Beekeeping



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Eofor
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Beekeeping

Postby Eofor » Mon Sep 07, 2020 11:56 am

Any other beekeepers on the forums? Any interest in apiary? Here is a bit of a write up this weekends harvest, it's pic heavy and has some bee terms in there so if you need anything elaborated on then let me know.


Last weekend Heimir, another friend and I robbed my beehive, it was the first harvest from this hive even though it has been active for almost two years. We started the hive with a wild swarm and as often happens with them the Queen was a bit too old to start a new thriving hive and needed to be replaced.
Then about six months ago I disastrously I developed anaphylaxis to bees meaning the hive needed to be moved from my home and Heimir kindly offered to house them on his property. They have flourished since and this weekend it was time to take some honey before they began to think about swarming.

The hive is a flow hive (Anderson hive) but we had placed an 'ideal' (a half sized traditional Langstroth hive) full of harvested frames on top of it. These frames are called 'stickies' as they are covered in honey and the wax comb is still present in them. These are often put on top of a new hive to give the bees a bit of a kick start, they can take the leftover honey off them and they can also reuse the honeycomb which saves them a lot of production time and energy.

Once we had suited up (extremely in my case) we smoked the bees which doesn't calm them as is commonly thought, in fact it blocks and confounds the attack pheromones that the bees release into the air.

We then took the ideal off, and then the flow hive super (the full size honey storage box) and then inspected the health of the hive. We found a few hive beetle and some wax moth grubs but thankfully nothing serious as Australia is thankfully still free of the pests wreaking havoc on bees elsewhere in the world. The Queen had been incredibly busy and the frames in the brood box (the one of the bottom) were full of grub waiting to hatch.

By this stage the girls were getting quite agitated despite our smoker and so we put the hive back together and beat a hasty retreat with our ill gotten ideal full of honey.

At this stage Heimir had to be off to fathers day activities so he missed out on the fun part of the day - Extraction!
Using a hot blade you cut the wax capping off the top of the comb and then place the frame into a large centrifuge drum where you spin the frames until all of the honey flies out and then runs down the side of the drum through holes in the base where it is sieved.
Once you have spun all the honey out, you need to wait for it to all drain down (ideally overnight) and then you can tap the drum into containers of whatever size you want. This waiting phase consisted of drinking mead and eating fresh honeycomb so was a real ordeal.

I have some pics here, it can be hard to get good ones when fully suited and it can be hard to get them while extracting as everything is covered in honey. If there is something you wan to see closer let me know for next time.

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I used to tend in a veil and normal clothes but now have to wear this monstrosity.

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The front of the hive as we begin the process.

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Opening up the hive and starting to smoke, this can be tricky as the bees glue up any gap in the hive to keep the temperature steady. You effectively have to crack the seal to lift a box off. The job can easily be done solo but it's made easier by more hands.

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The front of the hive at the end of the process.

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See this bee? She has a huge pollen baskets! Also known as corbicula these sacs are how they bring pollen back to the hive. The bee up the top is sporting a similar fashion.

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The frames as they look after having been taken out of the ideal.

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The comb with its wax capping on, the funky mess underneath is a combination of wax and honey. After the extraction you can take that mix and refine it into various grades of beeswax for candles etc. The fork is for roughing up and decapping sections that you can't get to with the heated blade.

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Putting the now uncapped frames into the spinner

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Spinning! takes about 60 or so seconds of medium pace spinning. You don't go too fast or you can destroy the comb.

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The frames after the honey has been spun, you can see the comb is empty and the honey in the bottom of the barrel. These frames are now the stickies that i mentioned above and will go back on the hive.

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The bottom of the spinner with the last of the honey draining out.

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Tapping the honey. This harvest yielded around 12kg of honey and I imagine a further 1kg drained out overnight. That's from the equivalent of 3 full frames.

To give you an idea on yield a normal beehive super has 6 frames but you would never rob all six at once, you want to leave the bees with plenty of honey in case of a dry summer or a harsh winter. Even a very wet summer will see them just sit in the hive all day, they don't work in the rain and a greedy beekeeper invites disaster.
One of my friends has two established hives with double supers (12 frames each) and he yields 80-100kg (176-220 pounds) of honey a summer.

I know this is all done all using modern equipment but I have made a study of traditional bee keeping as well. In fact I have a really old video somewhere of a man smoking his skep hives with his pipe as he tends them. I'm tempted but not that brave.

And yes, it tastes amazing :mrgreen:
Last edited by Eofor on Mon Sep 07, 2020 9:46 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Beekeeping

Postby Udwin » Mon Sep 07, 2020 12:37 pm

Thank you! The Beorning in me loves to see apiary in action! My dad kept bees decades ago but I was too young to remember, unfortunately. We still have a few jars of the raw honey kicking around; it's thick and unrefined and almost black, and has bits of insects suspended in it, but it's bloody authentic and tastes amazing.
I took a class few years ago on how to find wild hives but without my own place yet haven't been able to look into a hive setup yet.
In the fall of 2016 I took a big batch of propolis and scavenged the wax out of it, and didn't know what to do with the leftover honey-wax sludge. I shouldn't have worried, as I was found by one then two then eleven, and within a few hours All of These five-banded friends, getting an energy boost before the winter.
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Re: Beekeeping

Postby Elleth » Mon Sep 07, 2020 2:39 pm

Oh VERY cool!

We've thought about doing honey in the past - just too many other things on deck at the moment to add another. But OH does that look awesome!

