BEEKEEPING IN THE NORTHEAST - An account of my beekeeping, not a treatise of expertise, but for friends & family who wish to keep bees vicariously through me, and for the occasional apiarist passer-by.

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Spinning Honey In An Old Barn

Our neighbor, a dairy farmer & beekeeper, offered to let me use his hand-crank honey extractor for my beehive's six frames of beautifully capped comb. My first true harvest. I pulled up to this amazing old barn and climbed the narrow stairs to the loft where the machine was attached to the floor.

There is nothing like the feel of an old barn at harvest time...full of the smell of fresh hay and drying root vegetables from a farmer's hard earned gardening efforts.

It brought back memories of my Papou Gus and his little farm with my grandma Sophia outside of Frederick, Colorado. Vivid images of my brother Jimmy and I running through the fields and wildflowers after dragonfly and grasshopper; pulling eggs out from under Papou's chickens and hiding them in hopes of another "weasel in my coop" story round the dinner table.

Now that I have ducks I realize those stories were very real concerns....but Gus would smile at us this gentle way and put up with our antics on those rare summer visits.

This sunny day in our New Hampshire farm and forest community, so many years later, I yielded about ten pounds of honey. All the frames were capped full. A handful of bees from the farmer's hive found us up there in the loft and buzzed in excitement. They clamored then to get out of the barn windows to let their find be known to their sisters.

I put the extracted frames back on my Italian hive first thing the next morning and placed the nuc box I used to transport them in to the backyard for the bees to clean up.


I've been saving my old comb filled with honey from my very first hive, not sure how to get it out. Finally, I found the space and got the equipment for crush & strain extraction, thanks to Linda's Bees advice here at blogspot. She put up some great photos and explanation on how to get honey out of the comb without an extractor. So nice to find another beekeeper on the web. Two pounds honey total from those old frames.

As far as this recent barn-harvest goes, I pulled six frames from my 2010 over-wintered hive. I made a decision to take honey even though the supers were light as I needed the experience. They yielded about 12 pounds. I can feed it back to them if needed, but it was great to go through the whole process finally after three seasons. 

Monday, September 26, 2011

Going Back In - September Inspection con't.

Yesterday I went in to get the old funky frame out and to replace the inner cover with a clean one as the one that has been on all season was just sick with moisture and other unidentifiable icky stuff. Well, here's another reason for re-thinking using a queen excluder that I took off four days ago. The bees immediately moved into the upstairs and that old funky frame was as clean as a whistle! Also, the inner cover! I switched them out anyway. I had in some notes that the queen had laid in the bottom of the frames in the hive deep before I placed the queen excluder under it during my spring hive reversal. I think it just got all funky with the uncapped brood being left unattended.

Friday, September 23, 2011

Hive Beetles? No, no...Varroa Mite? Braula Coeca?

I've never seen one before. Thank goodness for a macro lens. Here is a normal looking healthy group on a honey frame but close up you can see at least this one has a beetle on it! This was taken when I took the frames back to the house and suddenly there were dozens of bees around me...this one is possibly from the back yard hive as I do not see any on the close up photos of the Italian hive. Comments from when I first posted this...thank you...are helpful, Also, my favorite old beekeeper, John Vivian and his book "Keeping Bees" commented that the female Varroa is red, the male pale...but that a harmless fly called a Braula Coeca can be mistaken for Varroa. Yes, I read over the weekend about essential oils and I've ordered some. Will post about it when I mix the feed.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

September Inspection

We were distracted by Hurricane Irene in the form of a tropical storm that flooded our yard and basement. It came within a foot of my backyard lavender hive. Is that a good enough excuse for not checking my hive's honey stores and storage patterns going into Fall? Cold...cold...not ready! We have had 30's at night! 50's and 60's already during the day. Right is one of my girls on our sedum plant. Not much else in bloom.

THIS MORNING IN THE YARD CAPTURED THIS MOMENT - HUMMING BIRD AND HONEY BEES TAKING TURNS Our humminbird feeder has these delightful rubber flowers that are like nipples on the end so that they keep the insects out and let the bird's beak in.

When the forecast said 70's on Wednesday I took the day to get that queen excluder off the Ferncroft Italians. Never again will I use such a device. It did not help the bees or me.

I only got to the tall Italian hive that had over-wintered. The top shallow was completely drawn comb. The next medium deep was put on in the spring with some honey...but I was able to harvest both some spring and fall honey from it. We get goldenrod and aster here in the dark and very tasty honey.

There was one frame on the end in the hive deep on top of the excluder that looks diseased in someway. I'll have someone look at it. This frame I had moved to the end last year to migrate it out of the hive. Apparently not soon enough. Not sure what this indicates:


SIDE TWO OF SICK FRAME: You can see the foundation was ignored.

INNER COVER WITH MOISTURE, MOLD, AND INSECT OF SOME SORT I suspect that leaving a gap of air between the homasote board and the innercover created moisture from our humid season to form on the hive-side of the inner cover.

I did not check on the two medium deeps on the bottom where the queen has spent the season. I do not know if they have pollen but there was no pollen that I could see in anything above the queen excluder. In looking at the macro photos I took of the excluder it seems full of dead drones. All these bees are dead.

I have video of the event and I had a blissful moment when the bees were all swirling around was a moment that let's you know you are a beekeeper. Of course, I should have done many things differently like let them settle down back into the hive before putting the cover back on. I still want to go back out and replace that frame and the inner cover. I did swap out the hive deep for a new one in order to lift it off the excluder. These Italians are not big on propolis build up so removing the boxes, frames and excluder was easy. The tragic thing is that I forget that most of these bees have not been out and gotten oriented to the hive. Many were trying to squeeze into the back of the Canadian Fuchsia hive as well as squeeze in to the joining lines on their own hive. There were acts of kindness that some beekeepers may have thought was fighting; but when you watch for awhile as I had the privilege of doing - after a break on the neighbor's porch with gentle breezes and sweet company - I realized they were just helping each other clean off the sticky left-overs from the upset of their world this sunny September day.