2016-09-12

Experimenting with Harvest... and other things..

September scrambles in like always.  Suddenly here with cooler nights, strong south breezes and hot afternoons.  The bees behavior changes.  The Carniolans are suddenly very defensive.  The Italians are now mellow.  I have worked ever since establishing the hives in April without more than wearing a pair of gloves and only been stung four times.  Two weeks ago I received six stings just for being in proximity to the Carni's.  That said, increasing the use of the smoker seems to work well now.  I have taken to using a half suit too now.

The weak hive is ...well still weak.  I had transferred a frame of brood from the stronger Carni hive to see if a new queen might result.  I am not seeing what I would expect.  The hive has been given a pollen patty and a bucket of sugar water just to help them along, but I suspect it is an effort that will not return much.  I thought I spotted a queen when I checked a week ago, but still see no new brood.  I have to wonder if it is too late for the queen to be properly mated at this time of year...

The other Carni hive is doing well.  I have a super sitting on it and there is comb being drawn.  Population seems strong and the deeps are full of both honey and brood.  I think this hive will make it just fine if winter is not too brutal.  I intend to provide a sugar cake come October just to ensure there is enough food for the winter.  I need to make that sugar cake soon.  I have not done that before, so it will be another learning experience.

The Italians are very strong!  This has been the case since establishing the hive.  The population is heavy, the bee very active.  They have completely filled two supers and have lots of brood and honey in the deeps.
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I have harvested six frames of from the Italians thus far.  Talk about a lot of honey!  And the flavour is incredible!  I did not have any harvesting equipment, so just sort of winged it with what I had.  I am glad that I did.  Learning to handle the product the hard way leads to what I think of as a 'feeling' for the honey, the wax, the frames.

There is a stainless steel sink in the milk house that the frames fit perfectly across.  Dumb luck there! A large lasagna pan below the suspended frames catches everything.  I took used a regular serrated knife to de-cap the cells.  Heating the knife really did not make that much difference, so after the first frame done with a hot knife, I stopped heating.  Just cutting slowly and evenly using the top and bottom rail of the frame gave very nice results.  There were very few low cells, and those were pierced with the tip of the knife.  I warmed the honey with a hair dryer which made if flow just fine.  My intent was to leave as much was on the frames as possible.  That did not work out so well.  I eventually took the wax and the honey.  Until the centrifuge shows up, that is what I will do.  The result from the first two frames was a bit more than a quart of honey.  Considering these are shallow frames, I think that is pretty impressive.  I use cheese cloth across the top of the quart jar and let the honey run through it.  The cheese cloth captured wax chunks just fine and I ended up with really nice looking honey!  So that was my initial experiment.  I played around more than is described here, trying a few things, but the process boiled down as stated.

Realizing that I had more than enough honey to leave for all three hives, I took twelve more frames. My wife has decided she likes this honey bee stuff and convinced me that we should expand to 20 hive next year.  She also decided that a centrifuge would be a good idea.  So a six frame, motor powered centrifuge is on its way.  There was a mix-up on the order, so it had not arrived yet when I needed it for the 12 frames.  I chose to do a bit more experimenting by hand with another 4 frames.  This time, I simply de-capped the cells, warmed them a bit with the hair dryer, and used a spatula to 'cut' the whole cell assembly right off the plastic foundation.  Two or three passes and the frame was clean and the was and honey were in the lasagna pan.

Tilting the lasagna pan and gently moving the wax to the high side, then letting the honey drain to the low side works very nicely.  I used the spatula to press the was a bit, releasing as much honey as possible and simply waited a half hour.  I then poured the honey through the cheese cloth into waiting jars.  Works great!  I am hanging onto the wax for future use making queen cells and whatever else might be handy.

The centrifuge will arrive this week and I will test it out with the remaining eight frames that I have.

The bottom line:  We have some really nice honey which the family is very pleased with.  There is at least a 100 lbs left for each of the hives this winter.  I have a big job coming up - building more hives and learning about splitting, grafting, and otherwise propagating.  I have no intention of spending thousands of dollars to expand this little operation.   Hive building will be a nice winter wood working project which will hopefully yield some hives, nucs and a few variations of frames that I want to play around with.

More than enough!  This is really raw honey.  Filtered only through some cheese cloth.  It is really, really good!