I’ve enjoyed being able to check on my bees during my lunch breaks over the past while since Omicron shut down my normal office work schedule. What a lousy way to learn the Greek alphabet, eh? I’m burnt out from the pandemic like most of us, but being able to take a break from my office job and hang with my bees has provided a huge mental boost. Today, for instance, all I did was give some comb honey to a colony I suspected was hungry. It only took about five minutes, but it was so relaxing.
I did this so fast, it didn’t require smoke, a veil or gloves. The bees were too busy staying clustered to worry about me. The sun is beating down on the black hive now. What heat was lost will be regained quickly. I’m also planning to wrap the hive with silver bubble wrap to see if that helps.
I’ve done it before and I’ll do it again. Feeding honey bees a jar of crystallised honey because humans don’t want to eat it for some silly reason.
It’s a 75-second video that I shot as a 4K-test. About 100% of streaming video that’s labelled as 4K isn’t really 4K, but for anyone with a 4K monitor or TV, a “4K” video will look sharper than regular videos. And if you don’t know what 4K is, don’t worry about it.
I made a honey bucket with a honey gate, or a spigot. The honey gate makes it easier to fill my jars of extracted honey. I used a 28-litre brewing bucket that I never use for brewing (from the one time I made mead). Food-grade buckets that look like 18-litre paint buckets are also available at some hardware stores. It doesn’t hurt to use a bucket with an air-tight cover. Continue reading →
Here’s another quiet walkalong video that has me pulling off the last of my honey frames for the season. I suppose it’s a sequel to my Another Day in the Life of a Beekeeper video. It’s 21 minutes long and as usual goes into all kind of things as I basically explain everything I do while I’m doing it — the experience people get when they do a “workshop” with me. I’ll add more details at a later date as soon as I have the time.
This is likely to be the last we’ll see of my Giant Hive of 2021 in my secret location. The colony living in that hive produced almost 100 pounds of honey for me before the end of July, which came to about half of my total honey harvest for 2021. Judging from that hive, I expected great things from the rest of my colonies in other locations, but there was nothing special about this summer for the rest of my colonies. I plan to put as many hives as I can in the secret location for next year.
I created a walkaway split on June 20th and it worked out well. The last time I checked on it a couple of weeks ago, the queen was laying well and she looked healthy. I’m at the point now, pulling the last of the honey from my hives, where I don’t want to do anything else with my colonies other than check to see if they’ve got enough honey, and if they don’t, I’ll top them up with some syrup. Here’s a short video where I examine the honey frames of the 84-day-old walkaway split and make a few tweaks that should give it a better chance of getting through the winter.
Like I say in the video, the colony is looking good and is well on its way to having enough honey to get through winter (about two mediums worth of honey). I may need to top it up a little syrup, but right now it’s in pretty good shape. It’s not absolutely packed with bees, but it doesn’t need to be. My bees, possibly with Russian genetics, seem to go into winter will small clusters, consuming little honey. Which is great because it means I probably don’t need to feed them sugar over the winter or early spring.
This is how I lubricated my honey extractor yesterday, keeping in mind this is just how I do it. I didn’t learn how to do this by reading a book. There’s not much to it, but I took pictures the whole time and I hate to see good pictures go to waste, so here it is. Continue reading →
Nectar is pretty much like water when the bees bring it into the hive. They have to evaporate it down to at least 18% moisture before it becomes the magical thing we call honey — because thatâ€™s the point at which it wonâ€™t ferment. (Technically, honey be can 20% moisture, but 18% is in the safe zone.)
A refractometer is sort of a portable microscope we use to determine the moisture content of the honey after weâ€™ve stolen it from the bees — essentially checking to see if all the nectar has dried up.
El cheapo refractometer ($24 Canadian) for testing moisture content of honey.
Here’s a photo of me working on what is probably the largest hive I’ve ever had to deal with since I began beekeeping in 2010. (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.)
A 500ml Mason jar of honey = 1 pound 8.5 oz / 24.5 oz / 695 grams. That’s 1.39 grams per millilitre of honey.
A 250ml Mason jar of honey = 11.45 oz / 325 grams. That’s 1.3 grams per millilitre of honey.
Both minus the weight of the jar. It looks like the 500ml jars (a pint of honey) provides a bigger bang for the buck with an extra 45 grams crammed in there. I don’t know which jar has the most accurate measurement, but an average of the two comes to 1.345 grams per millilitre of honey.
In any case, I’ve never understood why honey is sold by weight instead of volume — by the size of the jar it’s sold in. But whatever the reason, I decided to see how heavy honey in a jar comes in at so that I can calculate a price for selling it by weight. That’s it.
September 10th, 2021: According to this website, one millilitre of honey is exactly 1.437 grams. I’m assuming something other than a kitchen scale was used to determine that number. The highest number I got was 1.39 grams.
