More Honey Extraction From Our Bees

It was time to check on the progress of the bees once again, so Mr. Neil, Non Birding Bill, Cabal, and I headed to the hives. Last weekend, NBB checked on the hives and found that the bees were still not using our new comb honey supers. The instructions that came with our Ross Rounds supers led us to believe they were already fully assembled. Well, I did some digging on the Internet and found that they were supposed to have wax foundation on the inside of the rounds to get the bees started. GRRRR. I emailed NBB from out of town and he did some digging. Fortunately, the boxes that the supers arrived in hadn't been recycled yet, so he found the foundation. WHEW!

He put together one of the supers and replaced it with the one that was already on the hive. We're supposed to take the brown plastic pieces apart--they just snap apart easily. Well, even though the bees hadn't been filling that super with comb and honey--they did manage to propolis the crap out of it. But, NBB and Mr. Neil managed to pry them apart with the aid of the hive tool and get the foundation in, so it will be ready if we need more supers this summer. Our goal with the inspection today was to check on Kitty's progress and see if Olga was finally filling the Ross Rounds with the foundation.

Kitty's buzz is much improved. Before, when we would open the hive, it was very quiet and if you did some digging you would find the bees, and there would be a quiet general hum, but here and there would also be a weak solitary buzz. Today the bees just sounded more contented and industrious--they sounded like they had a purpose.

The larvae from the new queen hasn't emerged yet, but I'm not too worried, there are massive amounts of honey stored for the time being (that's the workers eating some of it above), so if there is a shortage of foragers for a small period of time the girls have reserves for the next week or two. Some workers have finally started drawing out comb in top box--that's the box they need to fill in order to make it through the winter. It's the beginning of August so there is still time. OK, maybe I'm a tiny bit concerned, but we'll do what we can when we can.

Olga is in mass production mode. When we took her roof off, we found lots of propolis, these girls are really going to town. I wish I had such a great fix up tool. Got a hole or crack, got a dead mouse? Just cover it with propolis--it prevents the spread of bacteria, plugs up holes, and keeps everything together.

We checked the Ross Rounds and found some very exciting activity. Each compartment was jammed packed full of workers drawing out comb, soon to fill them with honey--WHOOT! Finally, they are using the super! They are also sealing all the frames together with massive amounts of sticky propolis.

Here's a little video:

NBB asked me last night what I enjoy most about bees, and I think just watching their industriousness. They each have jobs and those jobs change over time, they always have something to do, some place to be.

We found that the empty frame we put in the brood box was once again chock full of capped honey for us to harvest. I'm wondering if push comes to shove with the Kitty hive and she doesn't have enough stores for winter, if we can replace some of her empty frames with honey frames from Olga? Of course, that means less honey for us this year, but next year we'd have two hives that would produce nothing but honey. We'll see how things are at the end of August.

Here's another video of some general bee activity while we're getting the frame ready to take back with us:

Did you notice Mr. Neil using the bee brush in back? We're gently brushing off the workers from the frame with the honey. We're taking them off, so we don't take them back to the house with us. Thinking back to the Ross Rounds, we suddenly began to wonder, how are we going to get the bees out of the super when we are ready to harvest it? The frames are all wedged together (and now sealed with propolis), we can't really get a bee brush in there. We can't smoke the frames, that affects the flavor of the honey and also the smoke calms the bees and makes them eat honey, which doesn't help the situation. I've heard of some chemical methods, but I'm not sure how I feel about that. I'm going to have to google that a bit to find out how we harvest the honey.

On the bottom of the frame, the workers had made more comb, but they made larger cells--we know what that meas--drones. The whole bottom of the frame either had squishy larvae or capped drone brood. It was easily cut away from the honey were going to eat, but it got me thinking: The queen has been up here sometime in the last week or two. We did have a queen excluder between this box and our other honey supers to prevent the queen from laying eggs in the Ross Rounds but we took it out when the workers weren't drawing out comb in them, thinking that was preventing them from working in the supers (plus many beekeepers are anti excluder). We also reversed the brood boxes, which gets the queen to start in the third brood box and work her way down to lay eggs. But larvae this small means she's been here in the last two weeks. Is there any possibility she has gone up to the Ross Rounds to lay eggs? I don't want to use the excluder now on the off chance she is in the rounds and that cuts her off from the rest of the hive. Oh well, only time will tell and this year is supposed to be a learning curve.

One thing I am really encouraged about with the beekeeping is that even though this is our first year and I've made some mistakes, we've still managed to get honey for ourselves. Last time we harvested we got seven boxes of frame honey, and on this run we got six boxes of honey--a total of 13 boxes so far and things looks promising that we will get more.

Oh! Here is something interesting. Some say that in nature you never find straight angles--check out what I found in the Olga hive entrance. I think that's propolis on the floor that may have dripped down, I'm not sure, but it's in straight angles. What are the Olga bees up to? Are they defying nature? The Olga bees, always leaving me with more questions than answers. Perhaps that is why I love them so.