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Archive for the ‘Harvesting honey’ Category

After my last entry,(” Warm Spell” ) we did indeed have another cold spell with snow.  Ah… Spring! It’s now getting warmer and nights aren’t as cold; temp today got up to 60 degrees but will drop down into the low thirties.  Such changes in the weather pose a challenge to the honeybees, but they have adapted to our climate here and hopefully made it through OK.

I took advantage of the beautiful day to take a look inside and see for sure how they are doing. Hive #1.  This is the one that replaced their queen themselves…so she is now a “local”.  I was a small colony going into winter but I left them plenty of honey. I was excited to see her alive and well and beginning to lay. queen-2

In this photo I circled the queen and put in an arrow showing a developing larva.  The brown capped brood cells are the pupating larvae…they will hatch out in a few days and little by little the colony will expand.

I also took the opportunity to put in a feeding bowl for them.  Even though there is still plenty of honey in the combs, I feel a little extra food wouldn’t hurt.  I mixed up 2 cups water with 1 cup sugar and put it in a 1 quart baggie in a plastic food container.  Then I pricked the surface with a pin.  This will allow the sugar solution to ooze out in little drops on the surface of the baggie. The bees can lap up the sugar water and they won’t drown as they would if I just put the liquid in the bowl.

feeding-bowl

The second hive looked just as strong. There was still some extra uneaten honey so I took one of the combs out… all the better, as I have just finished eating the honey collected last fall.  comb

So….. all is good with the honeybees for now.  We will no doubt get some more cold weather and even a stray snow storm yet, but Spring is definitely on its way. As it continues to warm up, and trees and flowers begin to flower the queen will increase egg production and the hive will really start to hum!

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My single hive this year was very productive. The colony has expanded greatly and I know I will have to split it next Spring.  I inspected the hive and determined that I could safely remove 4 full bars of comb.

Comb in hive

Comb in hive

I removed the oldest combs ( the ones that were the darkest).  Each time a bee larva forms a pupa within the cell, it leaves behind a very thin cocoon shell in the cell.  The worker bees clean out the cell for the next larva but don’t remove the cocoon.  After a while, the combs get darker and darker as the shells build up and it’s good practice to remove them as not only do they make the cell smaller, they can contain small amounts of toxins and harmful organisms that the bees have brought into the hive and can create problems.

Comb and sieve

Comb and sieve

I then cut the comb off the bar and crushed the comb into a sieve. Leaving the comb overnight allowed the honey to drip through, leaving the wax and debris behind.  The next day I poured the honey into the jars.  I then melted the wax in a separate pot and poured it through a fine sieve lined with cheesecloth. The result was a clean block of wax.

Crushing the comb

Crushing the comb

From all of this I collected over 9 pounds of honey and ¾ pound of wax.  Success!  Thanks to the hard working honeybees I have a nice supply of honey to eat and share with friends and family and the bees have plenty of honey to last them through the winter.

Honey jars & wax

Honey jars & wax

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What a year!  Late spring frost killed all fruit tree blossoms….. no nectar or pollen for the bees and no fruit for us.    I added one more hive and had to replace a queen in another hive.  It was a terribly dry spring with no rain until June….. it really stressed out the bees. Rains came, wildflowers bloomed and the bees began producing as if it were spring.  I harvested only about 10 pounds of honey as the hives were still only about ½ full of comb.  Then the bear attacked and took out one of the hives, ate half the honey and the queen died from all the commotion.  I was able to collect and harvest another 5 pounds of honey from the damaged combs and added the remaining good combs to the other hives.  I relocated the hives to a friends yard about 10 miles away, where they are spending the winter.  I’ll bring the hives back to my yard in the Spring.  So what is there to do?   HoneyWell…. I packaged up the honey and gave it as Christmas gifts to friends and family.  Then I used some of it to make the Zimmerman holiday specialty; German Lebkuchen, using a recipe handed down from my grandmother.  It’s basically just honey, flour, eggs cinnamon and citron. So good. And now I am making bee inspired glass tiles with my own kiln.  This all keeps me busy as I await the spring.  I’ll let you know how the remaining two hives have fared over the winter when it begins to warm up in March. I hope 2014 will be a more successful year for the bees than this past one!

Until then, Happy New Year to all!

 

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Geoffrey with two full combs

   Geoffrey with two full combs

Cutting comb

Cutting comb

Geoffrey breaking up the comb

Geoffrey breaking up the comb

Straining the honey

Straining the honey

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A couple weeks ago my friend Geoffrey came over to help me collect honey from the three topbar hives in my yard. The rule of thumb is to leave about 12-13 bars of comb in the hive to give the bees enough food to last through the winter. Two of my hives had just 13 full combs ( brood and honey) so I left them alone.  (The hive can hold 30 bars.)    I’d rather leave more honey in the hive than risk them starving.  The third hive had 19 combs,, but many of the end bars were only partially built and filled, so we just took out two nice full combs. We took them inside where I cut the comb into squares and put them into special plastic containers. I put the rest of the comb into a colander, gently broke it up and let the honey drain into the below. I ended up with 6 containers of comb honey and 6 jars of honey. Not bad for a year that started off so poorly…. a late frost that wiped out all the spring fruit blossoms followed by a severe drought that lasted through June. Next year, I expect to harvest a lot more, but one never knows what might happen. It’s a challenging environment for raising bees here in Northern New Mexico.

Comb and jar honey

Comb and jar honey

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