Harvesting Supers

Since the hives are young, really one is still an expanding nuc, they need all the help they can get in terms of winter stores. The bees are trying their hardest to get ready for winter and I’m doing what I can by feeding them sugar syrup. The syrup is not only used as current food, the bees will evaporate the water and store it in the cells for future use. The syrup also gives them energy to make wax and draw out foundation.

But the best food is honey and they really don’t have honey since they missed the spring nectar flow. To help them, I called Peter and he very graciously offered his hive’s honey to me. The plan was to harvest 2 supers of honey and leave any extra for the parent hive (Peter’s hive).

We went last Sunday, the 21st and of course it was a day destined for storms. Of course! Do bees like it when it’s raining or storming? NO! They are extra irritable! YAY!

This is Peter’s hive, boarding at a friend’s home until he picks it up:

It used to be on that wooden stand you see to the right but it was leaning dangerously and during one of our trips out there Peter and I moved it onto more stable ground. The green is deceiving: just in front of the hive there is a 1 1/2 foot step down that is edged with rocks and they were very loose! And it had been raining so the greenery was very slippery. Not fun. Anyway, see those 3 supers above the 2 deep boxes? They were completely filled with capped honey and ridiculously heavy.

Isn't it beautiful? These girls are going to make awesome cut comb honey. All 30 frames looked like this.

We started by pulling the supers off. The first 2 we harvested for our hives and the last one we left for the parent hive. In the top deep, Peter had forgotten a few frames during one our visits and he left 8 frames in there instead of the 10 that were supposed to be there. When there is more space than what is called “bee space” the bees will fill it with comb, when there is less, they will fill it with propolis (their version of caulk). This is the result of too much space:

See the uneveness of the comb? There was more than 3/8" (bee space) in spots and they built the comb out to use the extra space.
You can see that wonky frame at the bottom, but the comb in the center of the picture is very thick in comparison to others.

You can actually use that tendency to your advantage. You CAN put 8 frames in a 10 frame hive as long as the frames are evenly spaced. The bees will build out the comb more deeply, it will project past the edges of the frame and will be much easier to cut the cappings off, like this.

The bees don’t leave the supers unless you drive them out with a leaf blower or a stinky substance they don’t like. We didn’t do that. I had planned to just smoke the hive and take the supers with whatever bees still clung to the supers. So to minimize the # of loose bees in the car, I had 2 telescoping covers upside down in my car, I planned to drape the super with a pillowcase, place a flat cover on top, set the super down and then strap it with a bungie cord. This is what it looked like in my car:

The telescoping cover is on the bottom, then the super then a pillowcase and finally a flat cover (queen excluder and inner cover in this case). A bungie cord is around each of the supers. I have towels down to protect the car. The supers are so heavy that they didn't budge an inch during the drive home.

I had also brought the nuc box in case there was brood in the top deep, but the honey frames were so screwed up that I ended up putting 2 or 3 frames of honey in there and only one of brood (which was actually only 1/2 a frame of brood):

Back at the rancher and ready to place the frames.

With the brood came nurse bees, Steve started to shake them off before I stopped him. We need the nurse bees for the larvae that was around the capped brood and there was little chance the queen was there. I checked and there was no queen. All of the bees that were on the honey frames and brood frames were very annoyed when we arrived and opened them up. I used sugar syrup spray on the hive occupants and the newcomers to calm everyone down and give them something else to do other than attack and kill the strangers.

This is what my car looked like when we left Peter's hive. This is a small hatchback but it was more than adequate for this job.

This is Peter’s hive when we were done with it. Since we took off the 2 mediums, we needed to give them something to work on. We placed a deep and a medium over the one full medium:

The frames we took out of the top deep, I replaced with empty frames I had with me. When we left, there were 9 frames in the top deep instead of the 8 he had before.

One thing about the hive, there were a lot of hive beetles. When I got the supers and other frames home, there were LOTS of hive beetles. I squished every one I saw but I know there were others I didn’t see. I put an extra hive beetle trap on Melissa but Demeter still has no traps. This weekend is out for working the hives but I may go in sometime this week to see what’s going on. I don’t want Demeter to swarm especially since I’ve added a full super of honey; I may start putting together some foundationless frames and add a super of those. Plus I want to add some hive beetle traps to Demeter.

I added the 1/2 brood frame to Melissa. All those extra bees that were on the honey super were added to Melissa, whatever bees were left in the nuc after all the frames were removed were also dumped into Melissa. When I checked on it a couple of days later, there were lots more bees in there. I can’t wait to see what they’re doing!

So as it stands, each hive has a full super of honey. Melissa still occupied the one deep while Demeter was working on 2 deepsl.


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