Stealing Honey From Grumpy Bees

Note to self: Smoke the bees before stealing a few frames from the bottom honey super. The bees are protective of their honey this time of year (if not all the time).

The bees one of my hives are smoking hot these days, ploughing through their honey supers at an impressive rate. Instead of adding a third honey super to the hive (which the bees might not be able to fill), I decided to pull three frames of honey from the bottom honey super and replace them with empty frames.

Two of the frames are foundationless. I’ll crush and strain them like I did with my first frame of honey. The other one will have to be extracted. I’m not sure how I’ll managed that yet. At any rate, this is my last post for the next couple weeks. By the time I post anything new, I’ll have harvested and probably bottled all of my honey — possibly up to 30 frames of honey. I’ll record videos and take photos of it all. See you later.

September 6ht, 2011: The bees have become extremely defensive since I took the honey from the hive — without using smoke. Within minutes of going in the backyard, I’ve got two or three bees buzzing around my head. I’ve never seen them this bad before. I’m managing it for now, but my backyard may be too small this for four hives. When the bees get defensive, it’s not good at all. I think I may have seen my next door neighbour swatting at some bees in his backyard. I hope they weren’t bees, but it’s possible. This could be very bad. I have to remember for now on to use smoke when pulling honey so the the bees don’t associate my scent, or human scent, with danger. This isn’t a good day. See What makes bees aggressive? from Honey Bee Suite for more info.

March 2019 Postscript: Beekeeping can be a little tricky at times, but I’d say it’s trickier in an urban or suburban environment because of the lack of space. When the bees get grumpy, it’s hard to avoid them. If I kept bees in an urban environment again, I would take extra steps not to disturb the bees or my neighbours. If I had to do a major invasive hive inspection — for example, to check for swarm cells — I would plan to do it at a time when I know my neighbours aren’t in their backyards. Once bees get defensive, they can easily fly over a fence and start head-butting and chasing humans who happen to get in their line of fire. The bees need to be handled with more gentleness and with consideration of close neighbours in an urban environment. It doesn’t take much for things to get a little out of hand.

9 thoughts on “Stealing Honey From Grumpy Bees

  1. Have you checked to see if they are filling up the top brood box with honey yet. Check on that if not it could be a fall of feeding sugar syrup. Also check to verify all the comb is drawn out. Bess like to move up and not out.

    Nice to see you getting a harvest though.

    • I’m not worried about checking that stuff. I’m gradually adopting a more relaxed, low impact approach to beekeeping. It seems better for the bees and better for me. I can’t remember the last time I pulled apart the bottom brood box of either of our full hives. But I remember the last time I checked the top boxes, a few weeks ago maybe, and they were packed with so much honey I had to pull a frame or two to prevent the queens from becoming honey bound. My nucs are the same. All the frames in all of our hives are fully drawn. They’re doing so much better than I anticipated, I don’t know what’s going on. I’m expecting everything to blow up in my face any minute now.

      We should exchange honey with each other some time in the fall.

  2. You need one of those bee escape boards that Dan was talking about. He warned me teh bees become abroupt once you steal their honey. I’m a little nervous now myself.

    • I have a bee escape board, and it works beautifully. The bees usually go down through it within hours. I should have just left the bees alone, waited for them to cap all the honey, and then put a bee escape under the top honey supers. I don’t plan to touch the honey supers again for the rest of the year. It looks like we’ll get three full honey supers. That’s enough, way more than I expected.

      Unfortunately, I really need to do a full inspection of all the hives this weekend. Every single deep frame has to come out. Hopefully we can just put the honey supers aside without stirring up the bees too much. We’re going to examine the brood chambers carefully and with any luck, not bother inspecting the hives until next year.

      We’re also going to add a combo screened bottom board I made to one of the hives. I’m not sure which one yet. Maybe one of new hives.

      Anyway, I’ve never seen the bees more mean then when I pulled the honey from the supers. I’m definitely smoking them next time. Your hives are so far away from your house, I don’t think you have to worry about attacks from the bees. Mine hives are exceptionally close to… well… humans. A bit too close.

  3. We crushed and strained one of the frames last night and got a little over 4 pounds again, about 1.8kg. 0.3kg of honey-soaked wax was left over (and we’ll let the bees clean it up again). This time we used a paint strainer to filter out the waxy bits. It worked perfectly. Nice clear honey.

    We’re going to crush and strain one more frame this weekend, though we’ll probably put a few squares of raw honey — comb honey — aside for spreading on toast. Then we’ll crush and strain on a larger scale probably some time in October or whenever the bees managed to cap all their honey. Most of it is still uncapped.

