Flow honey harvest and removing supers

On Friday we harvested honey from our beehives.

We currently have two Flow honey supers, which are a special kind of honey box and frames where one can crack apart the frames and pour out the honey without disturbing the bees.

Here Jenn is using a big metal key to start the flow:

Starting the flow

Three tubes open:

Three tubes open

Honey starting to flow:

Honey flow

Meanwhile, we swapped out the jar-style top feeder on the Orange hive for the trough-style, as the jar-style didn’t really work well, since it wasn’t possible to refill the jars without bees coming out, while this trough-style can be topped up without a bee suit. The white stuff is some frozen sugar water with a supplement added:

Feeder

We also removed a couple of other honey supers. The bees for one of them had been a bit over-enthusiastic in their building, resulting in broken honey comb attached to the queen excluder; you can see what the inside of a honey comb looks like:

Broken honey comb

Nice frames of honey for us:

Honey frames

Checking in on the Flow again; we had to keep an eye on it to swap out the jars as they got full, and rescue bees that decided to go for a swim:

Flow

(We keep talking about a solution involving a bucket with a lid and flexible tubes, but keep forgetting about it until it’s too late.)

A sticky bee, having been rescued from falling in a honey jar:

Sticky bee

We stacked up the removed honey supers, with a bee escape on top:

Honey supers with bee escape

The bee escape lets the bees leave, but not go back in:

Bee escape

Next I added shelf brackets to the Yellow hive:

Adding shelf brackets

The shelf brackets installed:

Shelf brackets

The door of the Flow hive then becomes a shelf:

Shelf

Jars and tubes in place:

Jars

A couple of tubes flowing, and one more just starting:

Flow

Even while the honey is flowing out, the bees are safe and happy (if a little confused) inside:

Bees inside

Honey flowing:

Honey

Bees are attracted to the honey. Some are clever like this one, perched on the end of the tube, sipping some honey:

Clever bee

After removing a tube, a little honey leaks, so a cleanup crew takes care of that:

Cleanup crew

Some bees are not so clever, trying to fly into the stream:

Not so clever bee

Another clever bee:

Another clever bee

We also added entrance reducers to the hives, to make it easier for them to defend against robbing by other bees:

Entrance reducer

The hives now have had their honey supers removed in preparation for fall and winter; the bees have completed their service to us, and now can work on building up their stores for the winter. We left the queen excluders out so they can scavenge honey from them:

Hives

Hives

Hives

Hives

Super stack:

Super stack

Harvest total: about twelve quarts of honey from the two Flow supers, plus eight frames from the other super:

Honey

The next morning, we suited up again, and went back out to collect the supers, now that most of the bees have had time to leave:

Hives

We put the box of honey frames in the shop freezer, to kill any bugs that may be lurking, and store until we decide how to extract the honey (e.g. via a spinning extractor, or cut into comb honey):

Honey frames

Yesterday was very hot, so the bees were hanging out outside:

Hot bees

And drinking from the pond:

Bees drinking from the pond

Honey extraction, comb honey, chunk honey

Over the weekend we used a borrowed honey extractor to get the honey out of a couple of hive frames, plus cut six frames into 24 boxes of comb honey, and one frame into 8 jars of chunk honey.

Here are the frames in the baskets of the honey extractor; it’s basically a centrifuge, where the frames are spun quickly to force the honey out of the wax cells:

Frames in honey extractor

A look at the outside of the extractor; it has a crank handle to spin the baskets, a top chamber with the baskets, and a bottom chamber where the honey is collected:

Honey extractor

This is a comb honey cutter, which cuts a square of the comb, which is then placed in the plastic boxes:

Comb honey cutter

A hive box, and stacks of comb honey:

Hive box, comb honey

The extracted honey was then poured into a bucket with a fine mesh at the top, to filter out the globs of wax (the Flow hive is much easier!):

Extracted honey

Here’s a view from inside of it flowing out:

Extracted honey

We put the extractor outside so the rain could clean it… and a few bees turned up to help:

Bee cleaning extractor

Then they told their sisters, and a large swarm of bees turned up:

Swarm of bees

They did a good job of cleaning it, though!

Meanwhile, Jenn cut the comb from another frame into half-sized portions, put them in jars, and poured filtered honey in to make chunk honey:

Chunk honey

Here are a couple of jars of chunk honey:

Chunk honey

The packaged comb and chunk honey (we’ll add labels later):

Comb and chunk honey

Honey processing, top feeder, queen cage, nucs

On Saturday Jenn processed the honey harvested the previous weekend. She used a bucket with a filter screen and closable nozzle to filter out debris from the honey, and portion it into cute little hexagonal jars:

Filtering honey

She then labeled the jars:

Labeling jars

And stored them in plastic containers:

Labeled jars

Yesterday we did a quick inspection of the hives. Firstly I added 2:1 sugar syrup to the top feeder on the new hot pink hive:

Top feeder

Here’s a close up of the feeder; if you look closely, you can see cute little tongues on some of the bees:

Bees drinking

We then removed the queen cages from the requeened hives. Here you can see a cage after the frames were moved apart:

Queen cage

Jenn lifted the frame so I could grab the cage:

Queen cage

Here’s a queen cage after removing it, with a few bees still inside. The candy has been eaten, and the queen has exited:

Queen cage

We inspected a frame from each of the requeened hives, but didn’t immediately see the queens, and didn’t look further, not wanting to disturb the hives too much at this stage. We didn’t see anything untoward like queen cups, though, so we think they are doing fine. We’ll check again next time to try to find them:

Inspecting frame

Inspecting frame

The two nuc boxes with the old queens are still surviving:

Nuc box

We haven’t decided what to do with these yet; we could just leave them as-is, putting the cardboard boxes in the hoop house or other shelter, perhaps supplementing with some frames of honey, and see if they survive the winter. Or we could merge the two boxes into one, by buying wooden nuc boxes. Or we could merge them into the hot pink hive, to bolster that. We’ll continue to consider options.

Bee inspection & second harvest

Yesterday we did a bee inspection and the second harvest from the Flow hive (see the first harvest in a previous blog post).

We did a full inspection of all of the hives (except for one box of the purple hive, as they were being extra cranky). Here’s Jenn starting on the bottom box of the Flow hive:

And the top box:

A frame with a bunch of honey:

A bunch of worker brood:

Harvesting honey from the Flow hive:

Jenn relaxing while waiting for the honey to finish, as we enjoyed the shade and quiet (other than some cranky guard bees):

The haul: six pints of honey (about 3 liters). About half as much as last time, but still not bad for three weeks:

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!