Harvesting honey for us

As the bottles dwindled you could see the panic in my husband’s eyes. He finally said “You better save us at least 7 pounds of honey! I had to curtail my use because we ran out so fast last time!” Oh brother. It’s true that the boys went through the honey quickly and now the new harvest seemed to go WAY faster than last year. I had sent out the Honey Harvest email to my neighbors, friends and coworkers and filled those orders. I gave some to sell at our bee booth at the 4-H fair and about 7 bottles remained at home. But then I remembered some of the nurses at work who would want some, then someone else wanted a jar and THEN the one jar I was saving for a new client, who had mentioned a few months ago that she wanted honey, turned out to be not enough as she wanted 4 jars… So I find that I’m in need of twice as many jars (14) as I had saved. Hm. I had a little left in the bottling bucket so I bottled that up which was at least another 3 pounds. I’ll know after the fair is over how much I have left. You know what sells the honey? Word of mouth. It’s incredible. I wish I could sing its praises but I don’t eat or like honey. So I leave it to the honey lovers. It seems to work.

There were some frames in the hives that weren’t completely capped: parts of one side or all of one and none of the other. I knew the bees wouldn’t finish capping them and I needed to start feeding so I took that off planning to use it for the household honey. There were 3 frames of drawn foundation and 4 foundationless frames. I planned to crush and strain the foundationless ones and let the drawn comb drain upside down. Here is what I did.

I used the pan on the right to hold the frames upside down.

I used the pan on the right to hold the frames upside down.


You can see how the frames were unevenly capped.

Using a paint strainer

Using a paint strainer instead of filters just for ease. Wash these first.

Foundationless frame destined for crush and strain

Foundationless frame destined for crush and strain

Used a brace to make uncapping and cutting comb easier and more neat.

Used a brace to make uncapping and cutting comb easier and more neat.


Lifting off the cappings to preserve the comb cells underneath.

Lifting off the cappings to preserve the comb cells underneath.

Placed the frames upside down in the oven with the light on to provide a little more warmth. Good idea?

Placed the frames upside down in the oven with the light on to provide a little more warmth. Good idea?

No, not a good idea. Should have left the light off. At least it was just 3 frames (that's why I didn't want to use the extractor). Oh well.

No, not a good idea. This is what it looked like when I woke up. Should have left the light off. At least it was just 3 frames (that’s why I didn’t want to use the extractor). Oh well.

Honey comb crushed. I'll strain this and save the wax of course. I need to start making candles.

Honey comb crushed. I’ll strain this and save the wax of course. I need to start making candles.

Strainer just waiting for the wax and comb.

Strainer just waiting for the wax and comb.

My iPhone cover. Isn't it cool?!

My iPhone cover. Isn’t it cool?!

Honey extracted from the frames left overnight in the oven.

Honey extracted from the frames left overnight in the oven.

I estimate this harvest session resulted in about 9 pounds of honey. That should hold the boys over. I don’t mind taking the chance on this honey fermenting since it’s just us (and I don’t think it will). But I wouldn’t sell it. I’ll bottle it tomorrow and make some biscuits!

Sometime soon I plan to make some blueberry mead, stay tuned!

Honey 2015

If you recall my adventures in removing the honey supers last year, you know it was a complete debacle with many, many casualties. This year, I had a plan to try the fume boards again with some notable adjustments to the technique after considerable thought:

1. Remove the queen excluders.
2. Go through the honey frames and remove any overly curvaceous frames which may otherwise block the bees’ retreat.
3. Place an empty hive body (with frames) below the lowest honey super to be extracted. This provides the bees with an empty place to actually move into, otherwise all of those bees would be trying to crowd down into an already crowded brood box.

I had everything ready, extra hive bodies, the sprayed fume board. And in the end, we ended up just brushing them off the frames. It was quite efficient and the bees were not even irritated. My husband would remove the frames, shake and then brush any straggling, I’d take the bee-free frame and quickly place it in an empty hive body and cover it up. After getting what was capped, we left a few frames that still needed to be capped and went through the top deeps. I only did this because I knew there were capped frames from the spring flow and the deeps were chock-full of food. We removed 2 deep frames from each hive. I also had 3 frames in the freezer from earlier inspections which I had set out to defrost with a fan to prevent condensation on the wax.

