In this post, I'll describe another way to harvest honey that is more suited for beekeepers working alone and who may not have enough muscle to do it the traditional way. For example, I am a 60-year-old woman. Nuff said about that!
To prepare for pulling the honey by myself, I've adjusted all the hives so that I can drive up behind them and work off the tailgate of my truck--much easier on the back. And I start harvesting earlier in the year and do it more often. I go through the super, pull out frames of honey that the bees have capped over with wax, brush the bees away with a bee brush, and put them in an empty super in the back of my truck, covering that with a screen while I work on pulling out the next frame. It's important that the frames are capped with wax so that the honey will be dry enough to harvest--around 17% humidity. The bees move air through the hive with their wings to dry the honey before they cap it with wax they secrete from their abdomens. If the honey is too wet, it can ferment--OK for making mead but not for preparing table honey!
In Middle Tennessee, our spring nectar flow usually lasts about two months, mid-April through mid-June. I pull honey during this time as soon as the bees produce capped frames. By doing this, I can give the empty, extracted frames back to the bees for them to refill while the spring blooms are still available. I can also more easily gage when to stop taking honey. It's important to leave them a full super of honey to get through the summer when little is blooming. I finish harvesting honey about the same time that the flowers have finished blooming. This way, I can leave them 9 frames of uncapped honey, knowing they will have plenty for themselves. In the fall, we'll have another brief bloom and I will leave all of the honey the bees make then on the hives for the winter.
This way of harvesting honey takes less muscle, can be done in a cooler part of the year, cuts down on hive congestion, requires fewer honey supers, and I believe it stimulates the bees to continue working during the spring bloom.