Honey harvest

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Note: Most of the content was retrieved from the books "Beekeeping Manual for beginners" by Holeta Bee Research Center and the APIRE project [1]. and from "Advanced Beekeeping Manual by Ethiopian Beekeepers Association and Netherlands Development Organization (SNV-Ethiopia).[2]

Honey types:

  • Natural honey: natural honey includes pollen and nectar from more or several plant species.
  • Crystallized honey: crystallized honey is still as nutritious and sweet as liquid honey. Crystallization depends on the water-sugar content of honey and on the flowers the nectar was retreived from. Basically, due to high sugar and low water content, the sugar is over-representatied and therefore cannot get dissolved in the water. The honey crystallizes.
  • Crushed honey: Crude honey is not filtered or extracted from the honey comb.
  • Cream honey: through continuous stirring of normal liquid honey, the product gets creamy.
  • Comb honey: this type of honey is note extracted and sold in the honey comb. Comb honey is getting more and more popular around the globe and is sold at higher prizes than regular table honey.
  • Pressed honey: honey combs that are free from brood and pollen are pressed and filtered. If already crystalized, the comb gets jacketed with water to indirectly heat it or exposed to the sunlight).

Harvesting Honey

To avoid high water content, it is strongly recommended to harvest the honey when its mature. Bess seal ripe honey with a light and thin wax layer. If more than 70% of the honey comb is sealed, the honey is considered to be ripe (enough). Honey consisting of one pollen type (monofloral) has a higher demand and can be sold at higher prices than multifloral honey. Another indicator of harvesting time is the smell of sweet nectar in the hive's surrounding. The number of bees passing the hive entrance decreases when they do have enough food and they tend to cluster at the hive entrance in the evening.

Keeping the natural flavor and aroma of honey is essential. Therefore avoid the excessive use of the smoker. Honey harvested from one apiary contributes of the same floral composition, no matter of which hive type was used (traditional, transitional, modern). Nevertheless, quality differences may occur due to messy way of working (handling, harvesting, storing, harvesting of unripe honey, excessive use of smoke, mixing of pollen with honey, using unclean and or coverless containers). During honey harvest, the beekeeper can get rid of the old (dark) combs in the hive.

Harvesting honey from transitional or traditional hives Honey harvesting of traditional hives should take place from both sides, otherwise, the comb of the unharnessed side becomes old and the bees stop using the comb. Old combs and or /dark combs containing ripe, or unripe honey and/or dry pollen should also be collected-this can be sold to honey wine producers.

Honey extraction


Prepare a container and sieves in different sizes. Break the honey comb into pieces and put it on a coarse sieve to remove big particles. Let the liquid honey flow through the sieve into the container by gravitational force. Repeat the process with a fine sieve.

Harvesting honey from modern frame hives Take out honey combs with ripe honey and without brood or pollen and gently brush away the bees with a bee brush. Optional bee escapes can also be installed 24 hours prior to the harvest to free honey chambers from bees. One frame at a time is taken out the hive with the help of a chisel. Honey combs are collected in an empty transport box. Optional, the frames can be numbered to identify their origin.

Honey extraction


After the harvesting process, honey is still liquid and warm. Therefore, honey extraction should take place as soon as possible to avoid extra working steps. To extract honey, the required equipment and materials should be prepared, cleaned, washed and dryed. Ideally, every beekeeper should have a processing room that is free of dust, or odor. The room should have a cement floor and it should be covered with a plastic sheet. The wall should be painted with food grade paint and there should be mesh wires mounted in front of the windows. If the beekeeper has no such option, the extraction can take place at home, but it is recommended to cover the floor with a plastic sheet, or a met. Nevertheless, a water line for hygienic reasons should always be accessible. The honey extraction depends on the desired end-product. Uncapping forks or knifes are used to uncap the honey combs. Honey extractor: After the uncapping process, the combs are placed in the chambers of the honey extractor. The cover of the device should be closed to prevent honey spiling out of it. Manually, or automatically crankling of the device leads to the extraction of the honey from the combs. The honey flows into a prior positioned container. Now, the crude honey need to be filtrated to seperate the solid compound from the product. To ease the filtering process, the container can be placed in a warm water bath to slightly heat up the honey and make it more liquid. The honey is filtered with specific filters and left for at least a day to let the foam float at the top. Scoop off the foam and other particles with a spoon. For more details, the beekeeper can watch YouTube videos by using for example the keywords "honey extraction", "honey harvesting" or "honey extractor"

Honey extracting with a honey press


An alternative to extract honey with a honey extractor is pressing the honey with a professional, or a self build honey press. Insert the freshly harvested honey combs in a mesh, or in nylons and place the bag between two discs of the honey press. Prepare a container at the outlet of the honey press to collect the squeezed honey. Use the handle to press the honey. Seperate the leftover beeswax from the honey and repeat the steps as often as necessary. Finaly, scoop any foam floating at the top.

Storage of honey The moisture content of honey which is going to be stored for a long time period should not be more than 19% The honey container should be clean and have a tight cover. Containers used for other things like cooking, oil or gas should not be used for storing honey. The storage room should be dark, dry and cool Honey adsorbs foreign odors. Therefore it is not recommended to store honey with products that have a strong odor like honey wine (tej), or beer. Stored honey should not be exposed to direct sunlight. Containers made of aluminium or stainless steel are prefered for honey storage.


  1. Holeta (unknown date). Beekeeping Manual for beginners.
  2. Ethiopian Beekeepers Association & SNV (2011). Advanced Beekeeping Manual. Express Printers PLC, Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.