Tag Archive | add

Flavorings for Homemade Cream Honey

Sunday, February 26, 2017

Sure, cream honey is delicious “as is”, but if you’re already putting in the effort, why not split the batch and add some flavors?

If you’ve never heard of or made cream honey, then revert back to my recent post on Making Cream Honey, then come back here and learn how to kick it up a notch!

The following provides an overview of popular flavorings and additives for cream honey, as well as recommended amounts and online sources for purchasing these ingredients.

Freeze Dried Fruit

Photo from Nuts.com - their website offers a variety of dried, powdered organic fruits.

Nuts.com offers a variety of dried, powdered organic fruits that make great additions to cream honey. (Photo from Nuts.com)

Powdered freeze dried fruit mixes well with cream honey to add a whole new dimension of flavor.  A little goes a long way, so start with a very small amount and add as you go.  In fact, that’s good advice when adding any kind of flavor additive – you can always add more, but you can’t take it out once it’s been added.

  • Suggested Ratio: Start with 1/2 tsp per pound and go from there.  Better to add less than you think you’ll need since powdered freeze dried fruit will absorb moisture and expand, resulting in a harder product that may be difficult to spread. Use honey that has an 18% moisture content.  Higher moisture content will allow for some absorption while still producing a balanced and spreadable product.
  • Suggested Flavorings: Taste your honey and think about compatible flavors.  Darker, heavier flavored honeys might work better with darker, richer fruits, like cherries or blackberries.  Lighter, fruitier honeys might go well with brighter flavored fruits like mango, apricot, or raspberries.
  • Sources:

Flavor Oils

Lorann Oils offers a wide variety of quality flavor oils that work great in cream honey.  Shown are three of my favorites.

Flavor oils can be very strong, and some are stronger than others, so only a very small amount may be needed.  Remember, you can always add flavor, but you can’t take it out.

  • Suggested Ratio: I use about 1/4 tsp per 1 pound of honey.  However, start with 1/8 tsp, taste, and repeat until you’ve achieved a flavor level that you’re happy with.  For very strong flavors, consider using a dropper to test even smaller amounts.
  • Suggested Flavorings: All honey tastes different, so use flavors that are compatible with your honey.  Some of my favorites include:  Vanilla Nut, Blackberry, Cinnamon Roll, and Orange Cream.  Consider using food grade essential oils, like lavender, orange, geranium, or chile oil.

Stir a drop of flavoring with a tbsp. of honey to test new flavors and combinations.

  • Sources:
  • LorAnn Oils. I get all of my flavor oils from LorAnn Oils because they are top quality, food grade.  Even their essential oils are food grade.  They also have a huge selection of flavors.  Let them know you’re a beekeeper, and the folks at LorAnn Oils will provide a code to access their wholesale prices.

Ground Nuts or Nut Meal

Photo from Pecans.com - A quality online source for pecan products, including pecan meal.

Pecans.com is a quality online source for pecan products, including pecan meal.  (Photo from Pecans.com)

Nuts used for cream honey are typically ground into a meal, then mixed into the honey for even flavor and distribution.  Then some larger pieces may be mixed in for aesthetics and added crunch.  Keep in mind, this will be spread on toast or pancakes, so keep the larger pieces to a medium chop – not too fine, but not too course.

  • Suggested Ratio: Start with 1 oz. of nut meal + 1 oz nut pieces per 1 pound of honey.  Adjust as you go.
  • Suggested Nuts: Pecans are the most popular; however, walnuts, almonds, hazelnuts, cashews or pistachios might also make good additions.  Again, match the nut flavor to the honey flavor.

If making your own meal, then enhance the flavor by toasting the nuts in a 350 degree oven for 5-10 minutes (watch them closely!).

Bring toasted nuts to room temperature before grinding, and be careful not to make nut butter.

  • Sources: Most honey professionals leave the nut grinding to the nut professionals.  It might be a good idea to start with purchased nut meal.  Nut meal can be ordered online from any of the following sources:

Ground Spices

Penzey's has top quality spices and a HUGE selection. (Photo from Penzeys.com)

Penzey’s has top quality spices and a HUGE selection. (Photo from Penzeys.com)

Dried, ground spices can be delicious in cream honey.  Imagine stirring cinnamon cream honey into your morning oatmeal.  Yum!

