Honey Harvest

Reader Contribution by Betty Taylor

Honey! It’s why I originally became a beekeeper even though that has morphed into so many more other good reasons to keep bees. I’ve been pulling honey for almost a month now and still can’t wait til tomorrow when I go out again, for the last time this season, to harvest this liquid gold.

This year’s honey is very light in color but has a very distinctive taste that I can’t quite identify. The first pull in early May was the most distinctive, and I’m not sure what it came from. Trees? yes, but which ones? the very early blooming shrubs and wildflowers? yes, but which ones? In the 3 successive pulls so far this season, the bees have gone from foraging on trees and shrubs to multiflora rose, honeysuckle, wild blackberries, and now clover. Each pull has become milder in flavor, with it’s own distinctive color and taste. 

Many beekeepers wait until mid or late summer to harvest all their honey at one time. The honey is pulled, blended all together, and so is of one flavor and color. If the beekeeper has integrity, this honey is a wonderful blend of the bees’ nectar gathering and the beekeeper’s season of toil. If the beekeeper values profit over craft, there is no way to know what you are getting. In a bad year, the beekeeper might be tempted to buy honey from elsewhere to mix with a paltry crop. Sad but true.

The reason I pull multiple times in a season and get such variety in my honey is simply because I work alone. As an older woman without the muscle power of a man or of a younger person, I’ve learned to adapt, which means I have to work more slowly and to spread the harvest out over a month or so, little by little. The wonderful upside of this is the terroir of honeys that I harvest. Each is distinctive because of the flowers that happen to be blooming at the time.

Beyond this is the weather conditions. If it has been very rainy, even though a certain flower is in full bloom, the bees are unable to harvest the nectar, being stuck in the hive because of the downpours. If flowers bloom during a particularly windy time, the bees cannot fly in the high winds and do not harvest that nectar.

So, as you can see, each year’s honey will vary in composition and flavor. This is why I anticipate each year’s crop with such excitement! What color will it be? How will it taste? No two years and no two pulls are alike. This time of year is the highlight. I harvest and sell my honey and get feedback from my customers. Neither of us are ever disappointed!