... do yours have any particular favorite haunts for food? I'm wondering if siting a hive near an orchard or vineyard might be a mutually-beneficial thing?
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Cimrandir
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Re: Beekeeping

Postby Cimrandir » Thu Sep 10, 2020 3:24 am

I've long had an interest in beekeeping ever since our neighbors growing up had three or four bee boxes and would gift us with excess honey. It truly tastes better than the stuff at the supermarket. Once I'm done with the apartment-living life and have a bit of room to do things, I'd love to set up a few hives. Part of my growing list of ideas for the eventual homestead I'd like to set up. I'd be interested seeing the traditional method of beekeeping if you have it still.

Excited to see more of your apiary adventures!
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Re: Beekeeping

Postby caedmon » Thu Sep 10, 2020 6:01 pm

We've done a few hives, but not in about 4 years. My wife & I have been talking about getting started again, and are keen on overwintering strategies.

What are your winters like? Do you have to do anything special during the cold months?
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Eofor
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Re: Beekeeping

Postby Eofor » Tue Sep 15, 2020 12:02 pm

Udwin wrote:Thank you! The Beorning in me loves to see apiary in action!


I thought that you might. When I read the section of the hobbit where they arrive at Beorns bee pastures I'm always transported to great beds of sweet smelling flowers and the loud hum coming from all around. I'm sure that as soon as you get a chance you'll take up keeping. It's such a rewarding thing and given you have some experience with it from childhood it wont be intimidating at all.

Udwin wrote:In the fall of 2016 I took a big batch of propolis and scavenged the wax out of it, and didn't know what to do with the leftover honey-wax sludge. I shouldn't have worried, as I was found by one then two then eleven, and within a few hours All of These five-banded friends, getting an energy boost before the winter.


That was one thing I didn't know when i started keeping, just how efficient they are at recycling EVERYTHING.

Elleth wrote:Oh VERY cool!
We've thought about doing honey in the past - just too many other things on deck at the moment to add another. But OH does that look awesome!
... do yours have any particular favorite haunts for food? I'm wondering if siting a hive near an orchard or vineyard might be a mutually-beneficial thing?


You should absolutely consider it. There is a bit of maintenance of course but by and large they tend to take care of themselves and they are fantastic pollinators which leads me on to your question...
I have a lot of large Eucalyptus trees where I live and so the bees forage mostly in those although they are incredibly efficient and will tend to check every flower in the garden before heading further afield to the bush.
They love purple flowers in particular so things like lavender, sage, rosemary all tend to bring them in droves.
Most of our Australian honey tends to be tree based honey whereas European honey is a lot more grass based (clover) so it has a different taste based on what the bees are foraging.

As to pollination I know that for most commercial keepers in the USA half of their revenue now comes from pollinating almonds. This creates its own problems as it exposes hives to pesticides which is taking a terrible toll them. Anecdotally two of my neighbors have complained to me since the hive was relocated that their gardens are already showing less yield.


caedmon wrote:We've done a few hives, but not in about 4 years. My wife & I have been talking about getting started again, and are keen on overwintering strategies.
What are your winters like? Do you have to do anything special during the cold months?


We are absolutely blessed here in Australia. We never see snow and it seldom gets below 42f even in the middle of winter. We do have to take some action in summer to shade the hive and ensure they have plenty of water but that's about it.
I recently started following J Arthur Loose on Patreon and he has been keeping bees up in Vermont for 10 years. When I saw him have to chase a bear off his hives I realized just how lucky I am!
For seven days without eating or sleeping the new king sat, until he stood and cried "This cannot be borne!"!
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Eofor
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Re: Beekeeping

Postby Eofor » Tue Sep 15, 2020 12:20 pm

Cimrandir wrote: I'd be interested seeing the traditional method of beekeeping if you have it still.
Excited to see more of your apiary adventures!


Here is the oldest video I have, it's from 1925 and the guys are using dog carts to carry the skeps around and pipes to smoke the bees.
https://www.facebook.com/watch/?v=18277 ... FVHfDvFOzo

Bees have been kept in skeps for at least 2000 years and are still kept in some parts of Europe this way.
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Re: Beekeeping

Postby Straelbora » Tue Sep 15, 2020 7:56 pm

My son and I built a hive for his birthday in May, but we never got it set up. We have a local source for a nuc (queen and nucleus of hive) for next spring. Our garden already does very well, and we have a lot of wildflowers on our property as well, so I'm hoping a hive can get established. That being said, I know nothing about keeping bees and harvesting honey.
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Re: Beekeeping

Postby SierraStrider » Thu Sep 17, 2020 5:09 am

I've done beekeeping for years, though hive dieoffs followed by too much work mean I don't have any currently. I've done Langstroth and top-bar styles, and I'm thinking about doing a hybrid system if I restart my apiary--a long, flat hive that takes Langstrogh frames. Top bar frames are just too delicate to work with, especially in the California heat.
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Eofor
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Re: Beekeeping

Postby Eofor » Sun Sep 20, 2020 12:58 pm

SierraStrider wrote:I've done beekeeping for years, though hive dieoffs followed by too much work mean I don't have any currently. I've done Langstroth and top-bar styles, and I'm thinking about doing a hybrid system if I restart my apiary--a long, flat hive that takes Langstrogh frames. Top bar frames are just too delicate to work with, especially in the California heat.


Can I ask what was causing your die offs? they seem reasonably common in USA beekeeping (From my small sample of friends) compared to here in Australia.
For seven days without eating or sleeping the new king sat, until he stood and cried "This cannot be borne!"!

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