Well, I think you may know that my harvest over the past couple of years was paltry, a mere 20lbs each year. Folks, this is a banner year! Two Saturdays ago my friend Connie, her husband and mine all helped to harvest 65 lbs!!! Mind you we had to return uncapped honey for them to finish off but even with this initial harvest, it blows the other years out of the water.
I was telling some folks that I started calculating how much I had spent on this hobby since starting. Once I got to 2K I stopped counting, couldn’t handle it. Between buying frames, foundation, more supers, hive bodies, covers, ventilated inner covers, sugar, feeders, etc. it all adds up. I hope that a few years of selling nucs and honey will help even out the cost. I hope that at some point the hobby will pay for itself, I don’t expect to make a profit, but if it could just cover its own expenses, that would be appreciated.
Anyway, I need to tell you about the debaucle that occurred harvest day. I knew I had more honey this year so my old method of brushing bees off would be difficult due to the wonky comb they made and it would be very time consuming. I decided, to my great disappointment as you will learn, to try a fume board.
Fume boards, for those who don’t know, are essentially pieces of wood with metal on the outside and cloth on the inside. The metal (when used on a sunny day) will heat up the cloth and whatever nasty smelling liquid has been applied to the cloth will warm up and vaporize into the super, driving the bees down and away from the supers. In a few minutes you can remove the super confident that most, if not all bees, have vacated the super. As the nasty smelling stuff can taint the honey if left too long, I decided to use the pleasant smelling alternative which claims to be “Natural and bee friendly.” Uh huh.
Well, it was a lovely sunny day, mid-70’s, an ideal bee-working day. I applied the spray, put on the fume board. Remember that wonky comb I mentioned? When the nectar flow happened, I didn’t have enough drawn comb to add to the hives because I certainly never expected to need 80 frames of drawn comb (2 supers per hive)! So I added the foundationless frames I had on-hand and hoped they would drawn them out. I didn’t add them during the heavy flow so they never did draw comb on those frames, instead they built out the comb that was next to it and just made the cells super deep. Not really an issue PER SE but certainly messes up any honey super inspections.
Turns out that bulbous comb and the queen excluder were areas causing “log jams” resulting in masses of bees dying as they rushed to get away from the fumes. That explains why, when I lifted the board after a few minutes, a waterfall of bees came out of the hive as they tried to escape. And then I sealed their doom as I set the board back on, not understanding what was going on :( If I had only known… Typing this makes me angry at myself all over again.
I only had 2 fume boards so the teal and purple hive were spared this experience. After I removed the fume boards and found all those dead bees in the crevices of the comb and trapped in the queen excluder, I had to think of another solution but could only think of the brush. Connie suggested the leaf blower and that’s exactly what we did.
We took the super off of the hive and set it down on the grass a little away from the hives (end bars toward the ground) and blew them out. It actually worked really well, I was able to get most of them out and the cluster of bees in the grass dispersed and went home, there were some in the air too but they all left. No dead bodies. One person used the leaf blower, one brushed off any stragglers and then another person would cover the super quickly, any remaining stragglers would come to the top of the frames and when the cover was opened, they normally flew off. It actually worked really well.
We moved away from the hives and checked the boxes again because these were being brought into the house and I did not want angry bees in my home. Any final stragglers were removed and the frames checked for readiness to harvest. About half we put back to let the bees finish capping. The supers were left by the back door and were brought in when bees started investigating.
And then the mess began…. Will post more later!