Fall Honey

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.

Robbed the Bees on Labor Day

I wanted to start taking the honey supers off the hives. Last year I lost a couple of hives because there was a dearth in August and September and I did not feed them. As a result, the healthy and active hives starved to death. This year I am feeding the hives a couple of pounds of sugar each week, but sometimes I skip a week. All the hives seem to be flourishing.

I wanted to take off the supers because the bees need to fill out the hive body with honey and pollen for the winter. I will continue to feed them and I hope that they will pack things tight and make it through the winter. I do not expect to harvest again this fall, and the supers have a queen excluder that would keep the queen from moving up to the super honey, anyway.

I worked for about an hour and a half and the smoker went out, so I only finished three hives. Two of them had two supers. I will try again on the other hives if there is weekend without rain, soon. It is a slow process. I have to pull each frame and brush the bees off. I then have to move it to a covered box so the bees don’t find it again. The bees were making a stink and by the time I got the 5 frames back near the house, there was a swarm of bees trying to get at the stolen honey. I moved the frames to new boxes, brushing the bees again and got the vast majority of them to leave the robbed boxes alone. When I went out this morning, the swarms were gone, but I expect there to be a few hundred bees trapped inside the boxes that will swarm out when I open them to do the spinning.

I was stung twice, once through the glove, and once on my stomach when I was taking off the bee suit.

Out of the 5 supers I got 28 frames of honey, but some of the frames were one side only or only half filled. There were a dozen frames of pollen which I am setting aside for the spring. There were many frames of uncapped honey, most of it very liquid. The humidity has been so high that the bees were not able to reduce the nectar to honey. I left several of these out where they could be cleaned by the bees.

I figure about 40 pounds in the 28 frames, more or less. This should be about 50 or so bears which will go on sale this weekend if the rain stops. I will spend the first clear night spinning the honey. I need some dry weather to clean the equipment with bleach solution so it the honey won’t be contaminated. I do the spinning outside so the equipment needs to be clean and dry. I need a couple of hours to drain the spinner into buckets before I bring the unfiltered honey inside to filter and bottle. The forecast is for rain all week, so I am not sure which night I will be able to spin the honey.

I have four more hives, each with a super that have to be robbed. When I lifted the feeders last time it looked like they had lots of honey. I will suit up and rob them if it doesn’t rain this weekend. If they are as packed as I hope, it will be another 40 or 50 pounds of honey.

I am going to print 60 labels with “September 2012” as the vintage date. I hope that I run out of labels and have to print another 60.

I am hoping that the chickens will lay enough eggs by this weekend that the sign for Eggs will go up and everyone who buys honey will buy our eggs.