Summary: If you want the bees to pull honey down from a honey super into the brood chamber in a timely manner, scrape the honey first.
We left one medium super full of open and capped honey on each of our hives about two weeks ago so they’d have enough honey for winter storage (and so we wouldn’t have to feed them sugar syrup). Beekeeping is one manipulative trick after another — and the trick with leaving the bees honey is to get them to pull the honey down into the brood chamber. One method is to place a queen excluder above the brood chamber, then an inner cover and then the honey super above that. The honey super is interpreted by the bees’ brains as being apart from the hive, so, in theoretical land, they’ll tear into the honey and move it down into the actual hive, the brood chamber, before winter sets in. When we did this last year on October 23rd, we made sure to scrape open the capped honey first so the bees could dig in right away. We used this do dad called a capping scratcher (or you could just grab a kitchen fork):
Summary: Late season Goldenrod honey is more pungent and almost sickly sweet compared to early season honey.
We began stealing honey from our bees, a little bit at a time, beginning in July. Almost half the honey was in comb form, all natural and beautiful. The rest was extracted liquid honey in jar form, not exactly natural or nearly as pretty, but it’ll do you. The last batch of honey was extracted today — the jar on the left in the photo. Compare it to the jar on the right that was extracted a month ago.
Judging from its golden appearance and its flavour (almost sickly sweet and pungent), I think the honey extracted today is mostly Goldenrod honey. The honey we extracted a month ago is darker and the flavour is rich and earthy. Although it doesn’t qualify as a dark honey, I think much of the nectar for that honey may have been collected from Black Huckleberries that seem plentiful out in the country where the bees are now.
I didn’t have time to observe the bees this year, so I’m just guessing. It’s fun to wonder, though. Every batch of honey this year was different.
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.
I don’t have much to report these days. I don’t often see the bees, so what can I tell you? The final honey harvest will happen in about four days. I’m not sure what we’ll find. So far we’ve harvested about three medium honey supers. That’s not bad considering what our bees have been through this year. None of our colonies are in tip-top shape and only two are producing honey. One third of the harvested honey was comb honey (my favourite), some of it crystal clear crushed and strained (my second favourite because the honey comb flavour is still intact), and the rest was extracted (which is okay but not as philosophically pleasing). Our last batch of honey was mostly Goldenrod honey. Here’s a plateful of it I put aside because it was uncapped.
I don’t know what it is about Goldenrod honey, but it has a pungent flavour that is definitely an acquired taste. Like sweet sweaty old gym socks. Go figure.
I had a foundationless deep frame full of honey put aside in our shed to give to one of our colonies before winter, nicely sealed in plastic so it would keep. Then some wasps got in the shed, found a hole in the plastic and obliterated the frame of honey. Check it out:
Nothing left but dry crumbly pieces of comb.
I’m more of a bee-visitor than a beekeeper these days. I only see the bees a couple hours every week or two. It’s just not the same as having them close by and being able to watch them every day. I have little interest in continuing as a bee-visitor. I’m not selling off the hives just yet, but I don’t plan to do anything other than maintain the seven hives I have now. To take on anything more than basic maintenance is beyond my means for the time being, and it’s not much fun if I can’t hang out with the bees. The most fun I had this past summer was when I made a 4-frame extractor with a friend of mine. I’m not posting the plans for it because it’s a prototype and the design has some minor flaws that need to be corrected first. But it works beautifully, easily well worth the $120 I spent on it. Here’s a demo video of its maiden voyage:
By the way, the heating gun method of uncapping the honey works great. No fuss, no muss and way cheaper than an uncapping knife.
One of the mated queens we bought and installed two weeks ago is a dud. We didn’t see any sign that she was laying last week, and we didn’t see anything today. So we removed her from the hive and combined her colony with another colony that has a strong queen. We combined them by following the standard newspaper method. Here’s what it looks like:
P.S.: I’ve decided to take a break from Mud Songs because I have difficultly finding the time for it these days. I don’t plan to post anything again until sometime in the fall when most of the beekeeping is done for the year.
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.