Tag Archive | frame

Gather, Extract, Bottle

Sunday, July 12, 2015


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You know that saying about something is attracted to something like bees are attracted to honey?  Unless you’ve actually extracted honey, you couldn’t possibly know just how attracted to honey they really are.

Bees smell honey. Then they go tell their friends where to find the honey…and they tell their friends…and they tell their friends…and within minutes the driveway, the garage, the pool, the entire front yard is enveloped in bees, like something out of a horror movie.  Then the hubster is unhappy because he can’t in the pool because it’s surrounded by bees, and I need to get the bees out of the garage…and don’t let them in the house cause the cats will chase them and get stung…then I’m pulling out the hose to squirt the bees away and wash the honey smell off the floor, the driveway, anything and everything’s that’s come in contact with the honey.  Not to mention, I kick into rescue mode and start fishing the little buggers out of the pool.  All of this is hypothetical by the way :o) Next year we’ll sneak everything out of the garage and into the workshop around midnight when the bees are sleeping.

The hardest part of extracting honey is not letting the bees know you’re doing it.  Stealth is key.  I learned my lesson last year, escaping with uncovered boxes down to the garage and leaving them outside for even a few minutes and attracting hoards of bees that hovered outside the garage door all day.

Based on that experience, I improved my process this year.  In fact, I was quite pleased with myself and how I managed to bypass the drama that we experienced last year.  At least until the hubster opened the garage door the next day while the honey boxes and some leftover honey were sitting on the garage floor.  Not to mention, they smelled the remnants from the day before.  Bees are smart!  But getting back to extraction day, I actually came up with a good process.  Not a perfect process, but a good one.

Step 1.  Prepare

Think smart.  Preparation is key.  Get the tools and brush ready, get the fume board ready, get a wheelbarrow ready, get top covers ready, have the smoker going, get the gear on, and have a completely enclosed facility ready to house the honey.

Step 2.  Fuming the Bees, One Box at a Time

  • Put a top cover top side down in the bottom of the wheel barrow.
  • Lightly smoke around the top edges of the hive and at the entrance to let them know you’re coming in.  But not too much.  You don’t want to smoke in the honey.
  • Spray the fume board 3 times with the almond scented fuming spray, and place the board on top of the hive.
  • Wait  5 – 10 minutes for the bees to clear out.

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Step 3.  Remove the box

  • Most of the bees should bee out of the top box by now, so remove the top box and place it within the top cover that’s in the bottom of the wheel barrow.
  • Immediately place another top cover securely on top of the honey box so that it is completely closed on the top and on the bottom.

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Step 4. Fume again and escape (bee stealthy) with the honey

  • Spray the fume board one or two more times, then place on top of the next box to bee removed.
  • While the fume board empties the next box, quickly run your honey super down to the garage or where ever you’re extracting.
  • Life the lid and brush off as many bees as possible – what’s left will go into the garage with you along with the honey box.
  • Close the door behind you!!!

Step 5.  Repeat steps 2-4

If successful, then you’ll have all honey supers safely in the garage, with a small amount of bee activity outside the door, and a small amount of bee activity inside the garage.

It’s gonna happen, some bees will bee caught up with the honey boxes.  Don’t open the garage door to let them out. TRUST ME on this.

We extracted over 100 lbs of honey this past weekend.  That’s from about 5 boxes.  Amazing bees!

Overall Apiary Status

So how have the girls been doing up to this point?  Well, other than finding bee activity in my swarm traps and discovering (after purchasing a new hive, new beekeeping britches, and setting up a new hive location) that they were not swarms but robber bees, we haven’t had much drama.  They’ve endured much rain, and much heat and humidity this summer.  I’ve left them alone, and they’ve been thriving (that should tell you something right there).  And so has the garden.  We have cucumbers coming out our ying yangs, and tomatoes are coming up fast.

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Plans for Using the Honey

So what to do with all that honey?  We’ll sell some of it, give some away as gifts, make alcoholic honey beverages, cook with it, make creamed honey for Christmas presents, I’ll use it in soaps and potions.  So many things we can do with honey.  So you can expect lots of tutorial posts in the coming months.  :o)

In the meantime, I’ve placed supers back on all the hives, and even added a third box to my little yellow hive, which is still taking syrup and is growing like crazy.  Let’s hope the big hives fill out and cap some unfinished frames and build out the rest of the supers before winter.  Trying to follow that 90% rule – only extract frames that are 90% capped.  We can use some late summer honey for overwintering the bees, and maybe they can spare a bit more for us.  We shall see!

