For many beekeepers the main reason for keeping bees is to harvest honey and/or pollen. Another economically very important service of honeybees is the pollination of crops, such as many fruit trees.
In Dalsland, Sweden, willow is normally blooming during the latter part of April. Maple appears during the first week of May. It’s important, but gives nothing to harvest. In mid-May, bees can collect small amounts of dandelion (Taraxacum) honey in southern Norway.
The spring honey is usually used by the bee colony itself to grow up in preparation for the main nectar flow. Since the Nordic brown bees’ colony development starts slow, however, it does not support spring honey production. Despite this, it is sometimes possible to collect unifloral types of honey from the spring blooming season. The first main nectar flow usually comes from raspberry (Rubus idaeus).
Both the harvesting time and origin of honey depend completely on the surrounding environment’s biotope and climate.
- In Dalsland, Sweden, the most important nectar flow is usually in August and harvesting ends in mid-August.
- In Norrbotten, Sweden, the time for harvest is in late July or early August.
- In southern Norway, the harvesting is done in two rounds; summer honey is harvested around mid-July. After that comes the heather honey, which is harvested separately.
- In South-West Finland, the main honey yield is usually ready to be harvested at the end of July or even earlier.
If there is a strong flow of raspberry nectar in Dalsland, Sweden, honey harvesting will be done quite soon after Midsummer. But if the raspberry nectar is poor, harvesting will wait until the end of August or even the beginning of September. A. m. mellifera are very good at collecting nectar from heather Calluna sp.
The progress and timing of flowering can vary by several weeks from year to year. Spring flowers, for example, can bloom one month later in northern Scandinavia in comparison to southern Scandinavia. Moreover, the flowering season is shorter in the North than in the South. In any case, the main nectar flow takes place at approximately the same time just after the middle of the summer season.
Removing the bees from honey combs:
- A. m. mellifera bees cover the honey cells with a "dry cover." The comb's surface is clear white and there is an air space between the honey surface and wax lid on the cell.
- The bee blower is not recommended for A. m. mellifera bees to remove the bees from honey supers.
- Bees go down easily with moderate use of smoke.
- Don't brush or shake the same bees several times during harvesting.
- All honey frames can be harvested at the same time but some food should be left into the brood area.