This entry was posted in bees, Nature, Sustainability and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

28 Responses to First Season Honey Harvests

  1. Lucky you, all I can say is that bees must like the Sydney weather much better than our weather. You should start an export business – it would thrive!!!

    • Bees like the weather and the huge variety of plants that Sydney lays at their feet – spoiled little princesses!

      Export… hmmm… I think my friends would lynch me if I exported what they’ve come to expect as their due 🙂

  2. vuchickens says:

    That’s incredible! Congratulations! And nice work, bees!!! They must be very happy. 🙂

  3. Emily Heath says:

    I’m… flabbergasted. In London I’ve been finding usually get about 30 pounds per hive a season if we’re lucky. Some beekeepers get 60 or 90 per hive a season if they’re doing really well. And you got 160!!! Australia must be a land of miracles. Your good beekeeping helped too I’m sure. Congratulations!

    • We don’t call Australia The Lucky Country for nothing! 160 pounds AND we do not have to feed through winter. We rob and they still can feed themselves. It doesn’t get any better than that.

      As for my good beekeeping, my “skill” was putting the hives in Sydney rather than gloomy London.

  4. A harvest to be proud of. What are you going to do with it all? I can’t remember how long ago it is since I’ve eaten honeycomb – you’ve sort of put me in the notion for it now.

    • A harvest to be overwhelmed by. To be honest, I don’t have a lot left (maybe 10 kilos) because I’ve given away and sold the rest. We have regulars (both friends and customers) who stocked up for the winter when they heard we were at the end of our harvests for a few months. The last batch went quickly!

      Honeycomb is the best. On a cracker with blue cheese is my favourite way to eat it – and it should be washed down with a nice French champagne (or a good cheap imitation bubbly 🙂

  5. John from Victoria says:

    Well done Laura (and bees)! Our bees further south here used to give us a lot of honey too, we are very lucky in Australia with the rich honey flow of the gum trees and long summer seasons. We had hives many years until back pain forced me to give them up; that was long ago.
    I did not let the number of hives go over 2, but that number fluctuated during the year. I would avoid the swarming by dividing the hives in spring during the early flows, then re-unite them during the main flow later in the season. I would end up with 3 to four box hives then. I prefer not to brag about the amount of honey we used to get from all these supers after re-unification. We used also to collect pollen, as I had built one of these pollen trap entrances.
    I am still using the wax and the propolis I had collected all those years ago in woodworking.

    What I miss most about the bees is not the huge loads of honey we used to get and spread among our friends and the neighbourhood, it is mostly the interaction with the bees, the constant watching of the weather, the insects and local vegetation in order to judge when to divide, when to feed if necessary, when to re-queen if a division had not yielded a good queen, when to reunite, when to harvest. What I miss most is the full immersion with the seasons and nature that beekeeping requires.

    Years later I still enjoy watching the bees around, I catch myself trying to judge how much Italian or how much Caucasian there is in them. You could say I have been imprinted for life.

    About books and bees and Australian beekeeping, I would suggest to grab hold of Klie Tennant’s “The honey flow”, an enchanting (80 year old) novel about a woman migratory beekeeper, a must for whoever loves bees and beekeeping. (see http://www.actbeekeepers.asn.au/Library/Reviews/honey_flow.htm ).

    • I’ve read and LOVED that book. And confirmed to myself I’m never going to be a migrant beekeeper. Talk about hard work!

      A very common complaint with beekeepers is bad backs. There’s a price to pay for robbing those heavy hives.

      I got into beekeeping for the honey and am loving it for all the wonderful reasons you site. Nothing gets you more in touch with nature than keeping bees. Thanks for reminding us all about how they do that.

  6. John from Victoria says:

    Oops! the author was Kylie Tennant.

  7. Well done…Revel in the good years and plan for the down years.

    • I’m not planning for down years – if (I won’t say when!) they come, expect pouting and stomping of feet. I love happy, healthy, well fed bees and don’t want anything less.

  8. well done you! amazing stash of honey! xxxx

  9. Unable to think of a suitably jocular comment full of mock bitterness and jealousy we will confine ourselves to “Wow!”
    Decades ago (pre-varroa) we had read that 25-50lbs. per hive was typical for a competent beek with a healthy hive in an average year. This is amazing.

    • “Wow” works for me. My favourite part of your comment was the word “jealousy”. I’ve learned that making people jealous can be quite rewarding 🙂 You obviously don’t have to be nice to be a beekeeper 🙂

  10. Simon says:

    Incredible harvest! This just looks amazing to me. Regardless of how great a job your bees are doing, you certainly make quite a fine beekeeper. =]

  11. shirehouse says:

    Wow indeed!!! That looks gorgeous! We lost our hive over the winter and have a new colony that doesn’t look like it is doing too well. We got enough from spring harvest for a batch of mead but I don’t have very high hopes for the fall harvest.

  12. cohutt says:

    Wow.That is something……

  13. Pingback: And then there were none | Laura Rittenhouse's Gardening Journal

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