Sunday, July 21, 2013

Plunder from the bees

A couple of weeks ago I opened the hives to check on the bees. I wanted to make sure the hives still had available space. Lack of space can lead to swarming, meaning the work force leaves the hive and therefore lower honey yields. While opening the first hive, I encountered several of the top bars near the rear of the hive had comb attached to the sides of the hive, and single comb spanning across multiple bars. Until several bars are out of the hive there isn't a lot of room for the beekeeper to see into the hive. So this, coupled with my inexperience I broke one bar's comb. The comb filled with nectar fell into the hive causing a stir. I reached in to pull it out and left it in a large tupperware for the bees to reclaim, but it seemed that they didn't want anything to do with it. I did pull out a bar with honey that was capped as well. I left the second hive unplundered until this weekend.
Here is what I plundered from the bees.

The cut up comb is in an 8 x 8 pyrex, that came from today's harvest from the hive that got robbed several weeks ago. The other three bars are honey comb from the second hive.
I use the crush and strain method of honey harvest. I use a knife to cut off and "crush" cut into bitty pieces.

 That's one crushed honeycomb turned out to be just over a quart of honey. One of the bars was quite a bit thicker than the others. My experience base on a total of 5 top bars harvested in the past two weeks, says that each full top bar holds more than 1 quart and less than 1 3/4 quart. I used a 2 gallon bucket with a strainer bag then pour the honey into mason jars.

I could maximize the amount harvested, but since the bees built very straight comb on these bars I decided to leave some for the bees to keep them on the straight.

These bars with sealed honey, and dripping sticky honey, are returned to the hive. The cut cells drip honey into the hive but the bees clean it up really fast and rebuild comb without missing a step. The key is with nice straight base they will build straight comb!
Total harvest: 4 quart jars, 2 pints, and approx one more quart still straining in the bucket ~ 6 quarts.

There is probably at least that much honey left in the hive that I haven't harvested from the bees figuring that I want to leave plenty for the bees for the winter. It is still July (July 21) and I would expect there is plenty of time for the bees to keep up the good work and collect more nectar. I think the bees are almost out of tree flowers to harvest. Linden trees are done blossoming and the golden rain trees are still in bloom but I'm guessing nearing there end. There are lots of flowers, Russian Sage, clover, and others. I planted a couple hundred square feet of buckwheat which has sprouted and is a good source of dark nectar. So long story short I think there is plenty of available nectar for the bees the rest of the summer and fall.

 Here's a picture showing a bar on the scale. That's 4 lbs after subtracting the wooden top bar. The bar is 18 inches long.

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