Monday, November 15, 2010

Liquid Gold

Our crazy trip to Calgary at the beginning of May saw us picking up 2 packages of bees at Beemaid on our way home.  There's nothing like driving several hundred kilometers with a few thousand bees buzzing not-so-happily in the back of the vehicle!  As you can see in the photo below, they are packaged in tubes, with vented caps securely attached to each end, with the queen housed in a small box attached to a piece of webbing in the tube.

The bees overnighted in our basement, with a little sugar syrup to keep them nourished.  We got them installed into their hives in the morning.  We had established comb for them to clean up, complete with some pollen and honey.  It was early May, and while there was some pollen available for them to harvest, the only blossoms with nectar were in my greenhouse, so we put feeders on the tops of the hive and fed them a sugar syrup to give them a head start.

Checking the hives for presence of eggs, larvae, and HONEY!!

Discarded bridge comb built outside of the frames

A frame of brood, the capped brood can be seen sticking out slightly, with capped honey surrounding the young.

We harvested 2 boxes (supers) of honey at the end of July and decided to extract it in the evening after the kids were in bed at 8 pm.  We finished at about 1am, with a bit of cleanup left for the morning!  We haven't extracted honey for a few years and couldn't find our electric uncapping knife, so we used the low-tech cappings scratcher instead.  We extracted in our kitchen, strapping the extractor to the kids wooden table, which wasn't heavy enough to keep it in place so we had to lean on the extractor if the load was unbalanced.

A scratched frame of honey in the 4 frame extractor.  

The cappings scratcher left a lot more wax in the honey than the uncapping knife does, making it difficult to strain.  We had to do a lot of scraping the bottom of the strainer, slowing our progress significantly, hard to take when it's the wee hours of the morning!

This is a 70 pound honey bucket.  We harvested a total of 100 lbs of honey from the 2 boxes of honey.  As you can see, the kids furniture came in handy again!

We discovered a swarm of bees in our extra hive equipment and were able to capture it successfully.  At the end of August we harvested 5 more boxes of honey, 2 from each of the spring hives, and 1 from the captured swarm.  We extracted 2 boxes of that honey, then sickness took over our household and by the time we were well and would have been able to extract, a significant amount of the honey had crystallized in the frames which would have made it very difficult to extract.  This honey will be fed back to the bees in winter if needed or in spring to give them a head start.  

To prepare the bees for winter, we wrapped the hives with bubble wrap to protect the bees from extremes of temperature.  We're hoping for some survivors in spring!