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Monday, April 21, 2008

Honey Harvest

I finally got around to harvesting everything that had been stored up from all of 2007. The italian hive hadn't drawn out quite what I expected from their new super (added to the bottom, just above the brood chamber) so I only took two supers from it. However, at the russian hive, I was able to take three supers of solidly capped honey. While over there, I managed to get a few decent pictures, ranging from the entrance activity to the bees boiling up following three supers having been removed. There were two bees wrestling at the entrance, probably a guard repelling an intruder. Unfortunately, I wasn't quick enough to get a picture of it, but I'd say the pictures were decent nevertheless.

Notice the single honey bee flying back to the entrance, carrying a load of pollen.

This is the entrance after two supers have been removed. The bees are gradually being repelled and flooding out the entrance.

This is the entrance following all supers having been removed. It's not so much that there were too many bees for the space allowed, but they were being rushed out a bit quickly. I might have used a little too much bee quick.

The last interesting photo, a close up of the bees boiling between the top bars after all the excess supers have been removed. One interesting note is that the center of brood, a box below that, actually corresponds roughly to where the most bees are. That hive's always been a tad odd with how it draws comb.

After driving all the three supers back home, pulling two off of the italian hive, and having them all stacked in the kitchen, the real work began. As usual, it's the relatively annoying process of uncapping each side of the frame, dropping it into the extractor, pouring what piles up after a few frames into the bottling bucket, and repeating. Of course, everything gets sticky and it becomes difficult to maintain a grip on anything. Anyways, with some frustration, the gallons began to just pour out. I actually ran out of lids initially, and then jars, and ended up making a trip to albertson's to pick up two packs of quart jars, with each back having a storage capacity of 3 gallons. All in all, it proved to probably be about a 12 hour process from initial cleaning, to removing the supers, extracting, replacing and cleaning up. Truth be told, I still haven't cleaned out the extractor; giving the bees a bit of a chance to reclaim the spillage first. Of course, that's just a good excuse for being lazy.

After all was said and done, I put three of the extracted supers back onto the russian hive and in the name of laziness, skipped the jacket and smoker, just popping the top off, and placing the supers on one-by-one. I suppose they really are more docile than I give them credit for. A few minutes after that was done, and after I had walked the 20 yards or so back to the driveway, following standing around for several minutes, a bee actually fell out from my pant leg. Hadn't quite expected that one. Oh yeah, I was too lazy for socks as well.

Sunday, April 13, 2008

Photographic Evidence!

As I had noted before, there seems to be a pair of Carnals which hang out around my hives, and snatch bees as they pass by. Today had been raining, so I figured there wouldn't bee too much activity in the apiary, allowing me to get close for a photo without having to bother with the usual veil. (A sting to the scalp is quite painful...) I heard the cardnal peep and looked to see it perched in the lime tree. It hopped and glided over to about 9 feet from the nuc, hopped its way through the mostly-dead bleeding hearts vine, and stopped less than a foot from the entrance to the Italian hive.

It paused there for a few seconds, before taking off and with a steep swoop upwards and back, it grabbed a honey bee just as it was either leaving or coming back to the hive. I figure any impact they'd make on the hive would be minimal, so why stop 'em? If anything, it's interesting to watch. Also, for the sake of comparison, I took a photo from the corner of the hive entrance, like I used to do when I first got it.

April 13, 2008


Early July, 2005

The bees seem to now be able to more effectively clean the entrance, due to a higher population. I even shot a video on August 28, 2005...and as of today, have uploaded it. By this time, they had grown enough to washboard a fair bit, but this is really better than any text-based description I can give it.

Wednesday, April 09, 2008

Overgrown

It seems some new plant...well, not really new, more like 2-years-without-me-noticing, has managed to grow large enough to block out the sun from a vine which I had used to hide the hives. In addition, this has resulted in the nuc having a clear flight path without having to ascend first. I got a bee caught in my hair just walking out there earlier today.