Once the frames were inside, we had the filters on the honey bucket, extra buckets, towels, etc. all ready to go. We only have the one cappings scratcher and despite feeling like the process was going to take all day, we were actually done in less than 2 hours! We weighed the buckets (which I had labeled with the bucket weight so we could have a more accurate weight measurement) and it came to a total of 88lbs of honey. Then the tedious work began. I then took the cappings bucket, which was filled with honey and wax, and proceeded to scrape it into a sieve set over an empty bucket; placed the sieve and bucket in a warm oven (via lightbulb only) and let the honey drip out slowly. After the honey drained out of the cappings, I took the wax and rinsed it in water. Then I scooped out the wax and let it air dry and would filter the honey-water (from the rinsing) and store it in the fridge to feed back to the bees. I did this with each batch of cappings (4x in total I think) and by the end of it, I had managed to reclaim 7 pounds of honey from the cappings!!! My husband couldn’t believe it. So this brings the total to 95lbs of honey which is about the same as last year.

I started labeling the jars, another tedious job, but necessary! Our club sells members’ honey at 2 events: the 4H fair and the Westminster Fallfest. The 4H fair is coming up next weekend and I plan to sell some of my honey there as it’s a multi-day affair. The Fallfest is only a one-day festival. The vast majority I actually sell to neighbors and friends. I’ve nixed the nice Victorian square jars I like so much in favor of traditional queenline jars. But I still found black lids to use for these as I really like the way black looks with the honey and the label. For the Victorian square jars that remain, I’ll use them for chunk honey as suggested by my friend Brad. And only sell to those who will return them to me!

FYI: I weighed the medium and deep frames before and after harvesting: the medium yielded 5lbs of honey and the deep yielded 7lbs of honey. These were evenly drawn frames, not bulging but drawn and capped nicely from end to end. The mediums yielded more than I expected and the deeps yielded less. I found this very interesting and will give me an answer for a VERY common question in beekeeping.

New queens–UPDATE 7/10

I had decided to add new genetics to my apiary. I prefer varroa-resistant traits from local breeders. But as new honey bee strains are developed, I expect to add those as well. I do not plan to use these queens as replacements for my main hives, but keep them for my own nucs and to make/sell extra nucs. I wanted anything that decreases mite load or increases mite resistance. Clearly the number of drones created from these queens will just be a drop in the bucket in the local DCAs, but I believe if every beekeeper in the area made an effort to keep just one VSH queen (or equivalent), it could make a difference in the battle against mites. However, something to consider which many do not, is that these queens are from breeders and the breeders are from a specific line of bees. So the genetics is not varied. I expect that having an apiary consisting of 2 or 3 different varroa hygienic bees will be key to success. There are several lines that are being developed or are currently available which are considered to be either mite-tolerant or varroa-sensitve/hygienic: VSH (uncap mite-infested pupa), so-called “ankle-biters” (attack mites), Russian bees (mite resistant). There may be others I’m not aware of.

So I picked up 2 VSH queens (Italian) from Log Cabin Bee Farm. They came in JZBZ queen cages like this:
VSH queens

The q-tips are there to provide water (just add a couple of drops to keep it moist), the pink plugs are attached to the candy end (candy end UP) and held between brood frames via that little fork-like extension for 2 days. After 2 days, if the queen appears to have been accepted and you want to allow the candy to be removed by the bees, remove the pink plug, use those wooden sticks taped to the orange base to hold the queen cage between frames with the candy end DOWN. DO NOT PIERCE THE QUEEN!!

Check in two more days, if the queen has been released remove the cages and leave them closed for the next 2 weeks.