  • Suggested Ratio: Again, start very slowly when adding dried spices – maybe a pinch per pound to start, then taste and adjust from there.
  • Suggested Spices: Again, compatibility is key.  Don’t use overpowering spices in a light floral honey.  Try a very small amount of spice in a small amount of honey and taste before plunging it into the full batch.

Use only fresh, high quality spices.  Honey is too precious to skimp!

Great additions might include ginger, dried chilies, ground cinnamon, ground powdered vanilla, mint, allspice, anise…or a carefully crafted blend.

  • Sources:
    • Penzeys – Trusted name in spices and awesome selection!  I’m a huge fan.

Some final notes:

  • Consider combining flavors, like vanilla pecan, or dried peach w/ cinnamon.
  • If you add too much of any flavor type, just add more honey to balance it out.
  • When selling cream honey products, remember to include ALL ingredients on the labels, and consider adding an allergen warning if nuts are added.
  • Properly processed cream honey can be stored at room temperature. However, it will break down at higher temperatures.  Especially on hot days, consider keeping it in a cooler location (i.e. basement or pantry).
  • If you have plain cream honey on hand, you can add flavoring by simply whipping it with a blender and adding your flavors.  Store the cream honey in a cool (ideally 58 degree) location to allow it to reset.
  • Take copious notes and write down your recipes!  Note what works, what doesn’t work, additives to honey ratios, and the processes used to make the cream honey recipes.  That way every batch will be perfect and consistent.

I hope this info gets you excited enough to experiment with making your own cream honey!  It’s delicious, a fun science project to make with kids, and a unique homemade gift for friends and family.

Thanks for visiting, and do share your recipes and pics!

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Blue Hive Revived and More

April 21, 2016
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The girls have been building up fast this spring, and as mentioned in my last two posts, we experienced two swarms in one weekend.  Both were retrieved and rehived – one is happily rehomed in Green Hive, and the other in Blue Hive.  However, the Blue Hive swarm left the hive (absconded) within a day.  That left Blue Hive empty again.

I had planned to inspect the hives that same weekend to give them space and check their food, but with all the excitement, I had to postpone the inspections until they settled down.  I took a half day from work several days later, when the weather was sunshiny and perfect.  I could take my time and perform a proper inspection.

Pre-Inspection Prep

Preparation is important prior to inspecting.  I had extra boxes, drawn frames, undrawn frames, honey frames (covered so as not to encourage robbing), fume board, tools, and smoker.  You never know what you’ll find in these hives, so it’s good to bee prepared for any scenario.  I’m much better about taking my time now, one hive at a time.  They say “get in, do your business, and get out”.  I follow this to an extent, but I’m also very careful to process what I find as I go, and make smart quick decisions that are most beneficial to the bees without rocking their world.

Purple Hive

Purple Hive was filled with bees, honey and brood.  They looked great and I was really hoping to find some queen cells so I could make an easy split for Blue Hive.  I don’t need a queen cell to make a split.  As long as they have good frames of eggs and larvae, they’ll figure it out themselves.  But considering it takes ~3 weeks for them to make a new queen from scratch, then factor in the time for mating and laying, its much faster and less risky to just give them an nice fat ready-made queen cell.

I didn’t find any queen cells in Purple Hive, which indicates that they likely did NOT swarm.  I set up a new box of checker boarded frames (honey on ends, and alternate drawn and undrawn frames in the center) and added it just above the bottom box to directly expand the brood chamber and give the queen plenty of room to lay and the other bees plenty of room to spread out.  I put “Humpty” back together again and move on to Mint Hive.

Mint Hive

Mint Hive, my active and temperamental Texas bees, had swarmed on Sunday and upon removing the inner cover, it was evident that their numbers had reduced, shown below.

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I used the fume board to clear out and remove the top box.  The other boxes were full of bees, honey, brood, and lots of queen cells.  I snagged a frame w/ a gorgeous fat queen cell and transferred it to Blue Hive, along with some good honey and brood frames, and plenty of bees.  A feeder was added and Blue Hive was back in business.   I’m happy to report that they’re building up well and everyone seems healthy and happy.