That bleeding heart vine seems to have slowed it's growth since the air conditioning no longer drains on it. It was really there mostly to prevent street view of the hives, and to push the bees to fly up above anyone's head. I suppose it might be time to get something new in there, or do some trimming.

Earlier today, there were two Cardnals, a male and female, hanging around the azalia bushes near the hives. Every couple of seconds, they would dart into the flight path of the bees, land down in the leaves, and snap one of the insects between their beaks. Kinda interesting how a hive can attract something interesting to look at. Normally, they would be farther north by this time of year, but hey, with a year-round buffet, who would leave?

Monday, April 07, 2008

More Washboarding

The super I added to the Italian hive came from the garage, from a hive which had previous died, and been left to sit out in the elements for a while. I really should have taken a photo of it. It had wax moth casings in it, various bugs that had been around the garage and just dirt covering the formerly white paint. As usual, I scraped out some of the loose casings, repaired a couple frames, and then just bottom-supered it onto the hive. I had expected them to clean it off, but I find it rather surprising that before Monday was even out, the box was completely undecernible from the others. The hive is large enough to be wash boarding to that large extent. Also, there was a large flurry of activity, which I'm guessing has to do with the suddenly available space in the hive. With any luck, I should hopefully be harvesting soon.

Saturday, April 05, 2008

Hoppin' back on the horse

Well, after months and months of not doing anything, I've actually, by some cause, checked on the bees today. It's amazing. I've never medicated due to it either being the wrong time of year (can't medicate with supers for harvesting on the hives) or just being too lazy, and yet, the hives are still very populous. So, how about a chain of events?

I woke up just after 6am...well, "woke up" isn't the apt term. It was more along the lines of "stopped trying to sleep." But, moving on, I found my jacket and gloves sitting by the garage stairs, veil in some chair in the garage, hive tool completely rusted under a pile of leaves out front, and the smoker in the back behind the old, broken lawn mower. It's surprising how much things can scatter about when you just ignore them for a year. There was even still fuel in the smoker, still somewhat wet with pine oils released in the last fire. I cleaned off the hive tool, shook out my jacket, and removed a spider or two before my veil...then treid to light the smoker...and tried again, and again. It seems that after a year without common use, I had somewhat lost my touch for lighting a smoker and keeping it lit. It's really something to make the early mistakes all over again, like smothering the fire or burning it too hot.

Apparently, I had lost two screws on the right side of the bellows of my smoker, and had forgotten I had made a quick repair job with a screw I randomly found. Probably should make a little more complete repair sometime...

The "Italian hive", which by now is probably a mix of whatever's local, actually had three SLAM FULL supers of honey on it, and a very large brood nest. They were still plenty nice to work, their disposition not much changed despite over a year of neglect. The frames also weren't as stuck together as I thought they'd be, and burr comb was still minimal. Gotta love a Langstroth. Put simply, that hive is heavy and practically dripping with honey for harvest, which I might do over the next week or two. Haven't decided when I feel like spending 8 hours of effort to harvest the crop.

Over at the other apiary, the Russian hive is all that remains.

This has left the apiary with a bit of an empty feel to it...

Oh well, at least every single one of those supers on the Russian hive was every bit as full as the Italian supers. These bees were a tad more flighty, but they've always been like that...and a bit noisy as well. For once though, they actually didn't all run out the front and cover the brood box. I suppose I'm being more conservative with the smoke, which is probably best. The broodnest was a bit smaller than the italian one, but I think that's just how the Russian bees tend to be. Also, I had broken a frame some time ago, and that gap had been completely filled with drone comb, which after what seems like a very short use for brood rearing, has been used primarily for honey storage. Always fun to grab a snack while working. So, after cutting that out, and sliding in a new frame with foundation, I closed it up, and just smashed it into a ziplock container. It's a bit thin, so probably has a lot of cabbage palm in it. But, there was also a greenish tint to it in some of the comb, so there may be brazilian pepper as well. More accurately, it's a blend of whatever's been out there over the last year.

