Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Pack it up, girls!

We've had a few weeks of really fall weather now, but today was amazing - a true "Indian Summer" day. The temps were in the high 70's, so it's time to check the bees. I had wanted to see if the pink hive was going to finish off the honey, but it was not meant to be. So I removed the queen excluder, whipped up a batch of 2:1 sugar syrup (from 20 lbs of sugar), and prepared to feed.

Brown Hive

A few weeks ago I put a pollen patty on this hive, and today when I checked, the patty was just about gone. So I can remove the shim I put in to leave space for the pollen patty.

One thing I noticed when I lifted the inner cover was that there were a ton of bees clinging to the underside of the inner cover! Here's a picture:

They weren't agitated or anything, just hanging out. The only thing I can figure was that there was extra space under the cover (from the shim for the pollen patty) and they were just resting.

Green Hive

The green hive also got a pollen patty last time, but they hadn't eaten it all. Here's what was left (which is most of it):

So I left it on, and left the shim on as well.

Pink Hive

Nothing remarkable to report on the pink hive. It is still the strongest (based on the number of bees I see coming and going) of the three hives.

So I put the feed on all three hives. It is 2:1 sugar syrup, which should encourage them to take it and store it away for the winter. I also added a bit of my "secret ingredient" (which is a little lemongrass and spearmint oil) as a stimulant.

Like I said, the bees were very busy due to the nice temperatures. They were actually finding some pollen to bring in!

And I made a video so you can see how fast they are coming and going:

I guess bees don't let any opportunity to gather more and prepare for winter go to waste!

As far as preparations for winter go, I have very little left to do. I need to add the top and bottom pieces of insulation, and the entrance mouse guards (don't want any visitors!). I don't wrap the hives for the winter, or do any other preparations. Hopefully they will come through OK!

Here are the three backyard hives with the extra supers (covering the feed buckets):

Saturday, October 9, 2010

The House Smells Like Honey!

Yesterday evening I started the process of extracting the frames I had. I wanted to spin them out last night, so the honey would strain through the strainer over night.

So I starter by setting up the extractor that I borrow from my friend Joe:

Here are the frames that I am planning to extract:

First step is slicing off the caps. I don't have an uncapping knife, so I just use my wife's bread slicing knife. It works just fine - I don't need to heat the knife or anything - it cuts through just fine. I did have to use the capping scraper a little, as some of the frames weren't built out enough to cut with the knife.

Then came the fun part - the spinning! For some reason this time the cage holding the frames was very off balance. It shook like an unbalanced washing machine! I had to get my kids to hug the extractor to try to keep it from walking off the table. I didn't have anything to secure it to, so it was an experience.

Here is the first of the honey coming out of the extractor:

You can see that I have a 2-stage filter set up - a 600 micron (coarse) filter, followed by a 400 micron (fine) filter. I initially had a 200 micron filter on the bottom, but hardly any honey was coming through. I suppose I could have set up a space heater to heat up the honey and make it flow more, but I just swapped the 200 for the 400 and it worked fine.

I was left with the cappings which still have hone in them. I put them in a colander and strained out a little more honey.

No, this isn't the level of honey in my bucket (I wish!). It's the honey sitting in the 200 micron filter which wasn't flowing.

I ended up with only about 3" in the bucked, which I weighed out to 11.5 lbs. It isn't a lot of honey. I probably left a pound or 2 in the frames, as I couldn't really spin the fast (due to the shaking). Heating up the frames a little would have helped, but oh well. I'll put out the frames for the bees to clean up so nothing will be wasted.

Here are the jars I filled. I'm probably going to use a lot of it for Christmas gifts for family and friends.

I thought the honey looked darker, but a side-by-side comparison of a jar of this honey and a jar from back in August had them looking identical. But the flavor this time seems a lot stronger, maybe due to some goldenrod.

I was hoping to extract some frames out of my backyard this weekend also, but I did a spot check and only about 15%-20% of the frame is capped - way too unfinished to extract. We've had a lot of rain this last week, so I am hoping with the dry weather, the bees will evaporate and finish off the honey. If they don't, I'll just leave the honey for them for winter.

Friday, October 8, 2010

Sooooo close!!