In any case, it seems to me that the main reason honey would be sold by weight instead of volume is that the weight measurements result in a larger number. 250ml of honey sounds better at 359g. A 500ml jar (one pint) is nearly 720g. That’s if we go with the 1.437 grams per ML math. It makes sense now.
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.
1 of 5 thick frames of honey, averaging 5.2 pounds / 2.4 kg of liquid honey per frame. (July 7th, 2021.)
This might not look like much, but it’s delicious. It’s honey that I scraped from a frame about 10 minutes ago. I’m straining it in my kitchen as I write this.
Super sweet citrus-flavours with a slight hit of spice.
I’ve never tasted honey like this before. It definitely has a citrus tang to it, somewhere between lemon and orange, very sweet with a weird spicy aftertaste. My first thought was that I found a single frame of fireweed honey. But this big hit of citrus is unlike any fireweed honey I’ve tasted which had a more subtle fruity flavour and wasn’t overly sweet. The fireweed honey I tasted before was also so translucent that it was nearly the colour of water. Continue reading →
Here’s a playlist collection of videos I’ve posted over the years that somewhat falls into the category of Practical Beekeeping Tips. The playlist is sort of in the order that someone new beekeeping would experience, starting off with how to paint hives and how to mix sugar syrup, how to install a nuc — all that jazz.
While I’d like to update and modify some of the videos, that would take more time than I can spare (I have a full-time job that isn’t beekeeping). Much like my Beekeeping Guide, it’s not a comprehensive series of videos, but maybe it’ll help.
So what’s the difference between honeycomb and comb honey? Why do beekeepers call it “comb honey” when everyone else calls it honeycomb?
Well, for one thing, honeycomb refers to a type of comb, whereas comb honey refers to a type of honey.
A frame of empty comb, what most beekeepers call “drawn comb.” The bees can fill this comb with pollen, nectar (which becomes honey) or the queen might eggs in the comb.
Comb full of pollen.
At first glance, this frame might look like “honeycomb,” but closer examination shows some brood in the middle of all that honey. Click the images for a better view.
Comb honey. Nothing but honey and beeswax.
Honey bees produce wax. From that wax they build a variety of comb. Think of comb as rows and rows of Mason jars, but made of beeswax instead of glass, and lids or caps not made of metal but from beeswax too. What the bees decide to put in those jars — those honeycomb-shaped jars — determines what we call them. Sort of. Continue reading →
Other than looking pretty, I’ve never understood the appeal of Chunk Honey. Chunk what? A chunk of comb honey, or what the layperson might call honeycomb, is dropped into a jar and then filled with honey. Or in my case, it’s dropped into a jar already full of honey. And that’s it.
This is exactly what I like to see from one of my honey bee colonies as it’s about to go into winter. The top of the hive is a big solid block of honey with the bees clustered so far below that I can’t see them when I look down through the frames.
Some people say honey frames can’t be uncapped with a heat gun. They’re wrong. It doesn’t work on wet cappings, but it works fine with dry cappings. Here’s proof. (This video is an excerpt from my Garage Honey Extraction video.)
I extracted some honey in my garage over the past couple of days. I’d like to say there’s a precise method to my extraction process, but like everything in beekeeping, there isn’t — and don’t let nobody tell ya no different (just like Sling Blade would say). Now let’s take a gander at how it all went down:
00:00 — Intro to the extractor. Everything is sanitized, from the extractor to the stainless steel honey filter to the honey bucket. The garage might look rough, but it’s well ventilated and there are no chemicals or gasoline or any toxic fumes floating around.
According to my previous post, When is It Time to Harvest Honey?, it’s about time to harvest some honey now. Which means it’s about time to add some escape boards so my bees can “escape” from their honey boxes, which then makes it easier for me to steal their honey. You know, I think I might have a video of me from earlier today that shows how this works:
I pulled this funny looking 5-pounder of comb honey from one of my hives yesterday. No humans or bees were harmed. The honey extractor known as a “Flow Hive” would deprive me of this experience. Beekeeping, for me, is about being close to the bees. Honey is the bonus.
Or as we say in French, Bombes au Chocolat de Miel.
I made some chocolate covered honey comb loosely based on an idea or recipe I stole from page 157 of the American Bee Journal, the February 2020 edition, and boy oh boy was it delicious.
A bite-sized piece of comb honey dipped in dark chocolate and drizzled with milk chocolate.
I made some with milk chocolate too, but the dark chocolate ones were the best. The milk chocolate ones were a little too sweet. It all just blended together, whereas the dark chocolate made the comb honey flavour, along with the smooth velvety feel of the beeswax, jump up and say, “Wow!”
By the way, this simple method of dipping comb honey in chocolate should work well with anything. Whatever the kids can think of dunking into chocolate, go for it. (So said the person who has only done this once.) Continue reading →