Yellow Hive

Yellow Hive was much the same as Purple Hive.  Lots of bees (shown below), but no signs of swarming.  I gave them the same treatment, adding another checkerboard box above the bottom box, and letting them grow and prosper.

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A few weeks later….Supers are on!!!

May 7, 2016

Within a week after the inspections, I added the supers.  Wisteria is starting to bloom, dandelions are out, the nectar flow is on!  We don’t want to miss a beat.  Plus, the supers give them more space…always a good thing this time of year.  Of course, as soon as the supers are added to Purple, Mint and Yellow hives, Mother nature drops the temperatures about 20 degrees and rains on our parade, for a week and a half straight!  Ugh.

The girls jump at every opportunity to get out of the hives and forage.  Purple Hive is bursting, so I’ll split them at my soonest opportunity.  I need to find more space to put nucs and possibly more hives.  The hubster will be thrilled…not.

Green and Blue hives are developing nicely.  I’m keeping them fed.  The garden is bursting and soon we’ll bee planting our veggies. Spring is already flying by fast!

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Making Up for Lost Time

Friday, May 15, 2015

The honey flow is in full force right now.  While everyone else is hacking and sneezing, the bees are taking advantage of the spring blooms. They’re crazy busy collecting pollen and nectar, procreating, and making honey.  Go girls, go!

Chilled Brood

We did have a minor setback about 2 weeks ago.  Frost set in for several evenings, chilling the eggs and larvae, as shown in the photo below, and setting the girls back a week or two.  When I inspected the hives, I naturally thought the queen was once again having issues.  But seeing as I’ve been through this exact scenario only a few weeks earlier, I checked back a week later and found the queens were back in business, quickly laying new brood.

photoHeavy Supers

I added supers to all hives about a month ago.  This past week I lifted them off for inspection and realized how heavy they are already!  That’s exciting news and could indicate a good honey harvest (no jinxing).  By this weekend, I hope to have a second layer of supers on all of my hives.  Good thing I’ve been cleaning frames and boxes.  I’ve stacked quite a few boxes in the greenhouse. Lots of light in there to keep wax moths away.  I’ve given up on maintaining consistent color schemes and have succumbed to mixing them up.

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Expanding the Brood Chambers

In addition to adding supers, my other strategy was to adapt “The Rose Hive” method of adding brood boxes just above the bottom box to expand the brood chamber (laying area) rather than expanding from above.  Bees swarm because they run out of space to lay and/or there’s lack of ventilation.  The theory is that if you continue to expand the brood chamber and ensure they have plenty of room, then they will continue to populate and won’t have reason to swarm.  Makes perfect sense to me!  I don’t believe you can ever prevent them from swarming, but they may bee inclined to stay a bit longer.

With that said, all of these supers and brood boxes are stacking up into some pretty tall colonies.  My next strategy is to start splitting so we can get yellow hive back up and running.

Loving this gorgeous spring weather.  Hard to get upset about the pollen when I know how happy my bees are.  Hang in there everyone, and keep eating your local raw honey.  The more local the better!

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Then There Were Three

August 18, 2013 (Day 100) – Part 2

Yellow Hive 2 (YH2) forced me to make yet another quick executive decision.  This hive decided to requeen itself, which (thank goodness) we discovered just before we requeened the hive ourselves. This surprise left us with a beautiful $50 Texas Buckfast queen and no hive.  So I decided to split GH1 since it is very strong and should quickly make up for any contributions to its new little sister hive.

The Night Before

The night prior, I carefully went through the frames in GH1 and transferred two frames of honey and nectar, a frame of eggs and larvae, and two frames of capped brood to a nucleus hive, which is essentially a 5 frame box.  I looked at every frame very, very carefully to make sure none contained the queen.  I didn’t see her at all and suspect she was in the bottom brood box, safe from Beezilla.

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I did this the night before for two reasons:

  1. To give the new hive a 24 hour separation period from their current queen so they will hopefully be more accepting of their new queen, and
  2. To get them acclimated to their new location, right between GH1 and YH2.  If there’s no acclimation, then they may be inclined to return to GH2 rather than stay and prosper in BH3.

