Goldenrod vs Black Huckleberry Honey?

I began stealing honey from my 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. 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.

Huckleberry honey (?)  and Goldenrod Honey. (Oct. 04, 2012.)

Huckleberry honey (?) and Goldenrod Honey. (Oct. 04, 2012.)

Judging from its golden appearance and its flavour (almost sickly sweet and pungent), I’d say the honey extracted today is mostly Goldenrod honey. The honey 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.

Huckleberry honey from September and Goldenrod honey harvested in October.

Goldenrod Honey harvested in October and Huckleberry honey from September.

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.

Natural Honey Comb

I harvested two medium supers of honey from two hives last year. The weather last summer was the pits. This year I harvested about four medium supers of honey from maybe four hives. This summer’s weather was incredible. I could have had truck loads of honey, but three colonies swarmed on me, two queens failed 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:

Partially drawn, partially capped comb. (Oct. 02, 2012.)

That’s a partially drawn frame of honey comb I saw while harvesting the last bit of honey from my 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.

Foundationless honey comb. (Oct. 02, 2012.)

For each of my 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.

The beginnings of honey comb. (Oct. 02. 2012.)

April 2019 Postscript: As it turns out, the decision to give my bees only honey instead of topping up the hives with sugar syrup was a bad call. It resulted in one of my giant colonies starving to death over the winter. A death of a colony will happen to every backyard beekeeper sooner or later. I take it in stride when something bad happens these days, but the first one was the hardest. Thankfully, I’ve haven’t had a healthy colony die on me over the winter since.

Feeding The Bees Honey Instead of Syrup

I harvested more than enough honey to last us until next year, so instead of topping up my hives up with sugar syrup to get them through the winter, I decided to give them back their honey. It saves the bees the trouble of evaporating the syrup down to the consistency of honey; it reduces the risk of condensation building up inside the hive (evaporation creates condensation, especially in cold weather); and it saves me the trouble of having to mix the syrup and mess around with messy feeders — and the honey is much better for the bees than sugar syrup. So if I’m in the position to feed them back their own honey, why not?

A deep frame of honey fed back to the bees. (Oct. 23, 2011.)

I began feeding the bees their own honey from partially capped medium frames that I didn’t harvest from the honey supers. Then I switched to deep frames full of honey that I pulled from the hives earlier in the summer to prevent the queens from becoming honey bound.
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4 Little Hives All in a Row

March 2019 Introduction: This is a boring post that probably won’t have much appeal to a general reader, but it does go into some fine details that might be interesting for people who want to compare notes with another beekeeper (me). It’s eight years later and today I’m intrigued by the results I had with my bees at the time. I didn’t just leave my bees alone and let them sort out their troubles. I was always messing with my bees, probably more than I should have, but I have to admit that I created an excellent classroom for myself.

Here’s a short uneventful video I took of the hives today where I mistakenly refer to Hive #2 as Hive #1. (I need to paint numbers on the damn things.)

And now here’s a quick review of the 4 hives in my backyard as they stand today:
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October Pollen: The Video

My four honey bee colonies exploded with life today and brought in loads of pollen from somewhere; I don’t know where. Here’s the video:

In other news, I’m feeding my bees back their own honey — capped and partially capped honey from the honey supers. I scraped off the cappings and installed the frames over the inner covers. The bees go mad for it. I’ve given them back about a dozen frames so far, probably close to 30 pounds of honey. I could have kept it for myself, but I’m happy with the 40 or so pounds they’ve already given me, which is more than I expected anyway.

October Pollen

Whenever the bees have a chance to do anything that contributes to the survival of the colony, they do it, even if it kills them. After a week of not doing much of anything in freezing cold weather, the bees came pouring out of hives this morning, many of them coming back loaded down with pollen.

Bees brining in pollen (Oct. 10, 2011).

I don’t know where they found the pollen, but I’m impressed. Here’s a cropped-in grainy shot:

Bees brining in pollen (Oct. 10, 2011).

It looked as if the bees were shutting down for winter, but give them some early morning sunshine and temperatures hovering a little over 10°C (50°F), and away they go, making the most of what little warm temperatures are left in this year. And where is all this pollen coming from? A late-blooming field of Goldenrod must be close by. I don’t know.
video.)
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Yellow Jackets Everywhere

I’ve had entrance reducers on all my hives for the past few weeks, and it doesn’t look like I can remove them any time soon because the wasps (a.k.a. yellow jackets) are everywhere. They’re constantly trying to get into the hives. Here’s a photo showing about six wasps blocking a ventilation hole (most of the screened holes in our ventilator rims are filled with wasps):

Wasps filling a screened ventilation hole. (Oct. 9, 2011.)

The next photo isn’t pretty. You’ve been warned.
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Mouse-Proofing Mesh Doesn’t Keep Shrews Out

It’s March 2019 and I’ve deleted and retitled the 2011 post that used to be here (though the comments are still intact). But here’s the gist of it:

No matter how it’s installed, half-inch (~12mm) mesh will not prevent shrews from getting into a hive. Shrews, or more accurately, the pygmy shrew, can even slip through standard 3/8-inch metal mouse guards. That’s why I use quarter-inch (6mm) mesh to keep both shrews and mice out of hives.

