Honey Harvesting

I had PLANNED to harvest some today. Our club bought a two frame extractor which I was fortunate to be the first to request. It’s actually a great size for small-fry like me. I wanted to increase my drawn comb supply and this is the only way to do it unless you leave out frames for them to rob. So we went into the hives this morning targeting Melissa as the major honey contributor. Well, let me tell you something, about a month ago there were 3 supers worth of honey on there. Over the past few weeks I was trying to move the queen down into the deeps but since I couldn’t find her I couldn’t physically shift her down. So I did the next best thing, I used queen excluders. Unfortunately, I guessed wrong pretty much each time I shifted the excluder. So she ended up locked in place in the honey supers and the bees made room for her to lay which of course meant moving all that nice honey! OF COURSE! So in about 1/2 of the frames, the middle of the honey frames were filled with very nice brood. Sigh. Of course I want brood but I have people clamoring for honey and right now I need that too!

This picture shows my most intense search attempt. I blocked off each body as I looked at it, I used the pillowcases to make sure the queen didn’t move between the boxes as I checked and double and triple-checked for her. Anyway, I didn’t find her at that time.

These are my hive drapes, a.k.a pillowcases!
These are my hive drapes, a.k.a pillowcases!

But I did find her two weeks ago and moved her into the deeps using the most fantastic tool of all for those of us too terrified to pick up a queen by hand: a queen catcher.

Queen in queen catcher, safe and not squished by ME.
Queen in queen catcher, safe and not squished by ME.

Today I got to see the results: she was in the top deep (I was worried she didn’t lay in the bottom deep at all) with several frames of open brood, none were capped so she had just moved up there this past weekend (because workers are capped at 9 days remember? Bee math will help you every time). We moved onto the bottom deep and found at least 4-5 frames of beautiful, beautiful capped brood. Can I even begin to tell you how elated I was? We replaced the queen excluder above the top deep and from the honey supers, which were mediums, we pulled off the frames that were capped, (8 were capped completely and one was mostly capped). There was another super’s worth of partially capped honey, I suspect that the uncapped honey is actually ready to be capped but I can’t be sure. Since I want to quickly get the extractor to the next person waiting, I ordered a refractometer to test the honey and see if it’s okay for extraction. I’ve read of bees not capping the honey even when it’s 17% water so I decided to check. If it’s not ready, I’ll just wait until it is or I’ll leave it for them

I weighed one of the fully capped medium frames and it weighed 3lbs and 11 oz. It likely has about 3lbs of actual honey and from the 9 frames I hope I can get a solid 25lbs. I feel like one super isn’t worth using the extractor for and I would really like to get at least another super’s worth, but I will do it if I have to. I’ll keep you posted.

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