Tuesday, September 9, 2008

We're Getting Some Honey!

This was my first year at keeping bees. I bought a beehive this spring with a modest goal: I wanted some honey this year. Most of the stuff I read said that most new hives will not produce honey for the keeper the first year, so I was keeping my fingers crossed.

I tried following "the rules" as close as I could. I went out there in the spring and kept the feeder full of sugar syrup. I would go out to the hive all the time to check on the girls. I did exactly what I do when guys stand around and look under the hood of their car - "Yep, that's an engine."

"Yep, those are bees." They come in, they go out. Sometimes you see pollen on their back legs, sometimes you don't. I really was feeling like a bee-haver more than a bee keeper. So I called up the folks at Trees N' Bees where I had taken a beginner bee keeping class to see if Loren, a master bee keeper, could swing by the ranch and take a look under the hood for me.

The first thing Loren noticed was that the girls were kicking the drones out. The drones are male bees, and in the fall and winter - they are a liability in the hive. They just sit around and watch football and don't do a damn thing. So they get kicked out of the house for good. You can see this happening in this video if you look close there are several worker bees pushing out the bigger drone.
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Mistake #1: I put the Queen Excluder on too soon.

Earlier in the year when it seemed like the bees were doing a good job of filling up the bottom two brood boxes, I put on one honey super and a queen excluder. Because it was brand new gear, the bees didn't really like it that much, and since the queen could not get up in there and take her scent with her, the bees didn't do too much in the honey super. I should have left the excluder off for at least one cycle of baby bees, then put the excluder on.
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I also learned a cool tip from Loren: to put one or two old frames into your new box. The "bait frames" will draw the bees up into the new gear and encourage them to work on the new stuff faster.
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There wasn't very much honey in my Western Super (that's the smaller box that is suppose to be for the bee keeper,) but the top brood box (the big grey one) was absolutely packed with honey.

Mistake #2:
I should have had three or four Western Supers on top of this hive. I thought that since it was the first year, that one box would be plenty. I was wrong about that one.

So we decided to break the rules and take the entire Brood Box of honey. The full box weighed about 80 pounds.
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Here's all the frames stacked up. If I would have had an empty box, we would just take the full frames out and put them into the empty. Then you would just replace the frames you took. But I don't have a bunch of spare boxes, so we took the whole thing. Loren took the box back to his store and spun the honey out for me.
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More at the truck.
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Now that we had the box full of honey off and put in a plastic bag for transport, we went back to the hive to look for the queen or evidence of the queen. Loren estimated there are between 60,000 - 80,000 bees in the hive right now.
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Mistake #3: Make sure you have 10 frames in your bottom brood box!
When I purchased this bottom box, it came with 9 Frames. The reason why is because there was a queen cage hanging in the middle. When you put a new queen in a box, you take out one frame and put the queen cage in there for the bees to get use to her scent. I took the queen cage out and did not put another frame back in.

Now I have to wait till spring when the box will be emptied of honey to pull the frames out. It's going to do some damage, and I'll probably lose some frames.
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I have to admit, I was a bit worried at this point. I had a sigh of relief when Loren found the babies.
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I'll put a post up soon when I get the honey back.

See You Next Time...