Tip from the queen breeder:
One way to check whether the bees are being aggressive toward the queen is to gently push the bees away from the cage, if they move easily then they’re calm. If they resist being moved (likely gripping cage with mandibles) then they’re aggressive toward the queen. You’ll need to make sure there’s no queen in there or a laying worker. But laying workers usually take about 3-4 weeks to develop.

To prepare for the queens, on Sunday I had removed a frame of capped brood and a frame of mostly capped brood from the hives to make 2 nucs (plus capped food). Before adding the queens, I made sure to remove any started queen cells.
started queen cells

I will do this again before exposing the candy–one frame had open brood and I want to make sure they’re not thinking of making a new queen.

Here they are, suspended between capped brood. That capped brood will emerge and WANT to accept that queen. She’ll be the only queen they know and will gladly accept her as their own. Once the queen has laid her own brood, there will be bees that smell like her and acceptance is improved. I hope they don’t try to supersede these ladies. There is a divider between the nucs.
VSH queen installed

I went to check on the queens and noticed more bees than I expected in the nucs–looked for more queen cells and as I did I saw quite a bit of debris on the hive stand through the screened bottom. Hmmmmmm. Looked like bits of wax to me. I pulled the frames of honey and saw that the cell edges were jagged and EMPTY. Robbed out. Damn robbers. Probably my big hives were robbing the little queen nucs.

I left the pink caps on the queen cages to protect the new queens from the robbers and closed the entrances completely. Can I even get across to you HOW MANY BEES were trying to get in there?? Within 20 minutes they were all gone.

I do not have another hive stand that I can put them on. So my only option is to move them closer to the house somewhere. I need to feed them and protect them. But I need to feel ALL of the hives to keep this from happening. I was planning on starting that when I got back from vacation but looks like I’ll be starting sooner. Oh brother.

Part 2

Sunday morning, the day before Memorial Day, I received a message from my friend Brad that there was a swarm in my area. He wondered if I wanted it and I replied “Not really,” but I suggested someone who might. I threw in the comment “If you plan to get it, I’ll come with you.” Turns out, no one answered their phones and so Brad came to pick me up and off we went. With swarm calls, you have to move quickly because the bees are sending out scouts to find a new home and you don’t want them to find a home before you get there!

It wasn’t too far from my place, about 5 minutes. Brad has done this a few times already so he had a well-worn cardboard nuc, some old frames, a tall ladder, a tree pruner on a pole (I’m sure there’s a name for them) and a large cloth tarp.

We get to the house and the homeowner, who was (thankfully) very nice, was outside waiting. He told us that he came home into this cloud of bees and as he got out of the car they started to cluster on a branch on his cherry tree. He was fascinated, worried (of course) that they would sting him or his family; some of his comments and questions made it clear he actually knew a little about honey bees. We reassured him that swarms are generally very docile because there is no hive or resources to protect.

We set up quickly; the houses are clustered pretty closely together and the front yard had quite a slope. The homeowner marvelously owned an extension ladder and an extension tree pruner! We laid down the very generous tarp under the bees and extended the ladder so that it was only a foot or so away from the cluster on the same branch. We decided I would climb the ladder and hold the cardboard nuc under the cluster while Brad shook the branch with the tree pruner to dislodge the bees. We trimmed a few branches to make a better clearing for the nuc and to keep the swarm from “hanging up” on extra branches as they fell.

We trimmed a few branches to provide a more open space for the box under the bees to prevent them from getting caught by other branches as they dropped into the box.

We trimmed a few branches to provide a more open space for the box under the bees to prevent them from getting caught by other branches as they dropped into the box.

I climbed up there (swarm was maybe 15′ high?) and watched that branch sway with every weightshift on the ladder. I held the nuc under the swarm and Brad gave a good, hard shake and almost all of them instantly dropped in. There were 2 empty frames and the bees instantly covered them with more just piled in. I held the nuc for a minute to make sure they weren’t going back to the branch and I saw bees lining the edges of the nuc box and fanning their Nasanov glands! We got the queen!


The first 2 pictures above were taken on the ladder.

