Natural Honey Comb

We harvested two medium supers of honey from two hives last year. The weather last summer was the pits. This year we harvested about four medium supers of honey from maybe four hives. This summer’s weather was incredible. We could have had truck loads of honey, but we didn’t because three colonies swarmed on us, two queens failed on us… and so on. T’was a difficult year. A year that made me realize what I like about beekeeping and what kind of beekeeper I want to be. Here’s a hint: I like bees, not beekeeping. For instance, I like seeing this kind of thing when I pull out a frame (click the image to a larger view):

That’s a partially drawn frame of honey comb I saw while harvesting the last bit of honey from our hives today. I only took about five medium frames in all. Most of the honey, like the capped honey in this frame, was left behind for the bees.

For each of our seven hives, I moved the honey super above the inner cover (with a queen excluder underneath), so the bees will move the remaining honey down into the brood chamber. That way they should have enough honey to get through the winter and I won’t have to feed them syrup before winter kicks in.

Pulling a Queen Cage

We recently added three mated queens to some of our hives and splits. Here’s a quick video of us checking to see if a queen was released from her cage. The video ends with us looking at some foundationless frames in a honey super.

I didn’t post a video or photos of the actual requeening because we posted an instructive video of a requeening last year. You can watch it on YouTube if you like and then follow the link back to Mud Songs to read the original post for more detailed info. Here’s a semi-short story about requeening, Part 1: The candy plug in one of our queen cages was rock solid and the bees hadn’t eaten through it five days later when we checked on it, not even close. To prevent that from happening, we might spray the candy plug with some water before we install the next queen cage. I’m not sure if that’s recommended by the experts, but we rarely get consistent advice from the experts, anyway, so we’ll probably do it. Part 2: We’ve been told that the attendant bees should be removed from the queen cage before the cage is installed. Supposedly in the commotion of being introduced, the attendant bees can get over excited and inadvertently sting or harm the queen. We’ve also been told not to worry about the attendant bees and just leave them in the cage with the queen. So that’s what we did and everything turned out fine.

P.S. (July 19/12): We might not spray the candy plug after all. Read the comments for more details.

Fresh White Honey Comb

I took a brief peek at one of our monster hives with honey supers on it yesterday and found several frames well on their way to being filled with honey. I know some experienced beekeepers discourage new beekeepers from going foundationless in their honey supers because the chances of success are less, but we can’t help ourselves. We love it when the bees build natural comb like this:

Our honey supers have a combination of foundationless frames, frames of drawn comb from last year (with and without foundation), and frames with untouched foundation.

Apparently the bees are attracted to the smell of drawn comb. That gets them to work in the honey supers. We put foundationless frames between the frames of drawn comb because the bees are generally compelled to fill in empty space. Our methods may not maximize honey production, but the maximizing approach can take the fun out of beekeeping. That’s not our game. And it’s hard to argue with results like this:

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Fall Honey on The Way

Hive #1, our pride and joy, seems well on its way to filling a second honey super. Here’s a quiet little video recorded through a screened inner cover that shows the bees crowded on the frames in the honey super filling them up with nectar on the way to becoming honey.


SELECT 720p FOR HIGH DEFINITION AND OPTIMAL FULL SCREEN VIDEO PLAYBACK.
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Adding a Second Honey Super

Well, it looks like we’re going to get some honey this year after all, at least from one of our hives. I was led to believe that foundationless hives in the cold wet climate of St. John’s, Newfoundland — with its short, sometimes non-existent summers — wouldn’t produce extra honey for humans during the first year because much of the bees’ resources are funnelled into raising drones and then back-filling the drone comb before they have a chance to make extra honey in a honey super. So far that’s turned out to be true. We migrated all the foundationless frames into a single hive, Hive #2, and that hive hasn’t done much with its honey super. However, Hive #1, the hive that we transferred all the conventional frames in to, has filled its first honey super. Check out the video and I’ll tell you more about it later:


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Still No Honey

We took a peek at the honey supers on our two full hives a few days ago. The bees in Hive #2, the mostly foundationless hive, have shown no interest in their honey super. My guess is they’re still backfilling all the foundationless drone comb instead. My prediction: Hive #2 will be a complete write-off for honey this year. The honey super on Hive #1 is looking better, though it still has a way to go. Most of the frames have only partial comb drawn on them. Here’s the left side of one of the foundationless frames in the honey super:

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Honey Super Filling Up Slowly

I inspected Hive #1 today and was glad to see that the honey super is starting to fill up with honey. Nine frames spread out in a ten frame super, alternating plastic with foundationless frames. I didn’t take any photos or videos. Snapping off photos during an inspection, especially when I’m alone, only complicates things (but I’ll do what I can for more instructive posts). My main concern was to make sure the queen wasn’t honey bound. I found three frames in the middle of the top box that looked like this…

…worker brood in the middle surrounded by pollen and honey, only this time everything looked dirtier and darker because the comb isn’t fresh like it was when the photo was taken last year. Still, it’s more or less what I wanted to see. Honey and pollen, new worker brood and enough space for the queen to continue laying.

The foundationless frames in the top box of Hive #1 were migrated to Hive #2 a while back, so it’s a mostly conventional hive now with perhaps three or four foundationless frames left over in the bottom brood box. The minimized number of foundationless frames — which perhaps knocks back drone production — might have something to do with the honey super filling with honey now. (Pure speculation.) The bees in Hive #2, a hive that is about 80% foundationless, show no signs of building in their honey super yet. So go figure. Okay then, let’s move on to even more boringer details.
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