 

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Yellow Hive is Back!

June 7, 2015

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You may recall that we lost Yellow Hive over the winter.  The apiary just isn’t complete without all 5 hives going at once.  Blue Hive was looking strong, so two weekends ago ((May 24th) I transferred some of their honey, nectar and brood frames to Yellow Hive, along with some healthy looking queen cells, and of course some bees.  I gave them sugar syrup w/ my homemade Honey B Healthy and stood back to see if the split would take.

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I didn’t post this sooner for fear of jinxing them.  I’m very superstitious like that. They started slow, but now activity in Yellow Hive is picking up.  Yay!  The weather has been cool and wet, so once the sun comes back out and things dry out, I’ll give them a look to see whether a queen has emerged and started laying yet.

Expecting a Swarm

Any day now I’m anticipating that Blue Hive will swarm.  I know that because I’ve seen queen cells and a virgin queen romping around.  There is space in the brood chamber for laying, but when they decide to go, they’ll go.  Fingers and toes are crossed that they’ll split themselves and will make a bee-line for the swarm trap.  I continue to add lemongrass oil to the entrance to lure them in.  Then I’ll collect them and add them to a new hive.

Preparing for the Best

Speaking of new hives, the hubster and I have had discussions about the number of hives I can add to my collection.  He insists that 5 is enough.  Yes dear, 5 is a good number.  However, if I d happen to catch a swarm, then they need to go somewhere, so just incase they decide to cooperate (a rarity) I’m preparing hives 6 and 7….just incase.  After all, I couldn’t possibly let them go homeless!

Watching the Garden Grow

We also planted the garden two weekends ago.  Another yay!  And with the recent rain, they’re popping up nicely.  We’ll bee caging tomatoes today, and even my cucumbers are popping up from seeds that I salvaged from last year’s cucumbers, which were crazy prolific.

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The major nectar flow is dying down, but there’s still plenty of flowers and color coming up.  The wildflowers will be out soon.  The bees are bringing in the honey.  Boxes are heavy and filling fast.

Tis a happy time of year.

 

Assembling Frames – Pins vs. Pins

May 24, 2015

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I cleaned all of my old frames.  I used the kind with L-bent wires at the bottom and the wooden slat that lays across those wires.  However, instead of removing the wooden slats and busting up the frames, I’ve just added wax foundation and used pins to hold it in.  The bees will do the rest.

The problem with this method is the pins.  Those small hardware pins that are sold with the frames are

  1. overpriced
  2. really, really hard to use – the opening is never wide enough for the wax and I end up mutilating the wax trying to get them in place.
  3. they’re too short and don’t do a great job of holding in the wax foundation.

There’s always a better way.  In this case, bobby pins!  The uncoated kind.  They fit perfectly through the holes, it’s easy to insert the wax so no mutilation.  They’re much faster, easy to find, and cheap!

I use two, one on each side, diagonal from one another.  And because they extend much farther, they hold the foundation in much better.  At this point, use wireless foundation since they don’t care for the wires.  The bees will glue everything in for you.

Winter Hive Configuration – My Final Answer

Saturday, November 23, 2013

The bees and I are not liking this cold weather.  I leave for work when it’s freezing cold and just light, and come home in the pitch dark, so weekdays are out for any bee activity.  I can only hope for dry, semi-warm weekends to get things done.  I’m realizing the importance of a yearly schedule and having a plan in place well beforehand.  Being a newbie, I’m always thinking and rethinking about the bees – usually around 2 am, which doesn’t make for a good night’s sleep.

YH2 in Trouble

We had a brief warm snap last weekend when temps pushed up into the mid-50’s, so I took the opportunity to lay lots of candy across the top frames.  When I opened Yellow Hive 2  (YH2), the number of bees appeared to be dramatically reduced.  Not good at all.  Of course, it was too cold to dig in and see what the problem might be.   Queenlessness is always my first fear, which in this weather means the hive will likely die.  Even if they do produce another queen at this point, there aren’t any drones left to mate with her, so reproduction will stop and the bees will gradually die out.

Executing the Winter Plan

I’ve continued finalizing my plans for the internal hive configuration.  Better late than never, I hope.  Winter is a scary time for a beekeeper.  You can’t get into the hives to see what’s going on.  It’s cold outside, so the bees stay inside – there’s no outside activity to tell you what’s going on.  It’s easy to imagine the worst, that condensation is building up and collecting on the bees, or they’re dying out from losing their queen, or they’re starving because there aren’t enough stores, or they’re being infested by mites or wax moths or wax beetles.  No matter, you just sit tight and hope you’re doing the best you can do for the girls, and wait for another warm snap to hit so you can get out and check on them.