I climbed down the ladder very slowly and carefully and handed the nuc to Brad part-way down. He set it down gently on the tarp and we watched as bees seemed to actually float down to the nuc. You could see scout bees returning to where they last left the swarm only to be drawn to the nuc by the fanning of the “this is home” scent. It was SO COOL to watch. A few bees were still clustered on the branch and Brad used a bee brush to brush them off and they promptly joined the nuc.

The homeowner informed us that there was a swarm 2 houses down a day or two ago. And THAT homeowner said he was calling an exterminator. The nice homeowner told him to call beekeepers instead “because those are honey bees.” Smart man. As we waited for the returning scouts to join their fellow bees, we asked the homeowner to show us where the other swarm was. We had a suspicion it was the same group of bees.
Lo and behold, there they were. Maybe a hundred bees with a couple of tiny combs built out. They had incorporated leaves into the wax so at first it looked like green mold. As I looked for a queen, I didn’t see her. But the cells had eggs in them. We decided that these bees and the swarm bees were the same ones. They were only 40-50′ away from each other and we also decided that the swarm high-tailed it away from the “exterminator” homeowner to the “they’re honey bees” homeowner on principle. Smart!

Actually, what very likely happened was that the “exterminator” homeowner gave the branch a swift shake and the bees flew off to cluster somewhere else and left their sisters behind. So we trimmed that branch too and added the bees and eggs to the nuc.
When we left there were only 8 or so bees flying around so we decided to close the nuc up and wrap up the swarm catch.

Brad installed them at home and by last account they were being bees. :)

You lose some, you win some-Part 1

This is the “lose some” portion of the story.

I went out into the yard on Thursday and was investigated by several bees. I didn’t think anything of it, just thought they were looking for flowers as the afternoon was sunny though very cool. And it had been raining for a couple of days.

Friday turned out to be a beautiful, sunny day. After I came home from work, I took a stroll down to the bees to watch them zip around (as I love to do on sunny days) and immediately noted that the Pink hive had a lot less traffic than normal and slightly less than the other hives. My brain immediately went to the fact that it was a sunny day after days of rain and such days are prime swarm days.

I looked around the yard and lo and behold, there they were, clustered at least 15′ high on my neighbor’s peach tree. I got my husband and we moved into “swarm-gear.” Which essentially consisted of me recalling every swarm account or video I have ever read/watched, trying to quickly educate my husband and searching for a hive to drop them into. I was so unprepared.

Nice and high.

Nice and high.

Got a plastic tarp (next time use cloth as the plastic was too slippery), our only ladder (not tall enough and yard is heavily sloped), a wooden hive body with a cobbled-together bottom and a tree-saw on a pole. My husband was all for cutting the branch and letting it fall. I wanted to shake the branch. The problem with both methods was this: the hive body was too heavy to hold at an angle under the swarm for shaking and so it had to be on the ground. But cutting the branch and letting it drop would result in lots of bees dying on impact, the cluster reforming on a potentially higher branch and possibly injuring the queen. The step-ladder on the incline was the main hindrance and I had to put a branch behind me and hold onto it to avoid falling off the ladder while I stretched my right arm as far as I could under the swarm. It just didn’t work.

The bees were shaken, a large mass dropped (and FYI, they drop really easily) and landed to the side of the hive body. I had added some lemongrass oil and honey frames to the box. They flew back to the branch. I kept trying to see the queen but I did not see any marked queen and mine was just marked a few weeks ago.



We shook several times with them all returning to the branch. Then we cut it, but because of the slope and the poor ladder reach, the branch dropped. It looked like the bees were marching into the hive body for a few minutes, but if you watched them you saw them eating the honey and then returning to the tree.

