Today was a very big bee day. My ‘extractor’ came in! And, fantastic surprise this, it’s from Italy! I feel very fancy; I import my tea pots from the UK and my fruit presses specifically for wine making from Italy. I had no idea it was made it Italy when I bought. Here’s a picture while it’s still clean and pristine.
Basically, I plan on using this fruit press to press the honey comb. I’m hoping it’s much more effective than a turkey pan and a fork!
Today was also the beekeepers meeting. It was very interesting. The author of scientificbeekeeping.com was our guest speaker, and he talked for two hours. One thing I took away was the use of ‘drone frames’. He runs an operation with over 1000 hive with his two sons and a few other helpers, and he said that they have a drone frame in every single hive as part of their varroa control. And because this frame is present, the bees are much less inclined to draw drone comb elsewhere in the hive, making splits and things easier to sell, as people aren’t as happy receiving drone comb in their nucs. The other important thing was that ‘a good beekeeper should double the number of hives in his apiary every year’. His operation is so big, and commercialized, that this was more incorporated into a marketing perspective than a hobbiest (that is a word right) would like I think. That said, it is easy to double (and triple) colonies and then combine them at the end of the year. It also allows you the opportunity to sort of ‘roll the genetic dice’ if you will, because for every new colony you make you have the chance to produce a wonderful queen.
He talked about feeding both sugar syrup and protein patties more than I would’ve liked, as I’m not a fan of these so much, and a lot of what he talked about related to a specific regiment of feeding of his. He also talked about working hives in the snow, and had multiple pictures of him doing so. This was far beyond my years/experience level, and I feel confident is saying it was also beyond that of much of my fellow association members, so I felt like this was a bit of a daunting subject that my cause a bit of trouble. And the reason for these visits was due to an overlarge population caused by feeding earlier in the year. So… yeah.
He talked a lot about various treatments for varroa, and most of it had to do with good breeding, which I liked. Apparently there are a couple strains of bees that are almost entirely resistant to varroa. One was a Russian strain and the other was some acronym I can’t remember. VHS I feel like it was, lol. These were both around several years ago when I first took up beekeeping, but their credibility wasn’t so great yet. I’m inclined to try the acronym one though, because they’re supposed to be very docile unlike the Russians.
Other than that there wasn’t much of note. He had several very fancy graphs that depicted bee and mite populations throughout the year and their relationship. Oh! He did explain the reason for the apparent “explosion” in the mite population at the end of the year. The mite population actually stays relatively the same all year, but the bee population doesn’t. Because the bee population is reduced so much in the fall, the apparent mite population explodes. Get it? The number of mites per bees increases because the number of bees in the hive has decreased. It really has nothing to do with an increase in the mite population at all. That said, treating in fall is still important because the mite to bee ratio is so high.
I recommend checking out his website, scientificbeekeeping.com simply because he referenced it so often during his lecture. He tried to cover almost the entire scope of beekeeping in two hours, so he skimmed over a lot of the little things and told us to check out his website if we were interested in anything in particular.
I’ll harvest some time in the next week and post pictures for you all to see how it goes!
The forecast showing temperatures in the low 60s and chances of rain for the next week, I decided I would collect honey from White Hive today, as it’s in the low 70’s right now.
The bees had moved a good deal of honey from the super into the rest of the hive. I took all of the frames out, one at a time, and set them on the overturned roof on the hill behind me, making sure to keep them all covered with a wet towel so they were inaccessible to bees. It’s a bit of a hassle, so I might invest in one of those boards that only lets bees out and not back in. Someone or other’s escape board its called, right? Anyway. I removed all of the frames from the super, then took the super off of the hive and shook the last of the bees out of it. I set it down on the bricks next to the hive, and then put the telescoping cover on the hive to keep the bees a little calmer. I then moved all of the frames back into the super and covered it with the towel and whisked it away to my patio, where I set it on the ground to be picked up on my way in.
