Bees In Our Bonnets

The (mis)adventures of raising honey bees in Minnesota

Archive for the ‘Honey’ Category

Our fall honey harvest!

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We’ve been busy as our bees this summer and fall with the Minnesota state campaign urging voters to reject the proposed amendment to permanently ban marriage equality, so the blog has been neglected lately.

Have no fear, though! We pulled our honey frames a couple of weeks ago, and we got almost exactly 10 gallons of honey from three of our four hives! As usual, hive Famine created almost exactly nothing in two honey super boxes; that one is going to have to be requeened in the spring.

Here is what part of the harvest from the Four Horsemen Apiary looks like for 2012:

Our honey is yellower than usual, most likely from the abundant goldenrod bloom we had earlier this year. The flavor is moderately floral — more so than last year, but not nearly as fragrant and flavorful as 2010’s harvest. (Beekeepers say that 2010 was the best honey harvest in 30 years.)

Plans for next year include requeening Famine, putting down landscape fabric and mulching the beeyard, and getting some nifty signs made for the hives (so that when I refer to Pestilence, everyone else will know which one I’m referring to).

(Thanks so much to Russ for the label design!)

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6 October 2012 at 07:59

Harvest! part one

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War with its three honey supers

It was that time of the year at the Four Horsemen Apiary. It was early September, and the nectar flow is slowing down in the Twin Cities area. About all that’s left is the goldenrod, aster, and purple loosestrife (although there’s a fair amount of all left). We decided it was time.

We took Famine’s single super off first, and to no surprise there was no honey in it at all, and very little drawout. Famine had never been as industrious as War, and its super went on late in the season.

I cleaned up Famine’s hive, placed a thymol tin in the top (we decided to treat preemptorily for mites), and that hive good to go for the balance of the year (after another thymol treatment in two weeks).

Famine ready for the winter

The next hive was War. She has three supers (very industrious hive, particularly for its first year), so I took all the supers off at once and set them aside. It’s easier to do that than to take off one super at a time to clear the bees out.

Next came examination. The uppermost super was pretty bare except for the frame I’d taken out of the second super to “seed” it. However, the first and second supers were quite rich. The bottommost super had quite a bit of capped cells, while the middle super was mostly uncapped. (There are some ‘keepers that leave uncapped frames alone.)

The best way to clear bees off of frames is to take each frame and “flick” it. Writer Neil Gaiman demonstrates this here:

Any bees that don’t come off easily that way can be removed with the use of a soft brush.

You brush from the bottom up, in order to disturb the little darlings as little as possible

You have to quickly store each cleaned frame in something the bees cannot get into, because they really don’t want to give up their hard-earned work. (We had a hard lesson with this the following week.)

I cleaned up all three supers’ worth of frames, and then put a thymol tin into War, and got the lids on the hive.

Next up: extraction, and the results!

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15 September 2010 at 08:29

“How high can you stack…honey?”

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Famine and War continue to develop well!

Famine got its first honey super:

Famine with its first super!

Famine has been much slower to develop than War, but the third deep brood box has at least some drawn-out comb on all frames, so it’s time.

War, on the other hand, just got its third super!

War and three supers!

I’ve gotten some drawout on half the frames on the second super, and there’s a rule of thumb that a lot of beekeepers use: when you add a super, add two. It never hurts, and it’s heartbreaking to have your hive swarm in the middle of honey production because of lack of space into which to expand.

(We had to buy pre-built supers with plastic frames this time. Jim over at Nature’s Nectar didn’t have anything else, and may not have anything at all for awhile.)

We’re heading for the downhill slide on honey and pollen supplies in the Great Frozen North Minnesota. There is a fair amount of purple loosestrife (an invasive) in our area that is beginning to bloom, and that will be one of the last big supplies for the year. We’ll likely harvest our honey after that growth is playing out.

When we harvest the supers, we test for varroa mite counts in both hives. If the results look the least bit iffy, we are prepared to treat with Apiguard, which is oil of thyme imbedded in a volatile gel. The bees get into the dish of Apiguard and proceed to move the gel out of the hive through the bottom entrance, but track the gel through the hive as they do so. That will keep the mite population under control. You have to harvest your honey first, though; otherwise, the honey will develop an  unpleasant odor.

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7 August 2010 at 19:12

Continued good news!

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Had an email chat with a local beekeeper (one of the two folks that teaches the “how to raise bees in northern climes” class at the University of Minnesota). We were concerned about this:

Note the halo of honey cells around what appeared to be darkly-colored brood cells.

We were concerned about how dark it had gotten. We weren’t smelling any foulbrood off-scents, but we were still worried.

Anyway, apparently everything is copacetic.

So, we now have a second honey super atop War (and it’s beginning to draw out nicely), and Famine’s third brood box is getting completely drawn out (finally!). We’ll be adding a super to that one as well after I get down to the local bee supply shop on Saturday to pick up two more super boxes.

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3 August 2010 at 23:01

Honey is on the way!

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There’s been great news, and also not-so-great-we-think news.

The great news? We’ve got a honey super atop War!


We put it in on July 9, after finding that the top brood box was damned near packed full of comb and honey.

Famine and War

The not-so-great-we-think news is that Famine, our other hive, has not made significant progress in its third brood box since July 9. The third box is still about 50% drawn. Also, Famine’s bees are not nearly as active as War’s, both in and out of the hive. Famine’s population also seems significant less.

The (other) great news is that I’ve not seen so much as a single varroa mite, both in close-up personal inspection (our girls are pretty placid and put up with it) or in close-up photos we have taken of nurse, caretaker, and forager workers.

Everyone pile out!

So, we’re going to have honey in our first year! In fact, the first honey super on War had some draw-out on 6 of its 10 frames on 21 July, less than two weeks after the super went on. We should get  30-45 more days of good nectar and pollen flow, so we will have honey! Yay!

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28 July 2010 at 22:36

Color my world

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We added a second brood box (the brood boxes are where the queen lays her eggs–brood–and they are where the bees will overwinter) 10 days ago to both hives #1 and #2–Famine and War, respectively. You add a brood box when the existing boxes are 80% drawn out (where wax comb is added to the foundations of the frames).

I opened War without a veil or smoke today to take a quick peak and to show some of the neighborhood kids what it looked like. I noticed that they were beginning to draw out white comb instead of the usual pale yellow.

I wasn’t sure what was up with that, so I sent a message to the Bee Forum. I got positive feedback on the issue.

So, honey is flowing!

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31 May 2010 at 17:58