October 31st, 2011

We pulled four deep frames of honey from each of our hives this past summer to prevent the queens from becoming honey bound. We stored the frames in a cardboard nuc box and kept them in our house. Later in the fall we fed all but one of the frames back to the bees (see Feeding The Bees Honey Instead of Syrup). This morning I took a look at the remaining deep frame of honey stored in the nuc box and noticed it had mould growing on it.

Damn.
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October 23rd, 2011

THE FOLLOWING HAS BEEN UPDATED SINCE ORIGINALLY POSTED.

We harvested more than enough honey to last us until next year, so instead of topping up our hives up with sugar syrup to get them through the winter, we decided to give them back their honey. It saves the bees the trouble of evaporating the syrup down to the consistency of honey; it reduces the risk of condensation building up inside the hive (evaporation creates condensation, especially in cold weather); and it saves us the trouble of having to mix the syrup and mess around with messy feeders — and the honey is much better for the bees than sugar syrup. So if we’re in the position to feed them back their own honey, why not?

We began feeding the bees their own honey from partially capped medium frames that we didn’t harvest from the honey supers. Then we switched to deep frames full of honey that we pulled from the hives earlier in the summer to prevent the queens from becoming honey bound.
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October 18th, 2011

Here’s a short uneventful video I took of the hives today where I mistakenly refer to Hive #2 as Hive #1. (I need to paint numbers on the damn things.)

And now here’s a quick review of the 4 hives in our backyard as they stand today:
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October 11th, 2011

Do you have any idea what these bees are doing?

More of these photos can be viewed in the Bees in the Dark photo album. Here’s what it looks like on video:
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October 10th, 2011

Our four honey bee colonies exploded with life today and brought in loads of pollen from somewhere; we don’t know where. Here’s the video:

In other news, we’re feeding our bees back their own honey — capped and partially capped honey from the honey supers. We scraped off the cappings and installed the frames over the inner covers. The bees go mad for it. We’ve given them back about a dozen frames so far, probably close to 30 pounds of honey. We could have kept it for ourselves, but we’re happy with the 40 or so pounds they’ve already given us, which is more than we expected anyway.

October 10th, 2011

THE FOLLOWING HAS BEEN UPDATED SINCE ORIGINALLY POSTED.

Whenever the bees have a chance to do anything that contributes to the survival of the colony, they do it, even if it kills them. After a week of not doing much of anything in freezing cold weather, the bees came pouring out of hives this morning, many of them coming back loaded down with pollen.

I don’t know where they found the pollen, but I’m impressed. Here’s a cropped-in grainy shot:

It looked as if the bees were shutting down for winter, but give them some early morning sunshine and temperatures hovering a little over 10°C (50°F), and away they go, making the most of what little warm temperatures are left in this year. And where is all this pollen coming from? A late-blooming field of Goldenrod must be close by. I don’t know.

I posted a few more photos in the Bees & Pollen photo album. Some videos may show up later on too. (Update: Here’s the video.)
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October 9th, 2011

We’ve had entrance reducers on all our hives for the past few weeks, and it doesn’t look like we can remove them any time soon because the wasps (a.k.a. yellow jackets) are everywhere. They’re constantly trying to get into the hives. Here’s a photo showing about six wasps blocking a ventilation hole (most of the screened holes in our ventilator rims are filled with wasps):

The next photo isn’t pretty. You’ve been warned.
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October 9th, 2011

THE FOLLOWING HAS BEEN UPDATED SINCE ORIGINALLY POSTED.

My patented mouse-proof entrance reducers worked well enough for us last winter. They’re cheap and easy to build. But I decided to try something different this year. It’s not as cheap and easy, but neither is it complicated. I simply stapled some half-inch mesh over the entrances of the hives like this:

I got this tip from a Brushy Mountain video (I just can’t remember which one). I chose this method for mouse-proofing the hives this winter because it provides better ventilation. I just hope it doesn’t provide too much ventilation by allowing more cold wind to blow through the hives.
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October 5th, 2011

THE FOLLOWING WAS LAST UPDATED ON DEC. 14, 2011.

Here’s a 2-minute video that shows another beekeeper, then us, extracting some honey a few days ago:

See Extracting Honey for all the details.

UPDATE (Nov. 06/11): It’s been a month since we extracted and bottled the honey — and it’s still cloudy. All the honey we bottled from crushing and straining earlier in September turned perfectly clear easily within 10 days of bottling (it looks like apple juice). I’m not sure why the extracted honey hasn’t become clear, though I suspect it’s because it was inevitably mixed with a different type of honey that was left over in the extractor before we used it.

UPDATE (Dec. 14/11): See Cloudy Honey for a fuller explanation.
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October 3rd, 2011

We extracted the last eight frames from our honey bee hives this weekend. It came to about 8 litres after bottling. That’s somewhere around 25 pounds or 11kg. We extracted the honey with another beekeeper who got into beekeeping last summer the same time we did. He went before of us. Some of the following photos are of his honey — starting with this one:

The honey on his frames probably came from Goldenrod nectar. The appearance of the Goldenrod honey comb was different than our comb. The flavour of the honey was more earthy too. Our honey probably came from Japanese Knotweed and other floral sources that aren’t as distinctive as Goldenrod. It’s all good honey, though. At any rate, step one was to put all the frames in a rack on the decapping table.
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