I know beekeepers in Newfoundland who only use half-inch mesh to keep mice out of their hives and have done so for years. I took most of my cues from them when I first started beekeeping. None of them ever told me about shrews, possibly because shrews weren’t a problem in their area.

Half-inch (12mm) mouse-proofing mesh that does nothing to keep shrews out of the hive. (Oct. 9, 2011.)


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My First Time Extracting Honey

I extracted eight medium frames of honey this weekend. It came to about 8 litres after bottling. That’s somewhere around 25 pounds or 11kg, or 2 litres per frame. I extracted the honey with another beekeeper who got into beekeeping last summer the same time I did. He went before of me. Some of the following photos are of his honey — starting with this one:

Another beekeeper’s frame of honey made from Goldenrod harvested in Clarenville. Much different than my pale yellow combs of honey from St. John’s. (October 1st, 2011.)

The honey on his frames probably came from Goldenrod nectar. The appearance of the Goldenrod honey comb was different than my comb. The flavour of the honey was more earthy too. My honey probably came from Japanese Knotweed and other floral sources that aren’t as distinctive as Goldenrod. It’s all good honey, though. At any rate, step one was to put all the frames in a rack on the decapping table.
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What’s Capped Honey?

Someone asked me, “What do you mean by ‘capped’ honey?” My answer: Capped honey is like anything that has a cap on it, like a jar of jam, for instance. If the jar of jam didn’t have a cap on it, it would dry up, go mouldy, turn rancid, start to ferment, etc. Bees are like that with their honey. First they build comb consisting of thousands of hexagonal shaped cells — those are the jars. Each cell in turn is filled with nectar. The bees evaporate the nectar until its reduced to a thick sweet liquid that we call honey. When it’s just right, they seal up the cell with a layer of wax often referred to as a cap, just like the lid on a jar of jam. Here’s a photo showing a frame of honey with cells that are capped and not yet capped. (Is “uncapped” the same as “not yet capped”? Let’s just say it is.)

A frame of capped and open honey from Hive #2. (September 3, 2011.)

The open cells are uncapped. Most of the cells in middle of the frame are capped. Hence, capped honey, sometimes referred to as fully cured honey.

There’s also dry cappings and wet cappings. The ones in the above photo are dry cappings. See Wet cappings vs dry cappings at Honey Bee Suite for more on that.
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Cut Comb & Bottled Honey

Here’s a narrated video of me harvesting five foundationless frames of honey. I cut out 28 small squares of honey comb from a little over 1 and a half frames. I crushed and strained the rest of it and bottled it the next day.

I meant to strain the crushed comb using the 3-bucket system that requires a paint strainer, but I put the paint strainer on the wrong bucket (the paint strainer goes on the bottom bucket), so I had to improvise a bit. That mistake cost me some honey, but it wasn’t too drastic.
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Fall Hives and Hive Top Feeders

I’m posting this short video for my own records so I have something to compare next year’s new hives to. I started two hives from 3-frame nuc boxes (4 frames actually, but one frame was empty) on July 18th, which was 89 days ago. It’s now mid-October and the bees are still active — when the sun is shining on the hives. The sun is shining on them as I write this. The temperature is 12°C, each hive has a hive top feeder installed over the inner cover, and the bees are flying around the entrances of both hives. Looking good. Here’s what they looked like a few days ago on October 12th:

November 2018 Postscript: I would delete this post except that the video might give new beekeepers and idea of what to expect from their bees at this time of the year. I deleted a previous post that went on about hive top feeders. Here’s a photo from that post:

Filling up one side of a top hive feeder on Hive #2. (Oct. 14, 2010.)

The advantage of a hive top feeder — a sort of set-it-and-forget-it feeder — is that it can hold a large amount of syrup and the bees can take the syrup down in large quantities quickly (when the syrup is warm enough for them). So a hive top feeder is useful for topping up the hives with thick syrup before winter sets in. The bees will need time to cure the syrup before it gets too cold, but generally in Newfoundland it seems to be a safe practice to give them syrup in the fall until they stop taking it. Hive top feeders are good for feeding bees in the spring to get them started, but smaller feeders that fit over the inner cover hole can work just as well for people who have easy access to their bees. This post, A Screened Hive Top Feeder, demonstrates what I think is the best way to use a hive top feeder.

No Brood in The Fall Doesn’t Mean The Queen is Dead – Part 1

It’s November 2018 and I’ve deleted this post from 2010. I was freaked out because I looked inside one of my hives and didn’t see any brood and thought the queen was dead. But I would have calmed myself down if I had happened to read this entry from the 1947 edition of The ABC and XYZ of Bee Culture:

Stuff that’s good to know.

No brood in the hive by October in Newfoundland is not uncommon. Some queens lay well into the fall (probably Italian queens) and some stop as soon as it gets cold (probably Russian queens). No big deal.