Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Storing the Honey Comb

I'm packing up the shallow supers, the boxes that the bees used to store their honey. The comb is clean and empty, the honey is in jars, and the comb will wait for another summer of honey production. To keep the comb free of pests, it spent a few days in the chest freezer to kill any current buggy inhabitants. Then I put the supers in a stack on top of some newspaper, and at the top of the frames put a plate on which I spooned some "Para-Moth" crystals. Moth balls to keep the wax moths away. I'll also store the unused deep and its frames of comb in the same fashion. More important for the black comb of the deep, because wax moths particularly like dark comb that has been used for raising brood.

For my own record keeping...the bottom super in the pile has all drawn out comb. The second box up has drawn out comb on most of the frames, but two frames with new foundation.

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Examining Rachel's Bottom Box

In order to reduce the hive from three deeps to two, we took the least utilized frames out. Since we had slacked for over a month, the bees had moved up in the hive and the entire bottom box was mostly empty, making frame selection quite easy. We just took the whole freakin' box.
You can see some honey at the top of the frame above. It has been capped for winter storage with white wax. Pretty much all the honey in the bottom box is pictured here. You can also tell that this is a new frame, added this year. The comb is still lovely cream color. As time goes by and bajillions of little bee feet tromp over the comb, it gradually turns black.
Much of what was in the bottom box looked like the frame above. Sort of a "lite bright" image of yellows and oranges and browns against a black background. The material stored here is pollen. Bees collect from one type of flower at a time and store the pollen from that type flower in the same cell. So...different color pollen comes from different flowers. Pollen is the bee's protein, an important part of their food source. One can't live off honey alone. Pollen is vital for the production of brood.

Finally, a little burr comb (comb not hanging neatly on the frame) that demonstrates how very dark the comb can get. Or illustrates what a very white woman I am. Or both.
We froze the frames in our chest freezer for a few days. Freezing kills moths, mites and other problem critters. We've decided to put the box of frames on the back porch for the bees to raid...and to allow them to recoup some of their honey and pollen.
We'll freeze it all again once they've emptied it.

Sunday, October 5, 2008

Feeding the Bees

Since we took so much of the bee's winter food (honey), and since there was a drought this summer, we've been feeding the bees to ensure they have provisions for the cool of the year. Our feeder is a thick board with a mason jar lid-sized hole. We've been heating water and combining two parts sugar to one part water and putting this syrup in the mason jar.
The bees get their syrup through the tiny nail holes in the lid. This week we're skipping the sugar syrup and just returning some of their own honey to the hive. I wouldn't give them store bought honey since it comes (according to the jar) from three countries and goodness only knows how many different hives.

But we still have plenty of their own honey. Here I'm just draining the honey from a pint jar into the larger jar I'm using as a feeder. The peanut butter is part of my own winter reserve.

Saturday, October 4, 2008

Getting Down to Winter Size

You may remember that we combined the two hives a while back because one hive had gone queenless and had a laying worker bee. That hive was down to a bunch of useless drones hanging out and eating honey.

When we combined the two hives using the newspaper method, we ended up with a hive three deep boxes tall. A whole lot of hive. We were supposed to go out a week or two later and reduce it back down to two boxes, which we did not do.

With winter coming, we felt a need today to get it in gear and correct the situation. So...went out and took off the feeder, took off the top deep and the middle deeps and put them to one side. So far, so good. The top deeps were heavy, so they presumably were full of honey and brood. They also appeared chock full of bees. Since we didn't start pulling frames out, those two boxes were full of mellow, somewhat happy bees.

Then we went into the bottom box and started yanking out frames, which produced the cloud of angry bees I'm coming to know and love. After figuring out that the frames in the bottom box were basically empty of useful bee stuff, we just moved the whole bottom section. We put down a new bottom board and then put the top two deeps back.

We put the bottom deep on the top, used some "bee quick" that we use in honey collection to push the cranky bees down into the hive, and took the now empty box back off to store.

I took it into the basement to freeze the frames. Upon inspection, the frames from the bottom deep had some pollen, a tiny amount of honey, and no brood. They were basically light, airy and empty.

So...the hive is down to two deeps for winter. Yippee skippee. Will continue to feed the bees.

Here's an odd thing I've learned. After ticking off the bees, four or five bees will continue to buzz around your head as you walk away from the hive. I've found that walking into my garage leaves them behind. For some reason, they won't come in the garage. (They will come into the kitchen if I go right into the house.)

Today I went in the side door of the garage and then out the front door. The bees were still hanging out near the side door waiting for me.

Friday, October 3, 2008

No Mowing Today

I went out to mow the back yard on this sunny fall day, but soon quit, as the back yard is covered with blooming clover, and the clover is covered with happy bees and other pollinators.

Reducing the Entrance

This morning the temperature was 38 degrees Fahrenheit when I woke up. The bees were not stirring, but were huddled inside their warm hive. A few nights ago we added an entrance reducer. This both helps keep the hive warm and gives the dropping population less to guard. We put the opening at the top. If some bees should die there in the entrance, you don't want them to block the door.