Animals – Bees

November 10, 2012 – Late Extraction

We only had one good hive this summer, and for one reason or another, didn’t get around to extracting it until today.

We put the  supers in the back of a car and parked it in the sun to help the honey warm up even more.  It wasn’t enough and still had to hear up the frames to extract.

The yield from one five gallon bucket.

The top of one of the buckets.  We ended up with three 5 gallon buckets about 3/4 full each.  Now we’re set for soap and honey for a while!

August 5, 2012 – The Rain was Nice, the Wind, not to Much…

Yesterday’s rain was welcome, but for this beehive, it was a bit much.

This is our most productive and hive with the most supers on it. It’s at another farm and it was, shall we say, a bit delicate to put a hive back in place section by section. We took four supers that were full away, left the bottom few on and put an empty super on top.  Needless to say it was a bit frightening to put this all back together with the hiving buzzing around, looking for a home.  I brought a trailer along, and with the four supers we brought home, most of the bees blew off the 70 mph trip home.  then we needed to secure the honey in a location that was airtight, so the remaining bees and any other neighborhood hives didn’t steal the frames – so, we pried the frames loose and put them all in giant coolers until we are ready to extract.

September 24, 2011 – A Sweet Day

Today was  honey extraction day.  As GJ says, it’s all about separation today.  First, you separate the supers from the hive and therefore separate the bees from their honey.  Then you separate the individual frames from the supers.

Then you separate the beeswax from the frames.  Emma with the heated knife and gj with a wax scraper.

Then you separate the honey from the frames in the extractor.

Then you filter out all the bee parts and remaining wax from the honey.

A final look at Emma with a nice frame.  We ended up with about 15 gallons of honey from two hives.  Shortly after the aerial jockeys sprayed around our farm, the hive at our place ha greatly reduced activity.  After the bees died, the wax moths took over and there was no honey – but the two hives at another location adjacent to about 15 acres of prairie, did very well.

one year ago…”U of M Public Relations Disaster”

July 31, 2011 – Bees Gone Wild

We have a couple of beehives at a friend’s farm. The hives are at the edge of a woodlot adjacent to about a 20 acres of prairie. Lots of flowers and pollen out there.

beekeeper next to hive boxes

Today we went and checked, and had to add some more supers to the hives. They’re almost as tall as Linda. Should be a good year for honey, even if it isn’t a good year to get all dressed up in a bee suit.

one year ago…”In Theory”

April 29, 2011 – Bees at Work

Bees are fascinating little creatures.  They are no doubt among the happiest creatures that spring has finally sprung.

bee pollen sac on daffodil

Here’s a bee gathering pollen from a daffodil.  Notice the little yellow sacs on its legs where it collects the pollen.

bee pollen sac

Here’s more of a close-up which shows the sacs a little better. The pollen is the protein that makes the hive hum.

bee on plum flower

There’s also busy on the first flowering tree, this plum.

one year ago…”Thingamajig Thursday #206″

September 20, 2010 – Honey Extraction Day

Today was a big day at high hopes – honey extraction day! It was a rough year for beekeeping. We have three hives. Two of the hives were new this spring, so first year’s don’t often produce to much as they have to get organized and numbers bred up. The other hive swarmed, so lost some worker bees as well. Then, with the wet weather, it was hard for the bees to get out.

I missed Linda retrieving the supers from the hive – but here they are in the back of Sube. The idea is to get the supers during the day when many of the bees are out foraging. Then, you need to protect the stolen supers from the hive as they will try to retrieve the honey and the supers will be surrounded by an angry swarm. So, they are locked in the back of the car.

remove honey frames

Extracting is best done in a hot environment. The high today was 90 degrees, so the honey was warm and would flow easily. In addition, I turned on the propane heater in the garage to keep it warm after the sun went down. Since the garage is not bee proof, we wait until after dark and the bees are all back in the hive after sunset. Here Linda removes some frames from the supers. (No we are not on the payroll of the Ely, MN chamber as the car bumper sticker and Linda’s shirt may suggest.)

honey frame

Here’s a blue-ribbon frame – full and robust.

uncapping honey

Worth its weight in gold is the electric uncapping knife to slice off the wax caps from the comb.

Here’s a really angry-looking guy spinning the manual extractor. The spinning of the extractor slings the honey out of the frames. Spin for a bit and them turn the frames around and spin again.  He must have known that the next morning would bring aches of muscles usually not used!

