Experience is a brutal teacher. But you learn, my God, do you learn.

-C.S. Lewis

Stream In January

Stream In January

Sunday, August 30, 2009

Late August Hive Inspection

Four weeks ago I took 16 shallow frames of honey from Walter Bee. I'll tell you briefly how I took the honey and what I did with it. I had done a lot of reading and talking with other beekeepers about ways to remove the honey, but hadn't quite decided what to do. Blowing the bees off with a high-powered blower seemed brutal to me. I have friends who use this method, but they are running between 40 and 50 hives and it's fast and efficient for them. I read about Bee Go, a chemical used on a fume board to drive the bees down in the hive. But anything that reads "Hazardous price on shipping will apply - call for quote" was NOT going on my bees. And then someone told me it smelled like vomit (sorry) and there really no more thought about the Bee Go. Again, I know folks who use it. There is another product called Fischer's Bee Quick and it's advertised as all natural and smells nice. I considered this. Another friend I spoke with tried bee escapes, but after he had placed them in his frames, we had rain for a couple of days, he could not remove the frames and the bees figured out how to get back up to the honey. He ended up doing what I did.

And this is what I did....Along with the help of my husband, we donned bee hats and veils, gloves, long sleeve white shirts and long pants. We took a smoker, hive tool, frame lifter, bee brush, large plastic tub and a large towel to the beeyard. I very gently smoked the entrance to the hive and opened up the top. The topmost super contained sourwood honey. In a period of 3 weeks the bees had drawn comb and made and capped honey in 6 frames. The remaining 4 frames were completely drawn and contained honey, but were not completely capped. Using my frame lifter, I removed the 6 frames, one by one, and brushed the bees back into the hive. As the frames were cleared of bees, I handed them to my husband who put them in the tub and covered them with the towel. Didn't want to create a robbing incident and we were successful. I then removed the super with 4 frames left and started on the second.

The second super contained much darker honey. This was tulip poplar. All 10 frames were filled and capped. We decided since we were in the hive, we'd continue. I didn't use anymore smoke and I continued lifting frames and brushing bees. We were successful in removing all 10 frames, although towards the end the bees were getting QUITE TESTY and who could blame them. I was taking what they had worked so hard for and I felt a little guilty. The only incident came just as we were finishing. Two bees got up underneath my veil and one stung me on the side of my eye. I guess it served me right. (I think I will invest in a hat and veil that attach to a jacket. That way the bees can't get in. Might be a good Christmas gift. Hmmmm.)

It took a while to get all 16 frames to the garage for ovenight storage, but we managed a few frames at a time. They were heavy!

This is what I did with the honey. I extracted the 6 frames of sourwood and 4 frames of the tulip poplar. I'll post on that later, but I used a crush and strain methed and it was very simple.

I added 6 frames back to Walter using only starter strips of wax. To Ora I gave 6 frames of the dark honey and filled in with 4 frames, again, only containing starter strips of wax.

When I inspected my hives today, this is what I found.

Of the 4 new frames in Ora, the workers have drawn comb in 2. Lots of pollen in those cells. There has been no activity on the other 2 frames, but our honeyflows are over. The sourwood is long gone and our weather is getting cool. For the winter, Ora will have 16 full frames of honey.

The bees in Walter have drawn comb in 4 of the 6 frames I added but there is no pollen. They've also finished capping the 4 frames of sourwood I left. It's there for them for the winter. Walter will have 14 frames of capped honey. My goal was for each colony to have 60 pounds of honey to overwinter and the bees have accomplished this and more. I don't think I'll have to feed this year. Also, no more wax foundation. I had to see for myself, but the bees don't need it. They know how to draw comb.

I'm holding this frame with my frame lifter, a tool I like very much. I don't smush bees when I use it. I also wear gloves because I feel more comfortable and I don't want to risk being stung on the hand and dropping a frame of bees.
When I was working the hives today, I noticed there is still quite a bit of pollen coming in. The colors are white, yellow and orange. I'm not sure where it's coming from, but obviously the bees are still finding things in bloom. I also saw very few drones. Our weather is supposed to be very fall-like this week with 40's for morning lows. The drones days are numbered. I might do one more hive inspection before the cold gets here, or maybe not. I'm a very hands-off beekeeper and so far it seems to be working very well for me. My bees know what they are doing. Life in an organic garden :)

If I've bored the pants off anyone who might be reading, I'm sorry, but I had to get this all down. I have to be a better recordkeeper!


Anonymous said...

Congrats, Lynn! I cannot wait until next year when I'm doing the same thing -- harvesting the rewards of this hobby we all love. I'm with you on the lawn blower. I've read others that said it seems wrong to do it, they get confused and hurt from being slammed around -- and the chemical stuff sounds horrid. Keep up the good work and give a thumbs up to your girls for me! :)

Kat said...

Not bored at all! I learn so much from all you beekeepers! (I don't have bees) What beautiful photo of the work they do.

PhilipH said...

I too enjoy reading postings by bee-keepers. Not knowing much at all about these amazing creatures it inspires me to read as much as time allows.

This evening I'll be watching a tv programme about the decline of bee colonies; I recorded it yesterday as I couldn't watch it 'live', so to speak.

Love that photo of the two little black/brown bears in the preceding post! Super.

Cliff W said...

Mission accomplished ! Well done and another great post.

I think blogging is the perfect way to record what happens in the hives as long as you are happy to share it, I suppose.

BTW, we loved the photos of the cubs - my fiancee wants to move to North Carolina now!

Lynn said...

Kat and Philip, I especially appreciate non-beekeepers following. Lots of folks are taking an interest in the plight of the honeybee now and I think it's very important. So, thanks!

Cliff, I do think it's important to share and can't wait to see more from you about your bees.
North Carolina is a beautiful state and the people are very friendly. We'd love to have you.

I wish I could send you all a lovely jar of sourwood honey! Compliments of the honeybee, of course.

Cliff W said...

That's a kind offer.

My fiancee was visiting in NC around Winston Salem a couple of years ago and tells me how beautiful the countryside there is. Her sister-in-law has a brother living near there so maybe one day...

Lynn said...

Cliff, talk about small world. We lived in the small community of Kernersville, about 12 miles from Winston-Salem, for 22 years.

The piedmont area of our state is beautiful. The only thing I don't miss about it is the heat. Very hot and humid in the summer. My mountain temps barely made it past 78 this summer. Today started at 62 and fallen to 59. Fall is on it's way to the mountains.

Barbara's Spot on the Blog said...

Lyyn, your posts are very interesting.

I agree with the others on not using the blower or chemicals. I've got bee escapes which I'm going to try - so thanks for the rainy weather tip/warning!

Ngaio said...

We are more alike then we know Lynn, I always brush the bees off the frames as gently as I can and as quickly, then put the frames into a large plastic container I have beside me with a lid. I have seen beekeepers bang the frame hard on the ground to get the bees off, this, plus blasting with a blower just seems wrong to me. I guess if you are a commercial beekeeper with hundreds of hives and not enough time in the day to get everything done, you may want a quicker method - me being a hobbyist can afford to take it slower and quieter.
Your honey sounds scrummy, I wish i could taste it ..

PhilipH said...

Lynn, I forgot to ask: how is the sting near your eye going? Hope it is not troubling you.

vicree said...

Boring? No way! I read it like a novel, don't want to put it down, and can hardly wait for the next chapter.

Any pictures of you and 'the handy one' in full regalia? That would be neat.

Just a reminder...sourwood honey and fig preserves call for hot biscuits and real butter. Maybe soon!