Swarm 2

I tried trapping what bees I could and keeping them in the box. The night was pretty cold and the next day, the swarm was still there. I tried to collect more of them while they were in their “chill coma” but a stubborn number of them remained on the branch. Later, I went through the hives and stole some frames, including one with larvae, in an effort to keep the swarm bees “anchored.” They were festooning in the box like they do in packages. I opened the entrance which had been closed since I caught them. The Pink hive had opened swarm cell cups and others that were still capped. The capped ones were not killed so I wonder if afterswarms were/are planned. I cut out a couple of capped swarm cells and added those to the nuc as well. I noticed the swarm got bigger after I opened the swarm box entrance: likely because the trapped bees rejoined their group and by the mid-afternoon, the swarm was gone. The Pink hive and the nuc have queen cells, at least one should end up with a queen. If one ends up queenless, I’ll combine them; if they both have queens, I may offer the nuc for sale but if no one wants it, I have no problem keeping it.

Just a few of the numerous swarm cells I found in the Pink hive

Just a few of the many swarm cells I found in the Pink hive

Though my first swarm catching attempt failed, I learned a few things.
1. I’m quite sure the bees swarmed on Thursday, the day I thought I was being investigated as a potential flower. I think the swarm had already alighted on the tree and I was just so dunce that I never looked up! Ack. Next time, if I notice unusual behavior, I’ll look up.
2. Cardboard nucs are extremely useful and light, very easy to hold up even at an extended arm reach, so have one at the ready at all times. For what it’s worth, I have FIVE of them and not one was assembled!
3. Use a cotton sheet or cloth tarp to place in the “drop zone,” plastic provides no traction for the bees and is harder for them to maneuver upon. Also, you can place the ladder on it if needed.
4. A tall, straight ladder is useful to have. A step ladder is very challenging and unstable on an incline.
5. Have a bait hive set up. I do now, about 30′ away from the hives, but I may move it farther away. Just don’t know where.

Spring Cleaning

Every beekeeper’s smoker gets a bit cruddy: creosote from the fire collecting on the inside, propolis and even honey sticking to the outside. Mine was looking pretty bad so I decided it was time for a clean!
Here it is in all its dirty glory:

The top of the smoker sported a VERY thick layer of creosote.

The top of the smoker sported a VERY thick layer of creosote.

Cruddy smoker.

Cruddy smoker.

Look how pretty!

Look how pretty!


I used Easy Off Oven Cleaner. I can tell you there was nothing “Easy Off” about this job, it took multiple cleanings and repeated spraying to clean the creosote. I unscrewed the bellows from the smoker, scraped off the propolis, cleaned and conditioned it even though I’m pretty sure it’s fake leather. Now it’s ready for another season although I may upgrade to a larger smoker as this one is a bit small and the fuel burns out quickly.

We all make mistakes

Foolish, foolish woman. I managed to get through 3 hives on Saturday (digging very deeply: marking queens, cleaning propolis and burr comb from frames, etc.) before I had a visitor in my veil that told me I FORGOT TO ZIPPER THE VEIL TO MY JACKET!!! I’ll get to that in a minute. There aren’t many pictures because of that as well.

I was on a mission to clean the frames and make them easier to put back in the hives; cleaning the burr comb off the sides of the topbars helps to prevent any extra bee squishing. The bees neither like to be squished, nor do they like to have their frames scraped. I was asking for it.

We searched through the Aqua hive several times in an effort to find and mark the queen only to discover that she was already MARKED!! The Aqua hive has a 2014 queen. Wrong hive Anna… Then I remembered it was the Pink hive that had a new queen. That took some digging and searching but my hubby found her. It was this hive that reminded me I hadn’t zipped my veil down. I marked the new queens with a bright blue color. I use these pens which are easy to find: http://elmers.com/product/detail/W7571

Nice bright blue, should be easier to find her now. I prefer my queens marked because it lets me know whether the queen has been replaced.

Nice bright blue, should be easier to find her now. I prefer my queens marked because it lets me know whether the queen has been replaced.

Overall, we got quite a bit done and thankfully, I had anticipated it being a looong inspection. We were in the hives almost 3 hours. We managed to clean almost all of the frames in the Pink hive (bottom box 3 frames on the right still need to be cleaned). We condensed the Aqua hive to 2 deeps and took out empty frames. We marked the queens in the Pink hive and Orange hive. I spotted a bee with deformed wing so I may be doing a spring mite treatment. I should do a varroa sugar roll during my next inspection. I added medium foundationless frames to the top deep hive bodies to use for drone trapping as part of the IPM method for mite-control. The bees will draw drone comb on these frames and I can just cut it out. They will also build drone comb on the bottom of the frame because of the space left by a medium frame in a deep hive body. I’ll show you a picture when they’ve done it.

