Sunday, July 13, 2014

in honey

My beekeeping class teacher once said you can tell how good a beekeeper is by how tall their hives are.  If they need a stepladder to inspect their hives, they are wicked good.

I don't need a stepladder yet.  But I do need a stool.  

The two hives I have from a split are doing well, but are a bit slow on the honey collection.  I am not sure what kind of honey crop I will have from them this year, but I am thinking about them in terms of having grown a colony from them rather than having yielded a honey crop.  They are originally Russian honeybee stock, and I have heard they are pokey-er about building up and storing honey.  But hardier survivors of mite infestations and Maine winters.  

The original hive I took a split from, now with their own homegrown queen, is three boxes high with an empty box containing a feeder on top.

And the split, with the original queen, is also now three boxes high.

I took a quick peek inside to see if they needed more room yet.  They will soon.  But not quite yet.  Boxes I place on top of these three boxes will be honey supers, boxes where the bees store mostly honey only.  We can harvest from these supers if we leave enough food for the bees to have for winter or if we do it soon enough for them to store more.

I moved on to the new hive created from the package of Italian bees I purchased this spring.  It is four boxes high, having thrown a super on it quickly a week and a half ago before we headed out of town, sensing it was getting a bit full.

The frames in the box I put in were just foundation wax, empty frames that the bees would need to build out into cells.  And then fill.  In the brood boxes, they build these frames out and fill them with an array of brood in all stages, mixed in with pollen and honey.  But up here, in the attic, it is mostly honey.

The new box.

A frame with empty foundation.

And so, now a week and a half later, I took a looksie.  To see what they had been up to in that new super.

It was almost full.  As I pulled out each frame, they were so heavy and full of comb and honey that I would break the seal a bit and a bit of honey would leak out on top of the frames as I looked them over.  The bees would quickly slurp it up.  And give me a chance to admire ther light colored fuzzy bodies.

If it is not something you have seen before, it is kind of amazing to see what the frames look like in their various stages of being built out and filled.  You can tell the depth of the comb by looking at how much of the wooden frame is still showing on the edges.

Filling with nectar.

Beginning to cap nectar that had evaporated enough to be honey.

A frame mostly capped off. It was extremely heavy.

Since most of the frames looked like this one, I added another box with empty foundation again.

Quickly removed a terrifying spider from the cover.

And closed it all up.  And looked down to see that I had forgotten the inner cover.  Oops.  I opened it up again, placed the inner cover, and closed up the hive again.

Back from adventures away, I am heading down soon to see if the other two hives now need more room.  And I will peek into the package hive, to see what they have done with the new box as well.

I am hoping it is heavy.  And that I need my stool.

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