I tell you, the type of summer we are having with our hives, is the type of summer I would wish for any new beekeeper. Well, apart from the fact that the people we ordered our Russian bees from have taken the money and not delivered the bees...and seem to feel that when we say we would rather have the money back, that we mean we want to be on a list for Russian bees from them next year. I'm not too keen to order any bees from Long Creek Apiaries again. They apparently had a bad spring, which is understandable, but rather than telling us, "Hey, we shouldn't have taken your order, we can't deliver those bees, we apologize, would you be willing to carry your order over to next year," they didn't answer the phone, or if they did they would say, "uh next week, for sure," or at one point, just hung up on us. I found out through Twitter that if you went to their website, they had a message reading, "If you ordered bees from us and didn't get them yet, you won't be getting them this year. We apologize."
I would have been more sympathetic had they told us that during one of our many calls and I'm curious to see if we will get a refund.
But apart from that, our four little Minnesota Hygienic Italian beehives are going very well and are just so friendly when we visit. Even when they do get irritated with us and we can hear their buzzing become impatient, it's nothing like the anger felt at the now defunct Kitty Hive.
They are going propolis crazy (propolis is bee duct tape). See the yellowish stalagmites? That's propolis that the girls had used to seal the roof of the hive to the walls. It smells wonderful, but once it gets on your hands, it's next to impossible to get off. I have washed my hands several times, and now almost 48 hours later, I can still see some propolis on my hand.
We did a wee bit of harvesting to prepare an entry for the county fair. Last year, our extracted honey got the blue ribbon--we are defending champions. Here is a look at a full frame of honey from one our supers. This is from the former stoner hive, Hannah. She's already working on filling a second honey super. When the cells are capped, that is when we know the bees have converted the flower nectar into true honey and it's ready for harvest. When bees bring nectar to the hive, it is about 60% water. The bees fan it with their wings to evaporate some of the moisture until it is about 18 -19% water and then they cap it. At this point, it has a very long shelf last and could literally for centuries. You can harvest honey before it's capped, but it is more likely to ferment over time.
We also thought we would try our hand at entering some comb honey this year. Our green Wendy hive is a natural at producing comb honey. And again, I say to all who have been told that first year bee colonies will not do comb honey, this is the third year we have done it successfully with new hives. It's usually the girls who have a knack for making feral comb, they seem to be the ones who like to try something funky and will give Ross Round honey supers a go. We also smear some honey on top of the new super and wedge in a small piece of comb on the top of the super to encourage them to build up. We removed one frame of our rounds to enter one of the rounds in the fair. Wendy was doing so well and had completely filled up one comb honey super that we added a second and she's already drawing out comb--go girls, go!
Mr. Neil is conducting an experiment on our hives--the bell jar (and a little more about it here). We're hoping to get some funky comb built inside the glass jar. We did not want to disturb our honey makers (Hannah and Wendy) and our little purple Yvaine hive is doing well, but really needs to focus on getting her honey stores together for winter, we don't want to bother them with the bell jar. The red Juliet hive is about full and had one honey super, so we thought we would try there (the bell jar is in the box with the bat symbol on it). After a few days there had been no activity in the bell jar. We decided that since Wendy is all for making strange comb, we would move the bell jar on top of her comb honey supers and see if Juliet will make some proper comb.
I forgot that we had put in a honey super in the Juliet brood box. I do that so the girls will start to build on it, then I add to the honey super. The smell of fresh comb seems to draw the bees up in the super so they will fill it up. They did do some comb on it, but really went to town adding drone cells (boy bees) to the bottom of the frame. We scraped it off and put the frame back in the super. Some of the drone larvae fell in the hive and it was amazing to watch a worker swiftly scoop him up, presumably to try and fit him a cell else where.
So, here we are with our frame of comb honey and our frame to extract into a jar. Lorraine will take it to the judges today for judging. Will our girls win again? We started the extraction process in the kitchen, the comb didn't take much time to put together, just pop it out of the frames and put some lids on it...we did have one challenge, you want the comb honey to be filled and completely capped and for some reason, our girls built a tunnel for traveling through most of the rounds, but we found at least one perfect one for judging.
Mr. Neil held the frame for the extracted honey over a bucket with cheese cloth, while Lorraine scraped away the wax and honey. He received an important phone call, so I gave him the phone and took his place holding the frame. When Lorraine finished, we saw a bit of honey residue still on the frame and like our first year with a frame full of honey, began licking it...let me tell you, Hell hath no fury like Mr. Neil missing out on a hive,s first honey! He yelled at us to stop and save some for him. We paused, waited for him to leave the room and gave the frame a few more licks.
The honey tastes like mint.