First honey harvest

Yesterday afternoon we did an inspection of the beehives, and our first harvest of honey from the Flow hive.

Firstly, we added a second brood box to one of the new hives (the one in the foreground), as they were ready for more space. The other new one (next to it) wasn’t ready yet; that one started out behind, so will be another few weeks before they need another box:

Here’s the queen excluder from the purple hive; this grid lets worker bees through to the honey supers, but keeps the queen out, so she doesn’t lay brood up there:

A brood frame with lots of honey (their winter reserves; we won’t harvest that):

On inspecting the Flow hive, all of the frames had at least some honey, so we decided to do our first harvest. Unlike traditional honey supers (which we’ll have on the other hives), the Flow one is designed to make it easy to harvest honey like turning on a tap. By opening the back, removing some covers, inserting a tube, and turning a big metal key, the frames split open, and the honey oozes out. When done, the process is reversed, and the bees refill the cells; no bees are harmed, and they’re hardly disturbed:

Here’s a video of the bees working on the leftmost frame, through the inspection window on the side:

http://yellowcottagehomestead.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/05/img_8342.mov

 

And a video of harvesting from three of the Flow frames:

http://yellowcottagehomestead.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/05/img_8346.mov

 

Harvesting honey; the cheesecloth is to keep bees out of the jars:

A full jar:

While we waited for the honey, swapping out jars as needed, we also put a Ross Round honey super on the purple hive. These are a different kind of special frames, where the bees build their comb in circular frames, which can then be easily packaged into round containers of comb honey:

Close-up of a bee on Jenn’s bee suit:

Our harvest: 7 quarts (about 6.6 liters) of honey:

Not bad for about 3 weeks of work from one hive. Well done, bees!

Bees: adding honey supers

We did another inspection of the beehives over the weekend, and added honey supers to the two older hives.

One part of inspections is correcting undesired behavior: sometimes bees build comb outside the frames, so we need to scrape it off. If left intact, eventually we wouldn’t be able to pull out the frames:

The new bees are doing well, expanding into their extra frames; here you can see some capped honey:

One of the older frames, of the new bees, with a bunch of worker and drone cells. The worker cells are the flat ones in the middle, and the drone cells are the lumpy ones towards the bottom. You can also see an open queen cup towards the top-left, which they build just in case it’s needed (but when towards the top, is more for practice than expected need):

We did a sugar-shake test for mites on this inspection:

Inspecting one of the older hives:

Some nice honey comb:

This hive was ready for more space before we could get to it, so they started building comb under the roof; again, not an approved place:

So we scraped off their hard work:

It’s not entirely wasted; the bees will recover most of the honey. It wasn’t worth us taking this honey, as it is likely at least partially sugar syrup from the feeder. If you look closely, you may notice the grass full of bees that were shaken off this comb (don’t worry, they’re fine):

We then added the honey super to the hive, resting on top of a queen excluder — which, as the name implies, is a grid that lets through the worker bees, but the queen can’t pass through. This ensures that only honey is stored in the honey super, not brood (baby bees).

This particular hive is a Flow hive, which has special frames that let the honey be harvested more easily:

Roof and strap back on, and looking at the harvest hatch:

Our apiary, with the two older hives on the left, with honey supers, and the two new ones on the right:

A bit more snow

So much for spring; we got about an inch of snow overnight.

The feral cats are used to it by now:

The bees probably aren’t too thrilled, but have been pretty active recently, working on restoring their supplies, so will probably stay bundled up for now:

The chicken coop:

The white gazebo; the pond is still liquid: it hasn’t been cold enough to freeze:

The brown gazebo and coop:

Second beehive stand

A simple mini-project for the weekend was to build another stand for the two new beehives we’ll be setting up soon. We’ll be picking up two more nucs (nucleus hives) mid-April, so have bought more hives, and needed a stand for them to sit on. I used the same design as the first one.