I believe the transfer was a success.  We let the bees rest in their new location until tomorrow when they meet their new queen.

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…v

I was in the garage at 8:30 PM last night painting boxes, because our new addition must have its own identity.  It must fit with our calypso, Caribbean colorfest in the garden theme.  

This new addition is completely unplanned.   But then the girls have been driving this show since day 1, so I really shouldn’t be surprised by the curve balls they keep throwing at us.  Ironic though that Blue Hive 3 (BH3) should become the newest member of our Boo Bee Apiary on Day 100 of this wild adventure.

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Pulling a Hive Out of Our Ying Yangs

We had the two boxes all painted and ready to go, but no bottom board, launch pad, entrance reducer, inner cover or top cover. We drove to our bee supplier first thing in the morning and he was closed! Ugh! We needed a complete hive and FAST! Our queen wasn’t faring well in that tiny little queen cage and we needed to get her in today!

My amazing and brilliant hubster offered to give up his play day with beer to build the pieces I needed to complete my hive. We visited Lowes and bought the supplies then quickly headed back home. While I made zucchini bread, he ripped out a top notch launching board, a screened bottom board, an inner cover and a top cover. His first time ever building these pieces, and as always he did a stellar job. We did learn that unless you build in bulk, it is NOT cheaper to build your own hives and hive parts. I’ll stick with my bee supplier, when he’s open. Homemade is good for now.

BH3 is Born

I decided to keep the hive closed in for another day, just to be sure they would be acclimated to their new location. So we placed a complete strip of wood across the hive entrance. I opened the nuc and was very pleased to see a very large population of bees. Just as I transferred my first two hives back in May, I moved the frames and placed them into the new hive in the exact same order.

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I added a strip of velcro to the queen’s cage, and placed the other half of the velcro on top of a center frame so she could hang between the brood frames. The velcro worked perfectly. We hung her between the frames, candy side up and screen facing out between the frames so the Queen could be attended to.

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Feeder Lesson Learned

I shook in the remaining bees and closed up BH3 leaving a boardman feeder in a second top box. Accidentally I left the feeder on top of the hive until I was ready. I walked away for 2 minutes and returned to a feeding frenzy. I shooed them away and proceeded to grab the feeder by the cup, collapsing the feeder and releasing syrup everywhere. It was a robber’s sugary dream. I managed to clean most of it up and rinsed the sugary areas with water. Lesson learned!

Reflection

I have to say that I’m actually proud of our split and how we handled the whole YH2 situation. Ok, so I’m not the most calm, cool and collected beekeeper; I still fumble around the hive; and yes, I lost a few winks of sleep worrying about the girls, but this whole scenario has taught me so much and I do love a happy ending.

BH3 will be a bit of an experiment. We’ll baby it through the winter and hope for the best.

If someone had told me this time last year that I’d have 3 bee hives, I’d have thought they were nuts. Pretty amazing really. Right now I think 3 is all we can handle. This increases our chances of getting a hive through winter, thus improving our chances for honey next year. Woo hoo!

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The Tradeoff: Bees or Honey?

We added our first honey super to Yellow Hive 2 (YH2) last weekend. The plan was to add the queen excluder beneath the first super, stop feeding, and start letting the girls make honey. The first two boxes go to winter feeding, and if we’re lucky, the girls will fill up a third box to share. Just when it was time to add the queen excluders, heck if they were’t the wrong size.

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The queen excluder is a screen that’s placed over the top brood box. It allows the worker bees to pass through and into the honey supers; however, because the queen is much larger than the workers, she is excluded from entering the honey supers and laying eggs. Eggs in honey is just icky. Rose, from my club, assured me that the queen would not move up that high very quickly, so I still had time to exchange my 10 frame excluders for 8-frame.

To Use or Not to Use a Queen Excluder

Two days later I made an emergency run after work to visit my bee supplier. I took a short cut, which should have taken no more than 30 minutes. An hour and a half later, after getting lost and taking every wrong turn possible, I finally arrived to make the swap. Rose had mentioned the idea of not using a queen excluder. So I asked my bees supplier and he agreed that I didn’t have to use the queen excluder. “If you can monitor the queen’s location in the hive, then brood boxes can be rotated to ensure that she always remains toward the bottom of the hive and never makes it up high enough to lay eggs in the honey.”

Actually, many beekeepers don’t use queen excluders at all because they are high maintenance. The bees build comb on them, blocking the passage ways. Drones get stuck in them. Many also feel the excluder inhibits honey production because workers may be discouraged from passing through the screen and entering the supers. Some beekeepers call them honey excluders.

When to Stop Feeding?

Also, I figured I’d stop feeding once the first super was added. However, the girls are still feeding like crazy on the sugar water. With all the rain we’ve been getting, they’ve have been spending a lot of time indoors. During our class, we were told to keep feeding the 1:1 sugar syrup until they stop taking it. Since pollen and nectar are low this season, I’ll also add pollen patties to their diet to increase their protein. And I plan to spray the new frames with a mix of sugar syrup and Honey B Healthy in hopes that they might draw them out faster.

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The Role of a First Year Beekeeper

Seasoned beekeepers in my club told us not to think about honey in our first year. As first year beekeepers, it is our job to grow the colonies so they can survive the winter. Their advice has served me well thus far, so I will continue to grow the hives. As much as I’d love some honey (and toward the end we might still get a box), I want my bees to have plenty of food stores for the winter, and I want their numbers to be strong. A strong colony is much more effective at fighting off pests and diseases, and a larger cluster is a warmer cluster.

So plans have changed…again. At least now I know our purpose and I have a plan for getting there. The bees come first. I won’t use a queen excluder…yet. I’ll continue feeding. Her highness can lay as she pleases, and the bees can draw out comb on the new frames and continue to grow their numbers and store food that can be given back to them in the winter. It’s the right decision. It’s the smart decision, finally. If they get to a third super while things are still blooming, then I may add a queen excluder so we can harvest a little bit of honey for ourselves. But the goal is to get them through winter and then next year, if all goes as planned…we shall be rewarded with honey!

YH2 Gets a New Addition

June 15, 2013 – Hive Inspection (Day 36)

This morning we had our first inspection in 2 weeks. The girls have looked good from the outside. Still uneven activity with Yellow Hive 2 (YH2) appearing much more populated and busy. But Green Hive 1 (GH1) has been holding its own healthy active phases and there are times when the two appear to be in synch.

This morning was beautiful, in the mid-80s, mild breeze, dry and sunny. The sun hadn’t quite made it to the apiary yet, but the husbster was pressuring me to get on with it since he had other chores vying for my time and attention.

I did two things differently for this inspection.

  1. I used the disposable rubber gloves instead of the bulky leather gloves. I had heard on The Beekeeper’s Corner podcast that bees can’t sting through the gloves. And although they are used once and thrown away, they fit nice and snug on my small hands, making it much easier to handle the boxes and frames. They worked like a charm.
  2. Instead of a brush, I used a 12 inch clipping of mint brushing them away. Using a feather or a plant clipping to flick them aside is much more gentle on the bees.

I had checked their feed the night before and both buckets were completely empty. Being cooped up during all that rain made them hungry. So I whipped up a pot of 1:1 simple syrup using 4 quarts of sugar and 4 quarts of water. Divided between the two hives, they go through this much sugar syrup each week. Guess we’ll be heading back to Costco for another supersize bag o’ sugar!

GH1

GH1 is the hive that’s had me concerned from the beginning. If you remember from an earlier inspection, this one had the drone cells and later some small queen cells. Early on, this hive was extremely active, very crowded and I feared it might swarm. After adding the second brood box, they calmed down and became less active. They weren’t producing comb as quickly as YH2, and the top frames only contained a few bees. They’re doing well now, although still a good week or two behind YH2. I don’t know if something happened to the original queen and maybe they produced another queen, or if the other queen is still there. Whatever, it looks as though they’ve worked things out…I hope.

Opening the top box, the outside frames appeared untouched. The center frames had beautiful new white sugar syrup-filled cells and comb with nice capping. I looked and looked for eggs, but since it was still shady in that area, I couldn’t get the sun behind to help me out. I could tell there were many more bees in the top box than last time and they’d made considerable progress over the last two weeks. But it was evident that these girls weren’t ready for a new box yet.