Today was sunny and cold, but low 40s is better than low 30s, and I had no intention of opening the hives and exposing the bees.  I just needed to rework the top portion to help improve the ventilation.  So here’s our winter hive configuration, inside and out…

  1. Exterior wind barriers covering the back and sides.  These seem to be working well, and they extend below the bottoms of the hives to prevent too much wind from going up through the bottom screens.

2. I added bottom boards on YH2 and Green Hive 1 (GH1).  BH3 is a home built hive and doesn’t have a slot for adding the mite board, so the screened bottom board is left open.

3. 2 inch high spacer frames are added onto the top hive body with a top entrance drilled into the front for ventilation and an upper exit.

4. The top inner cover is flipped so the shim side is down, and I stapled fine metal screen across the hole so the bees can’t get to the top of the hive.  This also provides another top entrance and allows for more ventilation in the hive.

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5. The hubster made some great ventilation spacers to add above the inner cover and beneath the top telescoping cover.  The bees cannot get into this box.

    • The holes on the sides are drilled upwards to prevent rain water from entering the box.
    • The holes are positioned just beneath the outside rim of the top cover, which extends out from the holes to keep water out.
    • 1/2 inch ventilation holes were drilled on two sides then covered with mesh on the inside to prevent bees from entering the box and to keep critters out.
    • Window screen was stapled to the bottom of the frame to allow it to hold wood chips.  The wood chips will help absorb moisture from the condensation.

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I know I said I wouldn’t open the hives and expose the girls, but I couldn’t resist taking a peek.  All three hives, including YH2, are full of bees on top devouring the candy.  I’m feeling much better now about closing them up and letting them go til the next warm day comes and I can add more candy.

Til then, I have a few good beekeeping books sitting on my bed stand.  Never to early to start preparing for spring!

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Gray Matter Gets Solved

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During my last inspection, I mentioned finding some funky-looking grayish capping on an old dark frame that was located in the bottom box of Green Hive 1 (GH1).  Of course this concerned me, so I Googled “gray bee comb”.  BAD idea!  My concern turned to horror.

One piece of advice that most beekeepers agree on (a rarity!), it’s this:  Find and join your local beekeeping organization.  Not only do they offer invaluable introductory training for next to nothing, but the knowledge base of local, experienced beekeepers is heads and tails above anything you’ll find in any book.  I have yet to attend a single meeting (although I plan to very soon!), but I have taken advantage of their email forum.  Their generous and expedient responses are always indescribably helpful.

After consulting my beekeeping association, I learned that the gray matter is actually crystallized honey.  Hard to believe something that gray and shriveled   can be honey.  But it’s true.   Just as comb turns dark with age, so does the honey. One responder suggested I used my hive tool to open the capping and take a taste.  Hmm, perhaps another time.  I am more than content to take his word for it since “honey” is a much better answer than the terrifying speculations that were going through my analytical mind.

And so another small tidbit has been added to my beekeeping knowledgebase.   To think, in a few years’ time I’ll be the one sharing helpful tips with a beekeeping newbie who can’t tell the difference between drone cells and queen cells.

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!

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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.

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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.

DIY Frame Hanger

By removing 2 or 3 frames from the box, I can easily space out the other frames, allowing me to remove, inspect, then slide them back in with less risk of rolling or squishing bees. The question is, where do you set those first few frames when they’re covered from top to bottom in bees?

I recalled several YouTube videos that showed beekeepers hanging the frames between two extended bars that attached to the boxes. I turned to my brilliant hubster to conjure up a homemade frame hanger that I could use during my inspections. Sure enough, after flipping through catalogs and watching a few videos, the hubster took off to Home Depot to buy some parts and came home to build my frame hanger.

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His concept is simple and works perfectly. It consists of a 2×4 piece of wood the same width as the frame, 2 large utility hooks (like the ones used to hang bicycles), and two metal brackets that slide onto the side of the box. The hanger comfortably holds 3-4 frames – enough to free up some space – then lifts off to be hung on the next box. It is now a must-have tool in my bee inspection tool kit.

Best of all, he found two great beekeeping “build your own” websites for beehives, jigs, boards, covers, honey extractors and more. The links are below and I’ll add them to my Beekeeping DIY links list.

Bee Source
Beehive Journal

Do you build your own bee hives and equipment? What are your sources for plans and instructions? Leave a comment and share!