Here’s how I inadvertently (or I could say deliberately) managed to get over 6 pounds of honey from a single medium frame. 6 pounds is about 3 kg. (I’ve created a special tag just for this hive, Giant Hive 2021, so everything I’ve written about it can be viewed in sequence.)
Other than giving the bees space inside the hive to grow, I really didn’t do much. This is 95% the result of good weather and a healthy queen. No bee whispering of any kind was required. There never is.
Essentially, all I did was place 7 frames of drawn comb in a 10-frame honey super, creating extra space between the frames. If there’s a strong nectar flow, the bees will often fill in the extra space with honey, resulting in thick frames of honey — and sometimes more honey per super.A 9-frame spacing tool like this can be used to create even spacing between the frames for the same effect.
I’ve had one of these for 10 years and I think I’ve used it once or twice. I just eyeball it. But I can see how it would be handy for commerical beekeepers in the field working through dozens or hundreds of honey supers.
Here’s a breakdown of the video:
00:00 — Medium honey frame on the scale coming in at 6 pounds 9 ounces (2.98 kg).
01:15 — A brief history of the magic hive.
01:35 — Plastic foundation the bees won’t build comb on.
02:05 — Super thick honeycomb bulging out way past the frames.
03:05 — Explaining what went wrong that resulted in thick honey.
03:40 — 7 frames in a 10-frame honey super.
03:55 — When alternating drawn comb with foundation doesn’t work.
04:25 — The pulled frames of massive thick honey.
04:55 — Explaining (again) how to make thick frames of honey.
I extracted the 5 thick frames shown in this video and got 26 pounds of liquid honey out of it (~12 kg).
When I pulled the 5 frames, I replaced them with some old frames of drawn comb. I came back two days later to switch out that drawn comb with the now-empty drawn comb still wet from the extractor — because the smell of fresh wet comb can stimulate the bees to work on the comb. Most of the drawn comb I put in as a temporary replacement was already dripping with nectar. Holy moly.
This might be the strongest colony I’ve ever had in all the places I’ve kept bees in Newfoundland (on the east coast of the island). I’ve since put another hive in the same location to see if it’s the location that’s making all the difference, or if it’s the genetics of the bees in this particular hive. From what I can tell, it’s the location.
It’s interesting to notice what a difference a good location can make to one’s beekeeping success. So much of what seems to contribute to a beekeeper’s success has little to do with the beekeeping beyond basic hive maintance.
A word about alternating drawn comb with empty frames of just foundation (or foundationless frames). Not everybody does this to encourage quick comb-building. I’ve always done it with fully established colonies (not nucs) because that’s what I was taught when I first got into beekeeping and I guess, like many things we learn when we first start something, I’ve stuck to it without questioning it, without wondering, “Is there a better way?” But I’ve also done it for about 11 years and it works for me.
Location, Location, Location
There is so much truth to the beekeeping adage, All beekeeping is local beekeeping, it’s kind of amazing.
I have nine hives on the go now. I keep five of them next to my house in Flatrock. I keep the other four in two other private locations. The colonies in Flatrock are the worst. No matter how many tricks I pull out of my beekeeping tool kit, my bees in Flatrock never achieve the same level of growth as my colonies in more inland locations. All my bees in every location receive the same kind of care throughout the year. Most of them come from similar genetic stock. The main difference is their location.
Flatrock is cold. I also suspect that there just isn’t much forage in Flatrock. But then again, cold bees don’t forage as much. Cold flowers don’t release as much nectar either. So it’s a vicious circle. Either way, the cold climate of Flatrock doesn’t help. When I see how well my colonies in the other locations are doing, especially this magic colony that’s packing in more honey than I’ve ever seen in my life, I can’t help but conclude that Flatrock stinks.
I’ve got such winter-hardy, robust healthy queens in Flatrock, but it doesn’t matter. There’s no contest between my Flatrock hives and the hives located at more inland beeyards. I know right now that I’ll probably get, at most, two medium honey supers per hive off my Flatrock hives, and that won’t happen for another two months. Whereas my magic hive pretty much already has two medium supers of honey well on their way to being capped. It’s a completely different world out there for those bees.
Before us beekeepers start patting ourselves on the back for doing such amazing beekeeping work, maybe we should consider all the things we don’t have any control over that contribute greatly to the success of our beekeeping, and be grateful for that instead.
For the record (with Google Map links), I’ve kept bees in following locations since 2010. I’ve given them all a rating out of 10, using my current secret location where my bees are off the hook as a baseline for 10:
Portugal Cove — 8/10.
Logy Bay — 9/10.
Flatrock — 5/10.
July 28th, 2021: I’ve since harvested honey from the Giant Hive two more times. The second batch gave me 32 pounds of honey. The third batch a few days ago gave me 25 pounds. That’s over 80 pounds of honey and it’s not even August yet. I’d say there’s another 100 pounds of honey on the hive right now, but the comb hasn’t been capped yet. Next summer is going to be so depressing compared to this. I can’t imagine we’ll have this kind of warm weather two summers in a row. That just doesn’t fit my picture of Newfoundland.