This guest post by Petticoat Prepper
It’s now the end of your season and the bees have been hard at work laying in their winter provisions. Depending on your area they may need more than other warmer locations. My understanding for MY area is that the girls need 80 lbs of honey to make it to spring. Remember they visit about 5 million flowers to make one pint of honey. One pint of honey is about one pound; 80 pounds is a #$%@ load of flowers! I tried to be very grateful and respectful when I harvested my honey.
There are lots of different types of equipment for extracting honey. But given that I’m cheap or more nicely said ‘frugal’ and given the expense of startup (and two dead queens) I refused to buy any harvesting equipment. I will add to my supplies this season.
The girls will be very, very defensive of their honey and who can blame them? I did use a ‘fume board’ but found it didn’t do anything for me. It’s supposed to with the addition of some smelly stuff, drive the girls out but that didn’t happen for me. I ended up just gently brushing the girls off each honey frame. I then quickly removed that frame from the area. This year I’m going to get a plastic file box to hang the frames in so I only have to make one trip.
Honey is dried and ready to harvest when it’s capped. The girls will have a white wax cap over the openings. Again, there’s a piece of equipment you can buy to test the moisture content but cheap me…I figured the girls wouldn’t cap if it wasn’t ready. Robbing can be a problem and if you see strange bees fighting with your girls you should probably add the entrance reducer now. This will help them keep the thieves a bay.
I decided not to buy/rent an extractor as people have been harvesting honey for centuries without this little helper. I used one of my 5 gallon food grade plastic buckets to collect the honey in. A cap scrapper would be helpful or a hot knife better. I’m hoping for the hot knife. I of course had neither, so I used my freshly washed and dried fingers to break open the honey comb. I left each frame in the bucket at a slight angle and let the warm honey drip slowly into said bucket. Yes, this took way more time than a machine that spins the frames really fast to fling the honey out. Once both sides of a frame were done dripping I took it out to the girls and let them clean up the messy honey that remained. They made short work of it.
Once I had harvested all the honey I strained it through a fine sieve although you could use a paint strainer. Save the wax as there are many things to be done with it. I poured it into clean, dry pint canning jars with lids. This is the best honey I’ve ever had. No processing, no heating just pure honey from my girls.
In preparation for winter I gave the girls an extra half of a pollen patty. The deep supers were so very heavy that I stopped checking the bottom deep. The last check on the bottom one I realized I was in trouble when lifting the top deep super. It was extremely heavy for me. I did take it to the inner cover on the ground but thought it was a mistake as I did so. (See, listen to your gut!) When I went to replace it I KNEW it was a mistake as I couldn’t lift it up more than knee high. Of course, the bottom super on its stand is about waist high.
So, what’s a girl to do? Well, if you’re going to work with honeybees you’re going to get stung. I figured I just had to take the stings. I lifted the deep super weighing in at close to 80 pounds and gently slid my leg from the outside corner along the super’s edge to help me lift it the remaining distance. Imagine my surprise when the girls all moved out of the way and I didn’t get even one sting! I will not be lifting them filled again.
To help with mite control I gave the girls a heavy dusting of powdered sugar. Yes, I powdered the bees. This makes them groom each other and that helps to knock off the mites. If you’ve a screened bottom board the mites will fall to the ground and not be able to get back to the bees. If we were bees with mites it’d be like having rats on us that we couldn’t get rid of. I treated for foulbrood with terramycin following the package directions. I covered the hive with an insulating wrap, removed the entrance reducer and placed the mouse guard over the entrance. I also ran a tie-down strap (like for a boat cover) over the entire hive to help keep the top on incase of winds.
My girls were buttoned up for winter and on their own. Great now I can worry till spring…..
During winter bees stay inside and do not use the ‘rest room’ so on nice days when the sun is shining, there’s little wind and temps are close to 60 degrees F. they will do a ‘cleansing flight’. This means they fly outside to poop, try not to be in their line of fire.
Many hives die as they approach spring due to lack of food. If you have a nice day and the girls are out you can do a quick peek to see how their stock pile is holding up. If you fear they are getting low you can give them sugar cakes and pollen patties. Do Not give sugar syrup.
If you’re going to give them sugar cakes you’ll need a taller inner cover which you can get from your local supplier.
5 pounds of granulated sugar
7 ½ ounces water
3 tablespoon of lemon grass and spearmint essential oil mix (see below)
Pour everything over the sugar and stir to mix well. Pour into a wax paper lined 9 x 13 pan. Cut into 4 sections, pushing the sugar mix to give about ½ inch between each section. Place in oven with the oven light on. Leave with the light on for 24 hours to dry out the cakes. Do not turn on the oven….
Place on the top of the frames to give emergency food to the bees.
Essential oil mix
100% pure food grade spearmint and lemon grass essential oils
1/8th teaspoon Lecithin granules (local health food store)
2 ½ pounds sugar
5 cups water
Bring water to a boil add sugar, stir until dissolved. Remove from heat and add lecithin stir well. Once this is cooled add 15 drops each of the essential oils.
To help combat tracheal mites you can give grease patties
1 pounds of granulated sugar
1 ½ tablespoon corn oil
1/4 pound Crisco (not lard)
1/4 pound honey
2 ounces pink salt (can use rabbit wheel salt ground up)
3 teaspoons lemon grass essential oil
Mix all together with gloved hands. Scoop into about 2 ounce portions and form into ‘hamburger patties’. Extra patties can be frozen until needed. Place two around the frames tops.
A few weeks before the first blossoms appear you’ll want to treat for Nosema and Foulbrood. Follow the package directions. Keep an eye on their general health. Again, the Beekeeping for Dummies is a great book and will give more detail than I’m going to.
The final topic for this series is reversing hive bodies. Again, spring time only and there is some discussion as to the importance of this. Your apiary, you decide.
On a nice sunny fairly warm spring day of not less than 50 degrees F. smoke the bees. Remove the outer lid and lay upside down on the ground. Then without removing the inner lid, lift the top deep super and move it to the upturned outer lid.
Look inside the lower super, it will probably be close to if not empty. Lift if off the bottom board and set it crosswise on the upper super. Scrape and clean the bottom board. Then lift the super that was the lower super and set it on one end on the ground. Take the original upper super and set it on the bottom board. Smoke the bees and then remove the inner cover. Place the old lower super on top of the new lower super; replace the inner cover and outer lid.
This is supposed to help with distribution of brood, honey, pollen etc. Plus bees like to move up so it gives them that too. In about three or four weeks you do this again, returning the hive to its original super positions. When you do, you can add your honey supers, assuming of course the bees are bring nectar and you’re not medicating any longer.
Remember, this is a very, very short tutorial on beekeeping. The book “The ABC and XYZ of bee culture” is considered to be the bible of beekeeping. You can find free downloads of it here: http://archive.org/details/abcxyzofbeecultu00root it’s very detailed and for the beginner the ‘Dummies’ book is much easier; at least in my humble opinion.
How do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time. Hopefully, I manage to give you bites on this elephant of a subject. Honey bees are very important to our food crops, 2/3’s of them need the bee for pollination without which they can’t produce the food. Colony Collapse Disorder, not disused here is a huge issue. There are several thoughts about what’s causing this problem and the EPA doesn’t want to hear that corn and soybean farmers, GMO’s, insecticide usage etc, could be the issue. One thing is pretty certain. If something isn’t done to help the little honeybee…by 2035 North America will not have any. So with that thought, I want to encourage everyone to practice backyard bee keeping. If you can’t do that, how about landscaping with the girls in mind? Thanks for hanging in there with me on this how to raise honey bees series.