Knowing when to harvest your honey in Alaska is an inexact science. Harvest too soon and you’ll miss out on the full potential of your hive. Harvest too late and the bees may have eaten much of their honey. So when should you harvest then?
In Interior Alaska, where we live, bees won’t make it through the winter, so we harvest all of the honey from the hive. Most Alaska beekeepers kill all of their bees when they harvest the honey, so one summer is all you get from your hive.
Interior Alaska in the summer is a place of endless sunlight. That means if it’s warm enough at ‘night’, bees will keep collecting nectar and pollen 24 hours a day. This allows the hive to build up a huge colony of bees quite quickly. A hive in the middle of July can have over 100,000 bees in it.
The nectar flow peaks slightly before or after the hive is at max population – it depends on the weather. Therefore, the best time to harvest is when the nectar flow starts to drop off. Around Fairbanks, that is typically in early August, once the Fireweed starts to fizzle out. Unless you have a crop of clover or other continuously blooming nectar source, the bees aren’t going to find any single flowering species to keep up with the demand in the hive.
Keep an eye on the flower progression around your apiary and take your cue from the bees. The end of the Fireweed bloom is a good gauge, but always keep an eye on the amount of capped honey in the hive and the number of bees.