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.


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The bees in Hive #1 began filling the first honey super around mid-August after we added a screened inner cover. Combined with the extra ventilation of a ventilator rim, the first honey super was filled in about a week. We added the second honey super soon after that (about a week ago), pulling up a few frames of honey from the first honey super to encourage the bees to work the super sooner (which may not have been necessary).

Uncapped honey from Hive #1’s first honey super (August 27, 2011).

I checked the second honey super today and found six out of nine frames full of honey, two frames well on their way to being drawn and filled with honey, and one empty frame. I repositioned the empty frame, a foundationless frame, to get them working on it faster. (The bees seem to fill in the empty space of a foundationless frame faster when it’s between two drawn frames.) We should be able to harvest the honey from both honey supers in a couple weeks if we continue to have some half decent weather.

A few more details that general readers will probably want to skip:

Hive #1 began the year with 50% foundationless frames, but we quickly migrated all the foundationless frames to Hive #2 to minimize the impact of drones on honey production. Foundationless frames produce considerably more drones than frames with plastic foundation. The drones eat up the honey in the hive and don’t produce any honey themselves. I’m fascinated by the natural aspects of foundationless beekeeping, but after more than a year and a half of concentrated effort and more money spent than I like to admit, I’m confident I would have transmorgified into a murderously insane lunatic if we didn’t get any honey from our hives this year. Removing the foundationless frames from Hive #1, and switching them with conventional frames from Hive #2, worked perfectly. We missed the first honey flow this year (unless this is the first one), but we stabilized the hive well enough by August to catch the second one. Requeening the colony probably didn’t hurt either.

We recently installed a screened inner cover and a ventilator rim on Hive #1, which likely accelerated the honey curing process. We didn’t get around to installing a screened bottom board, though that might still happen if we can managed it.

The honey supers are medium sized supers, not shallow supers. They have a combination of conventional and foundationless frames. Foundationless frames in the brood chamber — that’s a different story. But in the honey super, the bees seem to build on the foundationless frames faster. However, they seem to work them faster only when they’re between drawn comb or conventional frames. That’s only an initial observation.

Hive #2, the foundationless hive, is producing honey as well, but I doubt we’ll get more than one honey super from it. We’d lost all hope of getting any kind of honey harvest this year, so even one honey super full of honey from Hive #2 is a bonus. We’re actually planning to pull one foundationless frame of honey from Hive #2 today — our first harvest of any honey this year. We don’t have any kind of extracting, filtering or bottling equipment, and we don’t care. We’re going to eat the honey right off the comb. It’s gonna be good.