I colored the top of the frames pink to help me identify them more quickly. I had writtent the word "drone" on a frame and it has all but disappeared from the propolis, burr comb and constant foot traffic from the bees.

I colored the top of the frames pink to help me identify them more quickly. I had written the word “drone” on a frame and it has all but disappeared due to the propolis, burr comb and constant foot traffic from the bees.

On April 11th, I had moved the Purple hive queen over to the Orange hive and the Purple hive made queen cells, as planned. There were A LOT. So we moved 2 frames of capped queen cells into 2 nucs (one frame per nuc) and a frame of pollen/honey for food into each, the remainder of the queen cells remained in the Purple hive. The nucs were also each given a drawn frame and a frame of wax foundation. I’ll leave those queen cells to hatch, let the surviving queen mate and check back in a couple of weeks. The queens should emerge Saturday April 25. I would check for eggs starting May 2nd. My only concern is that the nights are cool right now (in the 30’s) and I hope it’s not going to be a problem for the developing queens.

Aqua and Pink had anywhere from 6-8 frames of brood, Orange had 4 or 5, it was most impressive. Several times I looked at frames and thought they were empty only to discover they were covered in eggs. It was insane. I’ll probably make 2 more nucs as mediums rather than deeps as the beekeepers in our area seem to be shifting to mostly mediums for the hive bodies.

Overall plan:
1. Do sugar rolls during next inspection
2. Make 2 more nucs (maybe)
3. This week I will need to add honey supers as the dandelions have started to bloom- DONE on Tuesday 4/21

As for the veil…as I proceeded to piss-off the Pink hive even more by continuing to clean frames despite their increasingly grumpy disposition, I heard a buzz that was way too close. I realized I had a bee in with me and figured I would just kill it. Well, then I looked down and realized the veil was not zippered to my jacket and suddenly I heard WAY more buzzing. CRAP! I had at least 10 bees in there and I walked quickly away from the hives (mind you I had just marked their queen and she was still sitting outside drying), I frantically tried to get the veil and jacket off. As I pulled it off the buzzing lessened somewhat until I realized I had at least 3 bees caught in my hair. Now, for those who are unaware, bees do not like being trapped. And if they feel entangled they will swiftly sting whatever is trapping them as a defense mechanism. Well, I bent over and was desperately trying to comb them out with my fingers only to feel them and hear them getting closer to my scalp–you have to understand that scalp stings are especially bad because there’s no “flesh” and so the venom will spread from the top of your head all the way down to your neck and face, it’s not pretty–I finally decided I was going to kill them instead and proceeded to slap them against my head and slap my hair between my hands. I succeeded for the most part. From getting my jacket and veil off to finally killing them, I ended up with only 2 stings: one right on the dead center of my neck and one under my shoulder blade. Not too bad when you think of it. I ran into the house, downed 800mg of Ibuprofen, put on another veil and shirt and went back out, less than 2 minutes is my guess. Thankfully my husband had put the queen back in the hive and had closed them up. Later on he said he watched me as I ran from the hives and when he saw the clothing start to come off he figured he better proceed with the hives…smart fella.

I later got a third sting (on my scalp, thank you very much) when I moved a frame that was left out by the Pink hive. I was like a magnet for the guard bees of the Pink hive, the INSTANT they saw me they actually LAUNCHED themselves at me. Anyway, I was stung but I must have kept the venom sac from pumping because I barely had a reaction. I actually combed a couple of dead bees out of my hair later on. What’s interesting is how you can easily read the “mood” of the bees. It becomes more than obvious when they’ve had enough of you, but you have to be smart enough to listen. Oh well. Nothing Benadryl and Ibuprofen can’t take care of.