Here’s the basic frame; the spacing is perfect both for the hive boxes, and to rest frames temporarily during inspections (e.g. see an empty frame towards the back of this picture):

Legs; the middle legs are shorter than the corner ones, as they will sit on taller footing blocks (for reasons; stay tuned for the installation for why):

Some hive bases demoing the fit. As with the first hive stand, there’s room in the middle for a third hive. We’ll likely add another one on each of the stands next year:

Jenn has been painting the new hive boxes fun colors:

Several inches of snow

Yesterday was predicted to have 2 to 5 inches of snow, but nothing much eventuated during the day:

However, in the evening it picked up a bit:

And continued overnight, culminating in almost 8 inches this morning:

The camera that watches the front of the cat shelter was buried:

Another angle; the front of the cat shelter is in the middle of the photo:

The chickens were not impressed:

And once again the chicken run roof netting didn’t fare too well:

We took Rory out for a walk in the snow; she loved it. Here we’re checking on the beehives; her one chance to get so close to them:

The chicken coop:

Frozen pond:

View of the pond arbor, brown gazebo, and trees:

Snow on a tree near the white gazebo:

Our new apple trees might be regretting coming here:

Rory really loved scampering in the snow:

Bird feeders:

The cat shelter again:

Snow!

It unexpectedly snowed overnight. Apparently areas above an elevation of 1,000 feet around the Portland region received some snow… and we’re at 1,100 feet.

Only about an inch, and it’s raining now, so it’ll probably be gone later today. But still fun to enjoy it while it lasts.

The feral cats are cozy in their heated shelter:

But the weight of the snow tore down the end of the chicken run roof netting:

So I went out with a staple gun and ladder to fix it:

Snow on the brown gazebo and trees:

Snow on the white gazebo:

The pond deck arbor:

The beehives:

Notice the clearer patch in the center of the roof, from the heat of the bees clustered inside:

Winter bees

I posted a photo of our beehives on my new personal blog, but thought I’d cross-post here too.

Our beehives seem to be surviving the winter so far. I just refilled their feeders (2:1 sugar syrup), which supplements their stored honey if needed:

A bonus pic; a closer view of the purple hive. There are some dead bees in the entrance, but that isn’t anything to be concerned about. Bees don’t live long, and they just haven’t had the energy to take out their dead yet. If the hive survives, they’ll clean up in spring:

Barriers

It’s been a little while since my last blog post. I haven’t done much around the homestead of late, with the rainy and cold weather, and lots of Dejal work to do.

One tiny thing was to repair a screen covering a hatch under our bedroom closet. The outdoor cats (or some other wild animals) had ripped off the old screen:

So after evicting the kittens, I recently repaired it with three layers: hardware cloth, insect screen, and more hardware cloth. Not the prettiest job, but that should prevent any further intrusion:

We’ve had a lot of wind, so this morning I set up an ad hoc windbreak in front of the beehives, to give them some shelter, using some bits of junk I had lying around:

Speaking of, we’re currently feeding the bees some 2:1 sugar water, though they aren’t taking much, since they’re largely dormant, except on warmer days (they also have their honey stores to sustain them):

Bee inspection & varroa test

I joined Jenn for another bee inspection the other day. The main mission of this inspection was to do a “sugar shake” or sugar roll test to check for varroa mites; a common pest on all beehives. It’s a kinda amusing test — scooping about 300 bees into a jar, roll them in powered sugar, shake them vigorously, pour them out. Basically treating bees like liquid. Yeah, they get a little cranky at being scooped & shaken, but it doesn’t hurt them. 

We had a few mites, unsurprisingly, but not too many. We’ll do the treatment once the weather cools off; can’t do it in this heat.

We also removed the honey supers, since they need to build up supplies for their winter survival. We won’t harvest any honey this year, as expected, but if they survive the winter, they should be able to provide lots of honey next year.

A couple of nice combs of honey, for the bees to eat over winter:

Sugar-coated bees, returned to the hive after the test (don’t worry, the others will clean them off):

Worker bee cells:

More honey (from the other box), on a foundationless frame:

So pretty holding it up to the light:

Beehive inspection

We inspected the beehives today. Usually Jenn does this by herself, but this time I helped out, since we were anticipating adding honey supers.

Here’s a frame with a bunch of brood (worker cells), and a little honey in the upper corners:

A bunch of honey. Note, all of this honey isn’t stuff we’ll harvest; it’s in the two brood boxes, for the bees to eat over winter:

Look what we spotted — the queen! I circled her on the picture. It can be tricky to spot the queen, amongst the thousands of other bees (plus she likes to hide away from the light); usually we just see the eggs she lays:

A foundationless frame, where the bees make their own comb, with a little honey:

Lots of honey, with some damaged cross-comb, where the bees connect two frames:

Another great-looking foundationless frame of honey:

Adding a honey super. This is a Flow box, designed to make it easier to harvest honey; we have one Flow hive (for liquid honey) and one regular hive (for comb honey):

Both hives, each with a honey super: