Sometimes beekeepers prefer harvesting royal jelly, although they usually collect honey most of the time. Because royal jelly is thought to have health benefits and it has high demand and value in the market. Today, the royal jelly is a popular commercial product and sold in many countries throughout the world.
The royal jelly is actually what the worker bees used to feed to the queen bee and larvae to help them grow. Royal jelly is very nutritious and actually enriched with many nutrients. That’s why it’s very popular among the people.
How to Harvest Royal Jelly
There are some special techniques for harvesting royal jelly. Actually, harvesting royal jelly requires removing the cells, extracting the jelly and then storing it properly. However, here we are describing more about all these.
Remove the Cells
First of all, you have to remove the cells from the beehive for harvesting royal jelly. Follow the steps below for removing the cells from the beehive.
Put on protective gear before starting the process. Ensure that you are wearing long sleeves and pants, gloves and a beekeeper’s mask. Don’t forget to wear head cover before you get started. The mask should attach to your jacket so that there are no gaps between the collar and the brim of the hat.
During warmer weather, opting for a ventilated jacket or suit will be good. Doing so will ensure your maximum comfort while tending with your bees.
Consider the Age of the Larvae
You should consider the age of the larvae and should wait until the larvae are at least 3 days old (and it is considered as the best time for harvesting royal jelly). And this will result in the highest yield of royal jelly in your harvest.
Save the larvae and return them to the cells after finishing the steps of extracting the royal jelly. So be careful and not damage the larvae.
Pick the Frames & Sweep Away the Bees
Remove the frame that contains the royal jelly cells and start sweeping away the bees. You should be calm and move slowly and gently to avoid stirring up the bees. Sometimes sweeping away the bees can take some time to get all of the bees off. Because some of the bees will cling and some of them may fly back onto the cells.
Take the Frame to a Safe Place
Take the frame to a safe place, somewhere away from the beehive. It is advisable to go indoors with the frame so that the bees will not continue to return to the cells. And then you can store the royal jelly easily that you extract.
Extract Royal Jelly
The next important part of harvesting royal jelly is extracting the jelly from the cells. Follow the steps mentioned below for extracting the jelly from the cells.
Use a Knife
You can use a knife to cut the open narrow part of each of the cells. There is a narrow end on each of the cells that is holding the larvae and jelly inside. Using a sharp knife will be effective to cut off these ends. Keep the flat edge of the knife flush with the edge of the cell as you cut.
You can cut them off 1 at a time or cut several at once by running the knife down the edges of the cells.
Pull the Larvae Out
Then you need to pull the larvae out of the cells by using tweezers or small forceps. The larvae will look like a very fat, short worm and it is slightly coiled in the center of each of the cells. And before harvesting royal jelly, it is important to remove the larvae. And this will help to keep the jelly pure.
One important thing ‘don’t put the larvae into the same container as your royal jelly’. Use a separate container for them instead.
Use a Small Spatula
Use a small spatula for removing the remaining royal jelly from the cells. You can also use a pipette to suck the jelly out of 1 cell at a time (do this for very small amounts). This is a very time consuming process, and may take a while depending on how many cells are in the frame.
Use a Glass Storage Container
You need to use a glass container for storing royal jelly while you are harvesting royal jelly. One important thing to remember ‘the royal jelly spoils within a couple of hours if left unrefrigerated’. So you can collect smaller amount of royal jelly at a time and place them into a refrigerator.
Storing After Harvesting Royal Jelly
The last part of harvesting royal jelly is storing it. After collecting, transfer the royal jelly into dark glass vials. Transfer the jelly from the collection container to a dark glass container, because it is important to protect the jelly from light. You can use a pipette or small spatula for this purpose, and screw the lid shut tightly. Doing so will help to prolong the shelf life of the jelly.
If you plan for freezing the royal jelly, then use freezer safe vials and leave for about 0.5 inches of space at the top of the vial. This will ensure that there is some extra space for the jelly to expand during the freezing process. You can refrigerate the royal jelly for up to 18 months. But if you want to keep the jelly for longer, then you have to lower the temperature even more (1 °F). Good luck!