Tuesday, September 30, 2014
Harvesting Fall Honey and Getting Hives Ready for Winter
Before I get started I had a reader comment about posting some more to the "Volunteer Fiction" Page. Believe it or not I had kinda played around with the Doug refugee story a bit more so I posted what I had there. More fiction to come as the weather gets cooler and work load decreases.
Since October starts tomorrow I decided to get a jump on the October Bee Honey harvest and Winter prep period. SO I started this afternoon.
Basically this entails removing the capped excess honey frames. Reducing all the hives down to full brood chambers and maybe one extra medium super. Some of the larger hives have two or three supers on them for the flow but I don't want to leave that many on for Winter. The Winters of 2012 and 2013 taught me a valuable lesson. I started leaving an extra surplus super partially filled with honey and any uncapped honey for the girls to over Winter on. I will take all the excess frames and distribute them among all the hives at the bee yard and then give the spun out wet frames to the new hives as well.
What this amounts to is a big mass of confusion in each bee yard as I evaluate each frame, remove the bees clinging to it and either place it back into the hive, put it in my harvest tub or place it in a smaller hive to increase their stores. Of course as my hives increase the amount of time this takes increases as well.
My second oldest hive "Plymouth" colony also appears to be in decline a bit. The entire top surplus super was nothing but empty comb. It has me worried a bit because this hive has been my best producer for a couple of years now. I looked into it and saw capped brood and larva but their numbers are definitely diminished and it is too late to replace the queen. I marked it down for a more in depth inspection next week.
This year I also started a new method of putting frames inside the surplus supers. Instead of ten frames I am only putting in nine and then spacing them out with a tool. You can see in the picture above that this is allowing the bees to build the comb way out beyond the edges of the frames. In turn it makes it much simpler to cut the cappings off when I am harvesting these frames and also allows each frame to hold about half again as much honey.
So far I have harvested two full medium supers of capped frames or 18 frames total from three producing hives. I left half the capped frames on each hive and gave four other new hives at least two capped or semi capped frames each as well. Add these to what they have in the brood chambers and this should be enough to get all the hives through Winter.
Basically I am sacrificing about half my honey to insure (I hope) Winter survival for all the hives. With the crazy weather we keep having I think it's best to not be too greedy myself.
I keep the frames in 10 gallon rubbermaid tubs until I begin decapping them. Each tub holds eight regular spaced frames or six of the double spaced ones and weighs about fifty pounds when full. So far I have three tubs filled. I am going to guestimate it at about 120 pounds of honey so far after discarding the frame and comb. I still have four producing (Or should be producing I hope) hives left and five small hives to redistribute to.
Ya I know a bunch of those bees are in the big hives complaining about my Socialist Bee Keeping methods right about now.
After I get the honey spun out and the wet frames distributed around for Winter it will be time to put in the plastic inserts in the bottoms and add my extra deep feeder tops for those hives that get dry sugar for emergencies. The first cold day we get that keep the bees balled up inside the hive I will wrap them with insulation.
Then I will be a nervous wreck all Winter worrying about them.
Keep Prepping Everyone!!!