Martin guards the honey gate at the bottom of the extractor.

The honey filters through three filters – a coarse mesh filter and a finely-woven fabric supported by another metal filter.

Finally, the honey safely tucked in jars. We ended up with about 10 gallons in total! The honey this year was very amber. That color is not what is typically is commercially available, despite the fact that dark amber honey has up to 20 times the anti-oxidants of run-of-the-mill commercial light honey.

one year ago…”Inaugural Chicken Butchering”

July 3, 2010 – Bee Swarm

Although there’s never a good time for a bee swarm, the day they swarmed was a particularly bad time.  We were running late getting flower and fruit orders out the door, running behind on starting to put the last 50 chickens to rest, and about to head to town to pick up the kids.  We had about 5 minutes together to deal with this.

We set up a hive, got a box to catch the bees as they dropped after cutting the branch.

We misjudged the size of the branch/swarm/box and when they fell, most of them missed the box.  I had to head to town, and they reformed even higher up a tree and while Linda waited for me to return to figure out the best way to get the next branch cut, they flew away a few minutes before I got back home with the kids.  It’s always disappointing to miss a chance at a “free” hive, but maybe next time we’ll have better luck!

one year ago…”Girls State”

May 11, 2010 – Spring Bee Renewal

The spring beekeeping tasks are at hand.  Two of the three hives needed to be rejuvenated this spring. So two hives have new queens.

The new queens were put in the hives in mid-late April and now it’s time to check on how the hive is doing.  The smoker is ready in anticipation of opening the hive.

beehive and smoker

They are all off to a good start – with more brood cells and great hive activity – so the queens stuck around and are laying eggs.

one year ago…”Ship Harbor, Acadia National Park”

March 15, 2010 – Checking the Beehive

Now that the temps have warmed to the 50’s, it’s time to make sure the bees have enough honey left in the hive to sustain them until the first blooming commences.

Linda is taking over the beekeeping this year.

We were happy to see that this hive was still active after the winter.  Today the black cover came off the hive and the honey supply looked adequate to keep them going.

one year ago…”Prunings”

November 29, 2009 – Putting Bees Away for Winter

It’s time to tuck the bees in for the winter.  By the end of this week, the highs are supposed to be in the 20s.

Martin and Linda add the insulated cover to the hive.

Here, they pose after finishing the job – the black cardboard has been slipped over the hive and we wait until spring to do anything else with the bees.

one year ago…”Gift Box Assembly”

March 13, 2009 – Getting Bees Ready for Spring

Another sign of spring is removing the winter protection from the bees.

Here the black cardboard box that slides over the hive is removed.  The black helps warm up the hive whenever the winter sun comes out.  It is rather amazing to think of the bees surviving through the -20 lows and long cold days in the hive.

Now that the temps are in the 60’s and 70’s some days, but the flowers are not yet out, the bees are out and about and here they get a dose of sugar water to tide them over and some mite protection.

Finally, a check to see if the queen is still alive and all we have to do now is wait for the spring pollen and flowers to arrive.

one year ago…”Thingamajig Thursday #109″

August 30, 2008 – Honey Extraction

Today was honey extraction day.

Martin, GJ, and Linda donned their beekeeper’s suits and robbed the honey.  Here Martin helps smoke out the bees before GJ takes off a super.

A beautiful frame full of honey.

The newest addition to the honey extraction process is an electric uncapping knife – it worked spendidly removing the wax tops from the frames.

Emma shows off an uncapped frame, ready for the extractor.

We use a manual extractor, just put in four frames and turn the hand crank, wait for it to stop spinning, flip the frames around and repeat the spin.

Martin’s job is to run the honey gate at the bottom of the extractor to filter the honey through a couple of filters.  It’s always a hot job as the room should be 85-95 degrees to allow the honey to flow more freely through the extraction process.

one year ago…”Thingamajig Thursday #86″

June 24, 2008 – Bee Swarm

This week we had a bee swarm on the farm. Bee swarms are fascinating. They occur when the hive is successful and needs to split or reproduce. We happened to see this one swarm on a fence on the boundary between our farm and the adjacent corn field.

The bees, all 35,000-50,000 of them, are fairly docile as they are homeless while the scouts are out looking for new lodging.