Well, there's a thought...selling honey not as clover or brazilian pepper, but as "2007 Honey." All the flavor of an annual trip around the sun!

Sunday, August 26, 2007

Almost Sepember already?

This year has certainly flown by faster than I ever expected. I've already gotten my call for needing to get my annual inspection from the state. I can't say I've been looking forward to it, as I hadn't checked my hive at the house since February, until yesterday, that is.

It seems of my three remaining colonies, the Italian one has faired through thick and thin, with the best outcome. The two supers that have been on all year are completely packed with honey; 100% capped. The colony has certainly become quite populous, and I added another super from one of my no-longer existent colonies. At least that surviving comb will get some use.

I still need to get around to repairing that top bar hive and setting it up for next year. To think, I had plans of setting it up this year. Gotta love procrastination, I suppose. I'm still debating if I am to try to build-up back to my old five or six colonies, especially following the excessive neglect of this year.

Sunday, April 01, 2007

Been away for a while...

Sorry, I've done it again. I've gone another long period of time without posting anything. I actually haven't checked any of my hives since about a week after the last post. Sorta been busy or distracted with other things.

About a week after the last post, I harvested honey from the new hive. It was the day of the extraction, I had assembled all my gear and suddenly remembered, I forgot my fumigant. I normally use the "bee quick" because it's basically imitation almond extract and, that smell is preferable to the odor of rotten eggs of the "Bee Go". After a short trip to the super market to pick up a small bottle of imitation almond extract (in the hopes that would work as a substitute) I was on my way to the hive.

After a short time lighting the smoker, applying the imitation almond extract to the fume board, I walked over to the hive and began taking it apart. I figured I'd remove the top two shallows and one medium, leaving a full medium for their own use and an empty one for expansion. On the first box, the imitation almond extract worked decently well. There were a few bees left but, not bad results. The second box was ok, but, I decided to set it aside and manually brush the bees out. In the third box, the bees wouldn't budge. Overall, it was about 45 minutes spent waiting for the imitation almond extract to work, smoking the bees, brushing them and loading the three supers into the trunk.

After ariving home and brushing the bees out a second time, I began on the extraction. This would be my first chance to use my new electric uncapping knife. I found it generally easier to work than my old "cold" knife. The cappings would melt slightly, making them easier to cut. And so, after several hours of uncapping, extracting, cleaning and bottling, I ended up with just over 5 gallons of honey.

This honey was probably some of the worst quality I've ever seen. Most of it had partailly crystalized in the frames, resulting in a grainy texture and frames that weren't very easy to extract. Actually, given the foundation was wired wax, I ended up tearing apart a few frames just with cyntrifugal force alone. The crystals were continually clogging the filter, slowing how fast I could bottle the honey. In the end, the honey came out almost black or a very, very, very deep red color. This is, no doubt, due to the fact it was most likely sitting in those frames for up to two years.

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I came home and, on Tuesday, March 20, I discovered a swarm, hanging off a tree limb above the second story of my house. I figured that they were too far up for me to go at, and would probably leave in a couple of days. They stayed there for a week. I was almost convinced they had made a hive up there. I have a few photos of it and, when I get around to uploading them, I'll probably post them here.

About two days before that swarm left, another swarm appeared at roughly the same hight, 20 feet away on a different tree. This swarm was almost twice as large. It appeared to have emminated from that nuc I've had since last year. I've needed to supper most of my hives for some time. I'm sure I'm missing out on several honeyflows, and may lose a swarm or two.

I've sorta been in a "funk" lately as, I have two ABJs, still in their packaging, unread. Those three supers are still sitting in the lawn, waiting to be returned to their hive and my gear is unwashed since the harvest. I really need to get around to working the hives reguarly again.