New research site

I subscribe to the APIS newsletter and clicked on a link in the newsletter for varroa detection and it took me here:

COLOSS is a non-profit association of various scientists, students, agricultural extension specialists and veterinarians from around the world. They put together a Beebook which includes varroa information such as the link above. I found the various methods of varroa monitoring interesting and will be reading the remainder of the Beebook as I have time.

As I read the BROOD EXAMINATION section, I noticed that the instructions called for the cells and pupae to be flushed out. I guess that is to dislodge mites that may be lingering in the cells. There is also a link to a picture of the poop left by mites which I found very useful.

Brief update

Sorry folks, no pictures on this one as I was working alone and tried to do this quickly. I spotted walking drones last weekend and usually, that is a good indicator that you can soon make splits or nucs. Once I spot them, I like to wait a week or two before making a split. Drones are needed to mate with virgin queens so there’s no sense in making splits if there are no drones to mate with! I am making a split for myself and another beekeeper who is buying a nuc from me. A key principle to making good queens is to have many bees that can tend to the larvae. If you take out a couple of frames of eggs and capped brood and put them into a nuc, you can expect to have a poorly cared for queen larva and as a result, she may not last as long as a queen. However, if you move the already existing queen out of the parent hive and place her in a smaller nuc, you leave the parent hive, which has A LOT of resources — bees, honey, pollen, open and capped brood — to make the new queens. You are then increasing the likelihood that the queens made by the parent hive will be very good queens. It takes many bees to make good queens, so letting the larger hive make the queens is the preferable way to go.

I’ve been toying with buying the Nicot queen rearing system but I think I’m going to hold off. It involves having many queen cells in one hive that are cared for by the nurse bees. That requires A LOT of bees and I do not have the space for mating nucs or for the equipment at this time.

So this was the plan I came up with: take the laying queen out of the purple hive (which looks overstuffed with bees at this point) and put her into the defunct orange hive. I would add a frame of nurse bees and brood from each hive and thus start a new hive for myself to replace the orange one that died. By stealing a little from each hive, I lessen the impact on any one hive. The queen will keep laying; the open brood, capped brood, many frames of existing honey and pollen and adhering nurse bees will continue to grow the new hive. Any foragers that may have been on the frames will return to the original hives leaving the nurse bees and house bees. My only concern is that the foreign bees not kill that queen, I added more frames from her hive to increase the likelihood that her bees would protect her. We’ll see. I had to go through the Purple hive 2x to find her. Turns out I have 2 new queens and one queen from last year in my hives. The Pink hive still has their queen and the Aqua and Purple hive both have new queens, from this year. I hope they emerged during good weather…

Oh, I almost forgot the most important part! Once the parent hive makes the queen cells, I will cut them out gently (I use wax foundation so this should be fairly straight-forward) and place them in nucs with capped brood that is added. Once the queen has mated and has started laying, I will mark her and then sell the nuc. I try to prevent swarming by taking brood out and decongesting the hive. Making nucs is a good way to do this. I hope to make about 4 nucs a year, so far I’m making 2 and I may make a 3rd one for someone who wants to start keeping bees.

Melting wax

For several months I had a 5 gallon bucket full of old comb–brood and honeycomb. As it was winter and no chance of the solar wax melter working, I decided to try using my crock pot. I used a liner to protect the inside sleeve from the wax.
Put a little water into the bottom, turned the pot on HIGH. Once it was nice and hot, I turned it down to LOW and started adding the wax. As the wax would melt, I would add more. Incredible how much wax fit into that little 4 qt pot and how these large pieces of wax would melt into mere teaspoons of wax. Never fails to amaze me.

Did you know that one pound of beeswax can hold about 22 lbs of honey?

Once it was all melted I poured it over cheesecloth into a cardboard milk container where it hardened. After that, it’s very easy to remove by tearing away the milk container. I prefer using paper towels for filtering as I can then use those as a fire starter, especially for my smoker.

5 gallon bucket of wax resulted in 1 pound of melted wax!

5 gallon bucket of wax resulted in 1 pound of melted wax!