Sunday, June 29, 2008

Other People's Bees

Now that I have fallen for honey bees, I find myself observing other people's hives as I drive along the road. Yesterday I found some hidden hives while hiking around Hawksdene out in the western mountains.

Sunday, June 22, 2008

The Cleaning Crew

So, one might ask, how do you clean up all that sticky equipment after extracting your honey?
Simple. You just put it outside and let the girls find it. They'll get every minute drop of honey and take it back to the hive for their own use. I did learn the hard way that it is best to turn the buckets on their sides. We had a small number of fatalities when the first few bees got stuck in the honey. Since turning, though, most of the bees have been able to come, get their honey and go back home with no problem.
Another tip...beware the honey-guarding-bee. One of the bees chased me back into the house when I took this second picture, buzzing indignantly next to my ear through the yard, through the mud porch, into the kitchen. I was alone in the hallway and returned to find the bee grooming herself on the kitchen floor. Popped a tupperware over her and put a sheet of paper under her and escorted her back outside where she belonged.
Another couple days and the extractor and bottling bucket will be clean as a whistle and ready to store until the next harvest later in the summer.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

17 Pints

So the math teacher took pi times radius squared and multiplied by the height of the honey in the bottling bucket, which gave her cubic inches and then she googled to figure out how many cubic inches were in a pint....her estimate was 16 pints. I did the math the redneck way, put the honey in the jars and then counted the jars. I got 17 pints, but we filled to the neck of the bottle, not to the lid, so there may have been some variance. Either way, that's a whole bunch o' honey.

The Leaning Tower of Bees

On Sunday when we were taking the shallow super of honey from Rachel, we also dismantled the Sylvia hive and put her bottom deep on top of Rachel's two deeps, separated by a piece of newspaper with some small slits in it. Once they eat through the newspaper, the plan is that they will smell right to each other and not have to have a small war. The shallow super pictured on top had some honey started, but was not capped, so we left it there for them to finish. We also added the shallow super we extracted back to the very top of the hive (not currently pictured) for them to finish cleaning the honey out of the cells and hopefully start over again with the upcoming sourwood honey bloom. By late fall we hope to figure out how to get the hive back down to two deeps.

All that is left of the Sylvia hive is her bottom board with a few homeless and unhappy bees. Many of these bees came home after the hive had left. We decided to leave them to their own resources, as they were likely to be most cranky and likely to sting us. The top deep off of Sylvia is going into storage for the time being. The little bit of nectar stored in the bottom of a few frames was left out in another part of the yard, where bees are busily taking it out and back to their hive. When they've cleaned out those frames, we'll store them, too.

Sunday, June 15, 2008

8 Shallow Frames of HONEY

Robbed the hive with very little problem. The fume board and the Fischer's Bee Quick emptied the bees out of the supers in only a couple minutes. The only effort was using the hive tool to pry the supers apart where the bees had industriously glued them together....and the heavy lifting. Wheelbarrow helped there. Had one super (pictured above) with capped honey on 8 out of 9 frames. Left the 9th frame intact and extracted the other 8.
Isn't that beautiful? The white is the beeswax capping they put over the honey when it is dehydrated to honey goodness.

We just sawed the cappings off with what is basically a very sharp bread knife. Went back over the low spots the knife didn't get with a cappings scratcher...something that looks like a metal version of a hair pick from the 70's. Sort of.

Put two frames at a time in the simple plastic extractor...

Turned the handle and spun it around....

And voila! The comb was empty and the honey was in the bottom of the extractor bucket.

Then opened the gate and let the honey flow through the filters into the bottling bucket.

You can see white comb remnants there in the filter. There are actually three filters on the bucket top.

If you look at the bottling bucket, you can tell that it is almost half full....just from 8 shallow frames. Tonight we let it settle, then tomorrow we put the honey into jars. Which reminds me...time to go to store for some jars!!
Update later on combining the hives...I think that went well, too.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Plan for a Corporate Merger

Here's the plan. Sometime this weekend I will fire up the smoker and stink up the fume board and haul out the wheelbarrow.

We'll head to Rachel-the-healthy first, and replace her cover with the stinky fume board, encouraging the bees to flee down deep into the hive and out of the honey supers. While the fume board is fuming, we'll head over to Sylvia and pop the huge staples out that connect the bottom box with the bottom board.

Then we'll take the two shallow supers off of Rachel, putting them in the wheelbarrow and covering them with a towel to prevent bees from trying to come take their honey back.

We'll put a sheet of newspaper on top of Rachel, move Sylvia's bottom deep to the top of the sheet of newspaper, and then pop the cover on top of the three deep hive.

The top deep off of Sylvia with its trace amount of honey and the two shallow supers will come into the house for processing.

The bees will eat their way through the newspaper, with their respective smells blending. When they break through, they'll become one big happy hive.

Next spring we'll split this huge hive back into two hives.

Rachel will benefit from Sylvia's gleanings, Sylvia's heritage will be preserved.

Sounds complicated, but I'm wildly optimistic.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Laying Workers, Dying Hive

We went back in to the Sylvia hive today, after several weeks of neglect and general "hoping it will sort itself out because between work and vacation I don't have time."

There were very few bees, almost no brood, and far too many drones in terms of percentages. They're the big fellows with the big eyes that you can see in almost every picture.

It turns out that we were indeed without a viable queen, and while the general population began to die of "old age"---I think summer bees live about six weeks, at least one of the workers decided she would try to be queen and lay some eggs.

While a worker can indeed lay eggs, because the eggs are not fertilized, they all become drones.

With the hive full of nectar and increasingly devoid of bees that work, I'm now looking at how to save the frames for a new colony of bees next spring. I've posted a question on the WNCbees forum about what to do with all these frames covered in nectar.

The white capped cells in the second picture from the top and the picture right above this line are honey. Bless their hearts, they did their best. I have some general guilt about not intervening when it was early enough to do some good....but the demands of time and my complete lack of experience conspired against the needs of Sylvia.
On the bright side...delving in this hive repeatedly has helped me get over my initial heebie-jeebies of working the bees. And I've been motivated by their crisis to read, read, read and learn much more about how to help my other hive and my future bees. I hope to become a bee keeper instead of a bee haver.