Saturday, July 10, 2010

adventures in beekeeping

Okay. I caught a swarm and hived them in my hive that had died - I took out most of the old comb, leaving bits that were clean and hadn't been filled with old brood, etc. Remember that?

When I went to see them a few days ago, the swarm I caught had very few bees in the hive. Like maybe 100 or so? No dead bodies that I could see (although I only looked in the top, so scratch that, I really have no idea). But there are bees flying in and out now and again - just not lots. Robbers, or colony? Only time will tell.

Either way, Hubby is building a third hive and more boxes for adding to the two that already are - definitely needed for the big hive (Honeybee Zen), possibly needed for the swarm hive (Butterfly Zen). I really am not sure what is going on in that hive yet - it seems like number of bees increases as I visit, but I'm just not sure, because not by LOTS.

Now Honeybee Zen - I had three boxes on, and I needed to add a fourth. After all, the nectar flow is ON, it has just gotten HOT in the last few days, and those bees can fill a box in just a few days in a good nectar flow.

I had forgotten that I'd put a feeder box (just about 4-5" high) on top of the hive, and the cloth over it. It was so very much TIME for me to give the bees another box to grow into, because you see, they FILLED the feeder box with comb and honey. FILLED. And because it is a feeder box, I was sort of at a loss as to what to do.

Word from my beekeeping yahoo group was take off the feeder box of honey and comb, because they would continue to build comb on top of that in those lovely patterns.

What I DID do while I was there was add another box on the top of the feeder box, so the bees had somewhere else to build, since they so obviously needed it. (And I was intending to anyway). This is what happens when I let a whole week go by between visits to the bees, two days of which have been deemed a heatwave (not where I come from, but apparently by lower mainland BC standards it has been).

It really was a beautiful sight to behold. I am so utterly in love and fascinated with these little
ladies. And holy heck, I cannot blame any swarm for wanting to join that happening hive (if in fact they did) - it is so crazy busy!

And so I went today to harvest the feeder box honey before it got too much bigger. I took a flat cookie sheet and a plastic bin large enough to hold the whole feeder box, and my hive tools. Oh, and the smoker - Kiernen was SO excited, because the smoker has been deemed (by him) his job, and he finally got to do his job!

I used a bundle of sage, so it smelled lovely, although the honey now has a sagey/smokey taste to it. One thing I hadn't remembered, again: I had an empty gallon ziploc bag in that feeder. So underneath all of that lovely comb was a flattened ziploc bag that it (the comb) was adhered to. This made it easy to slide the cookie sheet under to lift it up, but essentially impossible for the bees to go down when we smoked the hive. And so I ended up having to take off the entire feeder with comb and bees inside.

I used my bee brush and my wits to get as many of them out of the box as possible and back into the hive. I lifted, turned, got myself covered with honey, and I did my best. When I took the box home, there were still lots of bees on the comb - I kept finding ones who'd stuck their heads into the cells to survive the smoking. I put all the live ones in a little jar and freed them outside, knowing full well they'll die without their hive - but better outside than in a little jar in my kitchen.

And after getting out all the bees, and pouring all of the honey and comb into a couple of containers, I've got my very first honey harvest! I'm amazed - I did it! I was so proud, I took it around to my neighbours for them to try - and everyone was quite impressed. It was an amazing day. Honey from my own bees! Well, from the bees in my hives, I mean. And! the blueberries will be ready in about two weeks, too! Blueberries pollinated by my girls!

As always, click on the photos to see all of them.


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