Sunday, August 1, 2010

ooh this could be cool... 2o1o honey harvest two!

future fullterbys feeding on a gone to seed parsnip plant

an interesting day so far...

a profitable day so far...

a sweet sweet day so far...

i had been a bit concerned for the out back honeybee hive the past few days.  i was not seeing the same great numbers of bees setting off for flight as i had in previous weeks and it got me to wondering.

  • did i have too many supers on the hive?  
  • were the supers full/empty/in bad shape?  
  • did i miss a swarm?  
  • is my queen in good shape?  
  • is my queen home? 
  • have the wax moths struck again?
  • is there another problem i'm not guessing at in the works?
  • could it possibly be harvest time?  oh please oh please fingers crossed
well there is no better way in finding out than to take a good look inside i thought so this very morning, i got to it.

i put on my new "bees cannot climb right in this veil" bee veil and jacket.  i put on a pair of thick jeans. i put on my rubber boots and gloves and i was on my way.  i got the smoker smoking.  i gathered my tools.  i set up a large swath of heavy weight plastic and a single empty super for the placement of hive parts while working.

the hive was sealed tight.  these bees were serious about keeping things airtight and secure from the elements and from unwanted visitors which might include me, the homestead beekeeper.  upon my first view in, i knew the deal.  happily, it was time for this season's second honey harvest.  amazing what a bit of healthy "keep the blooms blooming" rain will do for your colonies. outside of the frames being full of honey, the colony looked great.  they were all busy and possibly keeping tight inside in order to keep cool. 

super by super i pulled full frames out while transferring yet uncapped honey frames and brood frames (brood are future baby bees tended by nurse bees) into supers that would be returned to the hive structure.  there were several moments when i got a bit too close to the queen and the guard bees got right to business.  i took a few hits to the thigh which in light of my recent stings put me at caution.  i rubbed out the stingers and kept working.  calm and slow, calm and slow.

side note - for those who know about or do not know about my recent bee sting events
i had my recently prescribed epi-pen in the house and at the ready with mr. man also at the ready to help me out in case i got fearful or woozy but lucky for all of us, none of the pesky symptoms showed face.  i was ready at any time to step aside and administer the pen's goods if necessary as survival is an action i very much believe in.  the good news is that even with four stings - three to the front of my thigh and one in the rear - all is well. 
fyi - jeans are not thick enough to keep oneself from being stung.  next time, more layers, thicker layers, damned be the heat!  protection matters.
back to the honey collection report.  the key is to stay calm at all times.  the bees know when you are stressed and they will act up.  if you remain calm and move with a slow steady pace, you have a pretty good chance that the bees too will remain calm.  long story short - i pulled honey, the bees played mostly nice and all is well.

the bees are in great health. woohooo! the population is not for want as i feared, in fact, the population is booming as evidenced by the brood frames in hive which means that our queen is strong.  knowing my bees are strong healthy bees cheers me to no end.  something you might not know about my bees is that i, as keeper, use no chemicals or medications on my bees.  i purchased my two colonies from an aviary that practices organic chemical free beekeeping, has always practiced organic chemical free beekeeping and preaches the importance of doing so for the long term health of honeybees and for long term survival of the honeybee.  i will continue to raise my bees as such with joy and care and that's that.

back to the harvest.  the harvest is good.  the harvest is heavy.  i have not uncapped and extracted the load quite yet but i imagine this mid-summer harvest will prove at least as strong as the spring harvest's happy 50lbs.  and this is just one hive.  i'll not go into the front hive for a few days as projects outside of the farming universe need finishing first.

that said, the full mid-summer honey report is yet to come.

the timing of this harvest is perfect as the honey stores remaining at the bastrop producers market are quite slim.  sales are good, real good and this harvest will certainly fill our little slice of shelf space without a stitch.

one detail i have noticed is that my honeybees very much dislike the black plastic frames.  they avoid them like the plague and turn to them sometimes not at all and sometimes as last ditch effort.  but for the most part, they ignore them.  so i as keeper, want them gone.  this means building more frames and fitting them with natural beeswax.  i've got the parts to do so.  it's now up to me to make the time and get it done.  i think, for now anyway, i'll have enough frames to keep the bees busy with the frames i'll return once extracted.  the frames will return with either fresh wax foundation or as spun frames ready for bee cleanup.

the cleanup frames (those extracted but not fitted with fresh foundation) provide the bees with a natural food source and a base foundation that they will "clean up" and build upon for future honey stores.  the fresh frames will be those that might have experienced a bit too much stress in the extractor and prove in need of new and better supported structure.  honey is heavy.  you don't want your frames falling apart in the hive or upon removal from the hive as either situation could prove most messy and troublesome for both the bees and the keeper.

until i extract, i won't really know the condition of the currently pulled frames.  for now the honey frames lay quietly in two large plastic totes with covers.  i hope i hope i hope, to extract in the morrow.

until then folks - happy day to ya!

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