  4. I was talking to Aubrey. He told me I can bring my frames in after Sept 29th to extract the honey. He is looking to get his hands on my cappings… I think I will have 15 – 16 frames but I may put 5 frames back into the nuc that I have to see if they can over winter. 5 stanard frames and 5 frames of honey on top.

    I have a 5 frame nuc box made up using 2″ XPS foam. Apparently they can overwinter in Ohio, which is just as cold or colder than us. So to be on the safe side I figured I’d go a total of 10 frames, 5 brood frames and 5 honey frames. I may need to give them some warm syrup in early March to get them though but the 2″ foam should keep them warm and allow to break clusted to move in teh nuc. If it works I’ll have 7 colonies next year and we will know if we can do it here.

    • “I was talking to Aubrey. He told me I can bring my frames in after Sept 29th to extract the honey. He is looking to get his hands on my cappings.”

      I’ll have loads of wax from my foundationless frames for him as a trade for extracting my honey. He said it might be too cold to extract in October, but there’s nothing I can do about that. The honey isn’t capped yet.

      “I think I will have 15 – 16 frames…”

      That’s not bad. So that’s about two honey supers you have on the go?

      Sorry, Jeff, but I’ve lost track of how many hives you have. What exactly do you have on the go these days?

      That’s cool how you’re overwintering a nuc.

      “If it works I’ll have 7 colonies next year and we will know if we can do it here.”

      So you mean you’ll expand what you have now so that you’ll have 7 colonies by the end of next summer? With the queen issues you’ve been dealing with, combining hives and all that, I don’t know what your set up is anymore. I talk to too many beekeepers online and I’ve got everybody messed up in my head.

      I’m not sure how many frames I’ll have ready for extraction by October. I’ve got about 27 frames between all three supers on the two hives, and I think about half of them are foundationless. I don’t remember. I’m planning full inspections of all our hives this weekend. I’ll know then.

      I’m expecting to find a big mess in the bottom brood boxes of the main hives. I haven’t looked at the bottom boxes for a long time. I’m just sort of going on faith that the bees have managed everything well down there by themselves.

      Beekeeping is fun, or should be, but you never know what’s going to happen next.

  5. Phillip, what is your plans for overwintering? I am trying to get some opinions on overwintering with 3 boxes (3 deeps or 2 deeps and a medium) I have loads more honey i could harvest but am not sure that the bees will have enough for the winter. Everyone here that i speak with has told me i am crazy for even thinking of it. Most local beeks that I spoke with have already knocked down to 2 or even just 1 deep. Just looking for opinions not advice, this is beekeeping and we all have them.

    • Hey Steve,

      I plan to do exactly what I did last year — because it worked. I’m knocking my hives down to two deeps. Then if the hives are light, I’ll feed them 2:1 sugar syrup until they stop taking it down. I also have 3 deep frames of honey in reserve if I ever need to slip them into the brood chambers over the winter. I may give them pollen patties too. Then I’ll add a mouse-proof entrance reducer:

      (I might use a piece of 1/2-inch hardware mesh instead.)

      Then I’ll install an insulated inner cover, or even just a piece of hard insulation over the inner cover:

      Then I’ll move my two pairs of hives together and wrap them in Type 15 asphalt felt:

      I might tweak my insulated inner cover design, or I might use an eke / rim — one of my screened inner covers flipped upside-down…

      …to create a little space for cake cakes that I may need to feed the bees sometimes in January:

      And that’s it. I’m tempted to experiment with extra ventilation, maybe a bottom board or a ventilator rim, but I don’t know. It might be safer to do what I know worked well last year.

      I don’t think there’s ever anything wrong with leaving extra honey for the bees. The “biodynamic” approach to beekeeping encourages not taking any honey from the hive in the summer or fall. You leave the honey on all winter, and whatever is left over in the spring, that’s the stuff you harvest. I’m sure bees that eat only their own honey are healthier bees, but if I followed that approach in Newfoundland, I’d probably never get any honey from the bees. Vancouver spring comes much earlier than Newfoundland spring, though, so that biodynamic approach might actually work out well where you live.

      At any rate, the only thing I really know about beekeeping is do what works locally. Most beekeepers in Newfoundland wrap their hives for winter, provide an upper entrance / ventilation hole, and some add insulation on top. Then sometime in the late winter, if it looks like the bees are low on honey, they get a little hard sugar or extra honey frames to keep them going until spring.

      Do beekeepers in Vancouver do anything like that?

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