I expected to be part of a panel discussion at the recent NL Beekeepers AGM but instead found myself in the spot light listening to words come out of my mouth like I was having an out of body experience. I apparently spoke about moisture quilts and what was referred to afterwards as my “winter ventilation strategy.” Okay. I would describe myself as somnambulistic after a week of work that left my brain running on fumes by the time I showed up at eight-thirty in the bloody morning for the AGM. Then, to cap it off, what I thought was a panel discussion scheduled for the lunch hour got pushed to the end of the day, by which time I was fighting to keep my eyes open, going to the washroom every 20 minutes to splash cold water on my face. By the time I arrived at my moment shine, it was great. Just great. I wish I had it on tape. I had a good laugh talking about it afterwards when I got home. You gotta laugh.
At any rate, someone who was lucky enough to be graced by my presence at the AGM sent me an email this morning asking me if I really got 100 pounds of honey from one of my hives after I put an empty moisture quilt on it for ventilation. My answer was: “You better believe it!” I don’t even remember saying that during my presentation, but apparently I said it — and it’s true. I responded to his email to explain how it happened, how I lucked into it really, and then I copied and pasted my response to Facebook, and now I’m copying that Facebook post to ye ole Mud Songs blog because I’m reaching the end of another long day at work and I really don’t have the brain power to do anything other than copy and paste.
So here it is, the story of how I got 100 pounds of honey from a single honey bee colony, and in Logy Bay, Newfoundland, of all places:
By the way, I plan to write a post that covers all the topics that I expected to talk about during the panel discussion, in the form of a conversation between three beekeepers, just as I imagined the panel discussion would play out. It, too, will be great. Stay tuned.
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.
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.
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:
Nothing fancy about any of this. The honey still has plenty of little wax bits floating around, but we don’t care. We sterilized the small Mason jars and poured the honey in. No heating, no freezing, nothing. This honey is just for us. …
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. …
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:
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: