We took our honey supers off Amanda’s hive on the weekend and learned some quick – and painful – lessons.
The first one was: use bee escapes. Those are the simple little gadgets that you use when you want to clear a super of bees before removing it from the hive.
I actually had bought some Porter bee escapes – little plastic one-way passages that don’t allow bees back into the super – but hadn’t thought to put them in this year between the brood boxes and the supers above. The result was that we had to brush bees off of every frame we removed. As you can imagine, it irritated them to no end and also provoked a bit of robbing. We’d have been lost if we had more than one super to remove!
The whole problem was exacerbated by a large presence of wasps that over the last week had discovered the hives and they made it difficult for us. They got into the top of Amanda’s hive and even though the bees made a big effort to get rid of them we still had wasps robbing open honey cells.
I received a few stings from several irritated wasps, and the bees themselves nailed me as I tried to gently brush them off the frames.
Even Amanda, the “bee zen” part of this exercise, found herself scraping bee stingers out of fingers and arms as they tried to keep the honey from being taken away.
This being our first year, we didn’t expect a lot of honey, since the bees had to expend a lot of energy drawing out comb. We retrieved about 9 frames of honey from Amanda’s hive. Most of it was capped and we had one special reward; the one unwired wax foundation frame we put in was almost complete. Later in the afternoon we used a sharp knife to cut ourselves slivers of honey and comb to suck on.
Some of the frames still had uncapped honey. We’re not sure what to do about that since the moisture content in them will likely be higher than we’d like. Any suggestions? We’ve put the frames inside a plastic tub until we can extract them next weekend. At that time we’ll bottle our meager amount, which we will keep for small gifts at Christmas.
We inspected the bottom brood boxes; the top one is packed to the gills with honey and pollen. The hive is strong and there seems to be little or no sign of Varroa mites. We’ll check again today.
As for my hive, it’s doing well but I won’t be getting any honey this year. The loss of the two queens really set me back. The good news is that the hive is quite strong. The bees are still pounding in with pollen from a late source and I’ve been feeding them pollen patties and syrup as well. So they should be in good shape going into the winter.
The weather has turned now. Last week we had hot days; now we’re getting battened down for fall wet weather. It’s raining, and that is reminding me that I will have to put entrance reducers on and start the inevitable plan for keeping as much wind and rain off the hives as possible.