Am I a bee charmer or just lucky?
This year, I didn't know if I would get any honey at all from my bees.
I started out in the spring with two colonies of Carniolan bees, each of which had arrived by mail near the end of April with many of the bees dead. In one of the colonies more than half of the bees were dead. And that hive's queen escaped up my arm and out into the wild when I was trying free her into the hive. Of course ordered and later installed a new queen, but at the point it looked as if only the other hive would produce any honey, if any at all. Hedging my bets, I ordered a third colony, this one a box of Italian bees that arrived the third week of May. When all three were situated, I was sure I would be only getting enough honey for them to make it through the winter.
But here we are in early fall and I've harvested around 150 pounds from the two most productive of the three hives. As I'm writing this, I'm planning on opening my hives one last time on Thursday (Oct. 6) before leaving them be for the winter to rermove possible three more supers of honey. Depending on what I find with the help of two other beekeepers, I'll probably take each of the three supers that are on the three hives regardless of how much honey is in them. I last checked my bees around two weeks ago and applied another round of varroa mite treatment in all six brood boxes and each hives' super looked nearly full of dark fall honey. To remove the supers safely without bringing lots of bees into my house, I'll put a bee escape on top of each top brood box and then put the supers on top of the escape. The bee escape is built to the dimensions on the hive and is about 1.5 inches thick. On the top side facing up into the super is a larger round hole. The bottom side facing down into the brood box has a triangle inside of larger triangle with a screen over it. Each point of the triangle is just wide enough for a single bee to move through. When in place, the bee escape allows the bees in the super to easily travel down into the brood box through the larger hole, which almost all of them will eventually do over the 48-hour period the bee escape is left on the hive. Getting up into the super however, is much more challenging for the bees because of the smaller holes on the triangle point leading into a maze. After the supers are removed, there's usually only a handful of bees still left in the super, which can be brushed off the frames at night when the temperature is cooler and the bees are moving slower.
All three hives have plenty of honey for the winter in their brood boxes, so I'm not worried about taking these supers off. Besides, leaving the supers on forces the bees to move further from their winter cluster to feed and requires them to eat more to burn more energy to keep the hive warm through the winter. If I sense their food is low, I can always make them sugar cakes to place right inside the hives.
The other job for tomorrow is to flip the brood boxes. Bees tend to move upwards and so right now most of their brood and honey is in their top brood box. Putting the top box on the bottom will give the bees lots of space to inhabit during the fall and winter months with their honey stash within easy reach. This prevents the clustered bees from moving too far from the warmth of their cluster to feed.
However, the really tough part of tomorrow's hive harvest preparation and brood box flipping will be working in these hives because at this time of year with the nectar flow pretty much over save for the remaining goldenrod plants and Japanese knotweed, the bees will be very aggressive in defending their honey!
I'll update you in my next postt on how it all goes!