GH1 Producing fresh filled comb and capping.  Good girls!

GH1 Producing fresh filled comb and capping. Good girls!

06-15-13 Inspect 11

Beautiful capped frame!

I did want to pull a frame or two from the bottom box to see if I could find eggs and a queen. The bottom box was FILLED with bees and the outside frames were filled, which is great. So I pulled two frames from the center in attempt to find the queen. I didn’t find the queen, and as with the top box, I couldn’t see eggs. I did find some questionable comb that appeared kinda gray in color. The center frames are filled with dark, older comb. Not far down the road I will swap these for new frames. So that gives me two research projects – 1) what’s the gray comb all about? and 2) to swap old center frames for new ones.

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Not sure what this grayish looking capping is. Hmmm.

GH1 bees were getting a little pissy at that point, so I closed it up and moved on to YH2.

YH2
I received a great tip from my bee supplier. He said if the bees build comb from the frames up to the top cover, then thats’s a good indication they’re ready for another box. When I opened YH2, I immediately saw comb built down from the top cover to the frames. I lifted off the top cover and could see how well the girls had drawn out the side frames. Bees work from the center out. So once the end frames are filled with comb and capping, they’re ready for more space to work.

Again, I looked for eggs and larvae but couldn’t see any. The bees are obviously multiplying. The frames were crowded and the bees looked happy and healthy, so much so that they weren’t even irritated by my presence. I didn’t bother looking in the bottom box. I just took all the signs as good indications that all is well in YH2.

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Beautiful new comb. YH2 is looking really good! Great job girls!

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YH2 has filled in all of their frames and earned themselves a new box.

So our apiary is a bit lopsided right now.  I just hope YH2’s growth in stature doesn’t give GH1 a complex. Based on their post-inspection activity, I don’t think they’re giving it much thought. It’s not a race. The girls have all the time in the world to fill in their frames, at which point, GH1 will earn themselves a new box too.

So fly, forage and prosper ladies!

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Plenty of time for GH1 to catch up. All is well.

Staying Ahead of the Bees

Sunday, June 9, 2013 (Day 30)

Yesterday the temps were in the high 80s to low 90s – sunny, bright, no wind, and a a tad bit humid. The girls are going crazy again, out foraging and flying actively about the hives. I did check the feeders. Green Hive 1 (GH1) still has a good quarter of a bucket filled with sugar water. Yellow Hive 2’s (YH2) bucket was completely empty, so I had to run in and throw together a quick batch – part of which I ended up throwing out because the feeders needed to be cleaned and I didn’t realize it until I’d already poured.  Ugh!

Staying ahead of the girls is a lot harder than I’d imagined.  Based on the amount of new comb they produced last week, their super high activity levels, and their feeding frenzy, I decided that I need to do a better job of keeping up.  They work fast!  So my strategy is to stock up.

Last night I mixed close to a gallon of sugar water for the feeders.  This morning I visited my bee supplier and picked up six medium boxes, frames and foundation, and two queen excluders. We are assembling and painting as fast as possible (AFAP) so I can get two more boxes on during my next inspection, which I hope will be tomorrow or Tuesday. Being true to their gender, the girls don’t like to wait.

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Here’s the good news…once these new boxes are added, I’ll have three brood chambers on each hive. Then I’ll add a queen excluder.  The queen excluder is a screen that is placed over the top of the last brood chamber.  Worker bees can get through the screen to draw comb and make honey in the honey supers (the boxes that are placed above the queen excluder).  The queen is too large to fit through the screen, so she will remain in the brood chamber to continue laying eggs and creating more bees.  This keeps the brood or eggs/larvae out of the honey.

My point is, each week we’re getting closer and closer to honey!  Yay!

Keep in mind though that the first filled honey super goes to the bees for winter feeding. Whatever is left will be for us. But let’s not lose focus.  The first year is about growing the colonies and keeping the bees alive. We are not to expect honey, so I will not jinx by making unknown promises.  However, if the girls decide to reward our efforts with some sweet liquid gold, then bring on the honey!!!