We called gj and she ran out and got a “nuc” or small hive box with some frames that used to contain honey to convince them that this is their new home. Beekeepers love swarms in June, because you can double your hives for free. Here she scrapes all the bees into the new hive box.

In this photo, the bees have nearly settled into the new hive while gj is building some new hive boxes for the new permanent hive.

We all know that in games of sport and heart attacks, minutes and seconds matter, well, we found out that is true with beekeeping. As the new hive boxes were traveling towards the nuc box in a cart, literally 45 seconds away, one of the giant field sprayers came down the road and entered into the field despite two people in white suits flailing their arms to attract attention to the driver. The drive into the field literally has six vehicles a year enter it and as it entered the drive, the swarm got spooked and lifted off and headed out across the field. I followed them for about 1/3 of a mile before they got out of my eyesight as they fly a bit faster than I could keep up. If we had left literally a minute earlier or the spray truck left a minute later, we’d now have another hive of bees, but as it is, they are now lost to us.

one year ago…”Anniversary/Roadside Natives”

April 13, 2008 – Six Pounds of Bees

It’s time to replace the evil hive that was invited to fly away on a 3 degree morning and start some new hives.

gj brought out six pounds of bees. It looks like a bee prison you might see in the “Bee Movie.”

Each box contains about 2000 bees and a queen bee. They will be put into the hives tomorrow. They were to be stored in a cool dark place (not a problem this spring!)

one year ago…”New Committee Duties”

January 19, 2008 – Behave or Grandma Will Take You Out!

Finally, some farming pictures – outdoor farming pictures are few and far between during cold January weeks. However, there is one beehive at high hopes that is very aggressive and gj is not willing to work with overly aggressive bees. 

The solution is to go out on a cold morning and remove the bees.  She wasn’t too sure how long the bees would live in the 3 degree morning, so she’s dressed in full beekeeping attire.  I bet you never thought that beekeeper’s attire worked well as winter camoflauge.

One frame is removed and the ball of bees is visible from in the hive.

Scraping the bees off into the snow and cold air.  Some bees tried to fly away, but at 3 degrees the flight lasted about 5 seconds before they fell and perished.  Next spring we’ll start over with a new queen and some buddies.

one year ago…

April 14, 2007 – Finally a Day!

Today, we finally had a day that wasn’t cold or snowy! We were able to get a few things done outside. GJ dressed up a crowd to do some bee work.  She brought her stepson from CA and a friend visiting from Fiji.

Here is the crew and, of course, the youngest one gets to hold the fire!

Marty leads the procession down to the hive.

Smoking the hive to settle the bees before lifting off the lid.

Yeah!  There’s still bees inside (that’s no longer something taken for granted).

More hive work. (I’m not sure what’s going on today!)

Linda got the first few things in the ground, although most of the garden is still to wet to work.

one year ago…

September 2, 2006 – Honey Extraction

Today was honey extraction day. We went out in mid-afternoon to rob the honey from the hives while many of the bees were out foraging, loaded the frames in the back of the truck and parked it a distance from the house, so the bees wouldn’t find it and start stealing the honey back.

After the bees went to bed for the night, we drove the truck back and started extracting. The weather had just changed, and our near 80 degree day switched wind directions and dropped to the 50’s. We started the heater in the garage to make sure it was warm enough for the honey to flow.

The first step is “uncapping” the frames.

Here’s a beautiful full frame with the caps partially cut off.

The neighbors wanted to see the process, so they came over and here Marty and a visitor are in charge of the honey gate. The hot steamy garage and cool damp, dark outdoors made for a delightful contrast.

July 17, 2006 – Harvest Day

It’s amazing what grows in a week or so. Today was a big harvest day despite the sweltering heat. How hot was it you ask? When I got out of the car, my glasses fogged up at the blast of warm humid air.

But there were things to do – pulling some more of the garlic was high on the list.

We did this first thing in the morning, but it was still hot.

Martin with the day’s digging. The girls were sent out in the afternoon to pick beans. They came back with a 5 gallon bucket and a grocery bag full!

I think the looks on their faces portray the joy of picking beans! We also had a bunch of raspberries to pick, and a big secondary blush of broccoli.

In the evening, since it was so hot and the supers were near full, Joanne extracted honey.

A frame dripping with honey.

Turning the extractor and draining the honey.