I decided I should give White Hive a proper inspection and see the state of things before winter. I was shocked to find that the first 4 frames of the hive were solid sheets of capped honey. I took one out and set it aside so I’d have more room to work with in the hive (which is what I usually do). The bees were wonderfully calm and peaceful throughout everything, and they didn’t run around the frames at all. I took out several frames to look for brood (I eventually found two frames with brood on one side of each) and the bees didn’t really move/notice at all. I found Tasha on one of the far frames that were relatively full of honey. At first I was worried it wasn’t her because she was so much slimmer (I only found a small pocket of eggs elsewhere in the hive) and her ‘birth mark’ was greatly reduced to the point of being difficult to see. It was definitely her, but I’m sure she could stop laying for a few hours and be easily ready to fly.
With the lack of brood in the top box I wanted to see how things looked in the lower one, and struggled to move (I’d honestly put the box at close to 100lbs) the brood box over onto the bricks next to the hive. The lower box appeared relatively empty, with a strip of honey along the top of each frame. There was maybe a frame and a half worth of capped brood, and small amounts of pollen (there was none in the top box). I moved one of the lesser frames, containing a small amount of pollen and honey, into the middle of the top box to give the queen a bit of laying room. I decided to harvest the frame of honey that I had removed from the hive earlier. Two of the super’s frames had no honey in them, and I hadn’t put them back in the super when I carried the super away. I put one of these frames into the lower box, on the far edge, if only for a good storage place. Oh and the drone-frame was completely empty, though the girls had begun storing honey in a few of the cells. Drones were everywhere, though not in horrible numbers. I found several of them dead in the corners of the lower box, which makes me think they’re dying off on their own and not being evicted by the girls.
Having done everything I felt I needed to, I re-stacked the boxes and put the lids back on and moved on to Trunchen Hive. I put the frame I was harvesting off to the side, relatively out of the way, so I could pick it up on my way in. I took the lid and quilt off of Trunchen Hive and, after almost tearing the cloth on top of the bars in half because the bees had glued it down so effectively, peeked in through the bars. The wax was a nice yellow color and there appeared to be a fair amount of honey, though not all of the cells were capped. I covered the bars with the cloth again and began working my hive tool in between the bottom box and the floor. You’re supposed to turn the boxes to ‘warm way’ (so the bars run parallel to the entrance) for the winter so that less air gets into the hive and the bees stay warmer. Unfortunately, bees don’t like having their house turned all at once, and as soon as I lifted the boxes off the floor (the three boxes together weighed less than the single deep full of honey, which is slightly worrisome) bees came pouring out and covered my boots. I quickly turned the boxes and set them back down. Thankfully I had just tied the lace around my left boot (I put my pant legs outside of my rain boots and then use a shoelace to cinch them closed), but my right lace was annoyingly loose. I thought I felt a bee crawling up my leg several times, and they were VERY actively searching for a way in. Dozens had stuck themselves in my laces. I had to resort to beating my boots with my brush for about a minute to reduce their numbers enough that I felt safe walking away from the hive. I picked up the deep frame and my smoker and walked to the stairs. After beating my boots again I realized there was no way I was going to get away from the bees while I was still outside.
I caught my mothers attention and had her open the garage, so I could run in and loose the bees. It took a minute or two, but we eventually managed to time it right and I made it into the garage without any bees on me. Because yes, these bees followed me all the way into the front yard and were trying to follow me into my dark garage. White Hive’s bees only had a problem with me after I was digging through their lowest box, and even then, they left me relatively alone. After I was upstairs and had changed out of my suit, I saw that the front of Trunchen Hive was covered in bees. I’m glad I didn’t have to harvest from them this year. That would’ve been unpleasant.
Now that I’ve got all these frames of honey, I’m stuck waiting until Tuesday for my fruit press to arrive. I plan on using the fruit press to press all of the honey out of the wax, which will be scraped from the frames. I think I’ll then remove the foundation from the frames and put wire on them, because the bees drew wax out on that much faster. Tuesday is also the day for the beekeepers association, so I probably won’t begin extracting until the weekend because that’s the soonest I’ll have time with my school schedule.
Either the drones are beginning to die off on their own or the girls are cleaning house before the winter, because I found several of them crawling through the grass today. We have a lot of yellow jackets that hunt the flies in our lawn and I’m guessing they’ve discovered the large easy meal that are the drones. When I found them a yellow jacket was bothering a drone, but seemed unable to decide how best to attack it and gave up. Between the yellow jackets and the ants, I’m sure everything will be cleaned up before winter though.