I opened the hives and harvested some honey. The sign is up. People came to the door even before Erica finished the bottling. Sales, as usual, are brisk. We have about 60 bears and 18 Muth jars, as this was a big harvest for us. The hives were packed with honey.
First, one half of the split did not take. I guess that I did not have enough new brood for them to make a queen. The split was done in haste and I may not have been able to get a good frame in the queenless split or else the queen wound up in the split with the new brood. I looked for her, but did not see her.
The good news is that the split was able to make lots of honey in the last month and it was not robbed by the other hives.
I harvested the honey in two steps. I ordered “Liquid Smoke” which is food grade smoke flavoring mixed with water and tried it a couple of weeks ago. I discovered that liquid smoke just makes the bees even more angry and was badly stung. I quit after harvesting only seven frames. The bees were very angry with me. I was stung about 30 times and the bees followed me around for about an hour trying to find an opening in my bee suit. I had bees sneaking in my gloves and getting through the veil and landing on my nose. It is days like that that make me want to give it all up.
I went back last Saturday and used real smoke and was able to harvest 20 frames from the hives. There is some honey in the split that did not make it and 10 more frames in one hive that I will try to get this weekend. Using real smoke, the bees were very calm and I was only stung twice and both times were my own fault.
I use raw cotton in my smoker which has very little smell. I did add some “pine straw” from under the pine trees, which burns very slowly and the mixture calms the bees right down so I only have to give them a whiff. I smoke the air above the hive if the bees start swarming around, and I find that if I smoke myself a little the bees stay away from me.
The hives are very heavy and I have hopes that all the remaining hives will make it through the winter. Last year, the hives were near empty at this time and they starved by Christmas. I put on the top feeders and I will give each hive a couple of pounds of sugar each week as long as they will take it. I don’t want them to think that there is a nectar flow, because then the queen might start laying more new brood than can survive the winter. I will stop feeding when the weather gets cold. I start feeding again in late February when we typically have some thaws and the bees start to wake up.
With luck I will not have to buy new packages in the Spring. Packages cost $100 or so and you never know what you get. These bees are a little cranky (not sweet and calm like the Golden Italian bees I’ve had in the past), but they are supposed to be good at overwintering in this area. They are also supposed to be naturally resistant to mites, which can devastate a hive. We will see.