Finally, the raw honey in a 5 gallon bucket. All in all, a good day at the farm!

April 18, 2006 – Bees Finally Working

Now that spring is here and things are starting to bloom all over, the bees are out in force after waiting patiently all winter.

Here’s a bee on a plum tree. The tree was abuzz with insects, mostly on the lee side of the tree to stay out of the wind. The unbottled fragrance spilled downwind from the tree.

Even the less showy maple flowers were attracting the bees, although not in this picture.

April 10, 2006 – Unfinished Business

Today, we took care of unfinished business – got the rest of the fence up by the trees and fixed fences that had fallen around some of the chestnuts in the pasture. Finished planting the potatoes. This morning Grandma Jo and Martin administered bee medicine to the hives.

Martin operates the smoker to get ready to open the hives.

Our good neighbor planted a buffer of 24 feet of oats/hay around our farm on the land he rents. So now both of us can worry a little less about drift.

Took a load to the dump – wasn’t pleasant as the dump pile was upwind from the unloading area and the strong south wind brought 78 degrees. As long as we were in the hauling mode, we went to town and scrounged for cardboard for more grass killing/mulch for part of the garden.

Martin and I went for a little hike in a nearby woods. We found an old garbage dump in one part and found some “treasures” for our neighbor Nancy – a cobalt blue bottle, an amber apothecary-type bottle with black lid, and what looks like an old lampshade, only made of heavy metal. We also saw squirrels and the first spring flowers.

March 31, 2006 – Jr. Beekeeper

Martin has shown a great affinity towards the bees and seems to understand and play out the different roles of the different kinds of bees in a hive. Grandma Jo wanted to make sure he was comfortable around the bees – here he is in his new beekeeper’s suit that arrived today.

I’m guessing he’ll be the only beekeeper at Halloween next year.

We missed out on all the severe windstorms last night, but got a good downpour. Since it is not forecast to be below freezing through the entire forecast period and it was very windy today, I took the cover off the cold frame (purchased at Theisens a few days ago.)

September 27, 2005 – Honey of a Day

Even though it was a town work day, farming work was done today. Today, Joanne extracted the honey from the first-year hives.
Here’s a section of a frame of honey still in the comb.
The frames go in the extractor.
The extractor gets spun around manually to spin the honey out – think a giant salad spinner or a very slow autoclave for the scientists out there.
Finally, the pot of honey – kind of like making something from nothing – like fruits from sunlight.

June 10, 2005 – Bee Swarm

Today as I was mowing the yard in a break in the rain, I noticed a cloud of insects up ahead, like a big group of something had just hatched. As I got closer, I saw they were bees and realized it was a bee swarm. Watching the bees swarm is like a train wreck – it’s not something you want to see, but can’t take your eyes off. They started to swarm on a white pine branch about 15-20 feet off the ground.

By the time I had run back to get my camera, here was what the swarm looked like.- bee swarm
You can see that just a few have started to mass on a branch near the top of the tree and many are buzzing in the air.
bee swarm
Here’s a closer look as the swarm continues to grow as the bees collect around the queen.
bee swarm
Another close-up of the main swarm body as it begins to elongate.
bee swarm
Even more bees coming in to make the swarm even bigger.
bee swarm
Finally, the swarm is at relative rest and all the bees that swarmed are in a mass.

It is quite an experience to see this phenomenon of nature and hear the incredible buzzing as they were swarming!

May 4, 2005 – Busy as a Bee!

Mother-in-law Joanne has picked up the beekeeping torch. It was one of those things we always wanted to do – and had much of the equipment – but never had the time and thought energy to do it. She is ready to set up 4 hives, with the bees coming any day now. Today and the last few days was a flurry of painting, constructing, etc. before the bees arrive.

busy bee

We greatly look forward to the honey and the pollination.

The upper 60’s seemed like a heatwave today. Lots of little things got done – tore apart an old gate made of wood and hog panel, finished watering the hardwoods for the first time, picked up the rest of the mulch that was dying for bedding, mowed the sheep pasture to keep the grass tender for the sheep who have yet to arrive, replaced one of the peach trees that died over the winter, started tearing apart the old trailer for refurbishing, got a row of beans planted and some gourds over this arch made out of a cattle panel that spans an unused portion of the garden where the poles are that will be used to construct grape trellises some day.
planting gourds