My friend Tom keeps reminding me of the last time I updated the blog - it was September 6. So it's been a little over a month.

I had a chance to do a couple of inspections the last couple of weeks. On Saturday 9/25 I checked out the hives in my backyard. It was nice to spend some time arm deep in bees - it had been too long, and it really felt good to get back in (strange as that may sound). I'm going to have to come up with a better way of documenting what I see in the hives, as I can't remember hive to hive what needs to happen, and just taking pictures sometimes doesn't do it. But I did take lots of pictures for this post!

Pink Hive

This was the hive I did not put sugar syrup on. I wanted to see if the hive would collect any honey, as they had a start last month. Well this time I found something very interesting.

The hive had filled the top super with nectar, but hardly any of it was capped, as you can see in this picture (look at the shiny syrup in the open cells):

To further add to my confusion,I found a lot of uncapped nectar in the next super down (the medium, which was being used for brood).

Now, the optimist in me says, "yea!" the bees are doing what they are supposed to do. But then I remembered that early in the month I put sugar syrup feed on the other two hives, and it is possible that the bees from the pink hive went to the other hive and stole some sugar. But I really haven't seen any evidence of robbing - no nervous bees, no bees crawling in the access hole, etc. Adding to this thought is the fact that up until now, this hive hasn't put away much nectar, and now a bounty? Suspicious.

I'm going to let them continue to work on the super, since they are soooooo close to capping it off. We've had a bunch of rain in the past week, so it could be they haven't done much. I'll check this weekend.

I also saw the queen in the pink hive - it's been a while. Look along the bottom wooden part of the frame:

And here's a good shot of some brood in the hive. Nice pattern:

And a good number of bees on top of the bars of the lower box:

And more good patterns in the bottom box:

You can tell I like taking pictures of the bees! This hive is the one I have the most hope for coming through the winter.

Brown Hive

The bees in the brown hive are doing a great job putting away the sugar syrup I have been feeding them:

You can see a good crown of capped "honey" with the nectar in the middle (with pollen) still to be capped. Good brood pattern in this hive as well:

Green Hive

The Green Hive also is putting away syrup for the winter. You can see the food along the edge of this frame, with brood in the center:

And I saw the queen in this hive too - I haven't seen her since I did the combine to create this hive:

Last Saturday I also got a chance to go out to the Sutton hives. It has been even longer since I visited these hives - clear back on 8/13.

Sutton Hive #2

This was the hive started this year from a Nuc. I had a difficult time prying up the top inner cover - the bees had attached it with a lot of propolis, and connected it with a stiff wax (which I think was mixed with a lot of propolis, as it was very stiff). In this next picture, look along the top and bottom edges at all the propolis, and you can see the wax on the top bars:

They had also added a lot of propolis along the side of the frames under the frame rest, so I did a lot of scraping (almost chipping) to get the frames out. I accidentally broke one the of the frames trying to lift it out. It was full of honey, so I just put it back, after marking it with a paint pen so the spring I can swap it out.

Here is what I found in the hive, a large frame of capped honey:

But I am not fooled in this instance - I know this is probably sugar syrup mixed with honey, since early in the summer I fed this hive a lot of sugar. They put it away nicely. Generally I don't like messing with the "honey" in the brood boxes since you can't be sure that it is honey (especially if you feed).

I did a frame-by-frame inspection of this hive, and saw lots of good brood:

I didn't see the queen, but saw lots of young larvae so I know she is there.

There was a medium super of undrawn foundation on the hive, which I took off, since the bees had done absolutely nothing with it.

I put a bucket of feed on this hive; it looks good for the winter.

Sutton Hive #1

When I stole the honey from this hive, there were some frames which hadn't been capped which I left on the hive. I also put on some empty frames to see what they would do. All told, there was one medium super (with undrawn frames), and two shallow supers (with drawn frames). I checked, and here is what I found:

Since I was going to start the winter feeding, I pulled off all of the frames. There were about 8 total frames with something in them; every side had capped honey except for two sides (which contained uncapped honey). I will extract all of the capped honey, and leave the unfinished honey in the frame, so when I set them out for the bees to clean, they will reclaim the nectar.

Here's a nice shot of the Sutton hives, looking good for the winter:

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