Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Honey Time

Honey time has arrived here early, at least from the perspective our somewhat limited experience.  This will be our third year of honey harvest, and the very earliest we have extracted honey.  The past two years, it has been the end of August/beginning of September when we harvested.  I could have taken honey several weeks ago, actually.  Most was capped and ready to go.

Kathy and I pulled two medium supers off the first hive this morning.  It amounts to roughly 75 pounds, counting the weight of the frames.  I had the bee escape on and it worked fairly well.  We still had to brush off some bees but brushing gently didn't seem to bother them much.  We put the bee escape on hive #2.  We'll pull probably 8 frames off that hive.  Since they are likely still queenless, their numbers have declined and they haven't been able to produce as much.
Here are a few of the 1 frames we took this morning.  Though these two have a couple blemishes, most frames were simply gorgeous, completely filled out with sweet, mellow clover honey.  Since the buckwheat we planted is blooming and the bees are on it, as well as goldenrod and other fall flowers, we still may get a frame or two this summer yet.

We plan to extract this weekend, since the high on Sunday is only supposed to be 84.  If we start early, we should be out of the barn before the temps climb too high.  It can get pretty warm out there on a summer's day.  I plan to take a lot of photos of the process this year and will post those sometime next week.

Last night, as I was working on my boat out by the barn, I noticed a lot of bees flying around the little nuc I have been trying to start.  I thought that was a little odd, since the numbers have been going down since we have been unable to get a queen started there.  In no time, there was  quite a cloud of bees flying around, and I decided a bee from my other hives discovered this treasure and a full blown robbery was taking place.  My neighbor boy came over after awhile and asked if I had seen all the bees flying around.  I told him what was happening, and so moved that hive out back by the orchard this morning before pulling honey frames.  It's been fun to watch them up by the house but I think I'd better keep them out back in the future.
There were many,  many more bees in the air than shown in this photo.  It was pretty frenzied.

Monday, July 9, 2012

Honey Bound

It's been too damn hot to even think of opening the hives until the heat broke Sunday.  I've been anxious to open up the hives and see what is going on, especially after reading this post from Jim, in Stillwater, Minnesota, from his blog What Should I Be Doing With My Bees This Month?
I wanted to make sure my bees weren't showing the same type of crud he has been experiencing.  Kathy has been concerned about hive #2, since they just weren't showing the type of activity (i.e. bearding in masses) we were seeing at the other hive.  I also wanted to see what kind of progress they're making with the honey, and additionally take a frame of young larva to put again into the nuc to try to get a queen going there.
Seeing some heavy bearding lately (hive #1)

That was the plan, anyway.  First, the local weatherman (do they collect their paychecks without guilt or remorse???) blew it again.  According to his forecast, it  was supposed to be very mild, with highs in the afternoon only in the low 80's.  Of course, it made it into the low 90's, unbeknownst to me, with most of that heat gain occurring while I'm trying to work with about 60,000 bees wearing my bee outfit.  I should have taken off my glasses before working, since sweat was soon almost totally obscuring my vision. 

I started with hive #2, the one we were concerned about, and soon discovered that not only were they filling out both medium supers quite nicely, they were also packing nectar into every available space in the brood section.  My queen, which was laying so nicely in early June, was nowhere to be seen and there was no evidence of even any capped brood.  No queen, or else she was laying back taking it easy.  So, I pulled a couple of frames that were in poor shape and put in a couple frames with foundation, leaving a space for a frame from the other hive.  One bee got me on the front of my right ankle, through the sock.  I tuck my cuffs into my socks but she got me anyway.  As usual, I first notice a slow but soon becoming more intense warmth in the area, followed by some brief aching.  Nothing like accidentally brushing up against my solar electric fence.

Hive #1 was also doing well in the honey dept.  I could barely lift the super just above the queen excluder off the hive.  Nothing to do with those frames except cure the honey and cap it.  Looking into the top of the brood boxes, I did see nice capped brood and some very young larva, at only maybe 4 or 5 days (one or two days after hatching).  I took a good frame from this hive and put it in the other.  I picked up my second sting of the day, this time on the back of my left ankles. These girls have an ankle fetish!

I put the hives back together.  I definitely need to put a third super on hive #1 but I need to put some frames together tomorrow.  My plan is to see if they can make a queen from the frame I gave them.  If not, I'll either split them after we take the honey in August or September or, if the numbers are down too far in #2, just do a combine for the winter and then split in the spring.  I'll probably just order two new queens then.  Unless one queen is doing well, them maybe do a split.  We'll see.