Oxford Bees

Harvest

June Harvest

Submitted by will on Wed, 05/06/2019 - 05:50
louvred comb

On Sunday I harvested two supers of honey from Colony 1. They had filled three supers during the spring and had started building comb on top of the crown board.

Harvesting is fairly straightforward now. Cut; spin; strain; put into containers. Easy.

At the edge of one of the supers there was some louvred comb. This is where the bees cross-comb at the edge, reorienting their comb in a direction which looks like it's part of a circle. I cut this out. It's one of the downsides of comb without foundation. Over time I'm building up straight comb to put back into the hives so this happens less.

I also successfully extracted the foundationless comb without any damage to the comb: spin slowing on each side. Then a second spin on each side to get the remainder.

Three full supers on Colony 1

Submitted by will on Mon, 27/05/2019 - 13:17

Colony 1 has been very busy. I opened the top today to find three full supers. The bees were even building above the crown board and would very soon have run out of space.

I lifted off two of the three supers and put two new ones in their place. Then I put a Canadian Clearer Board and replaced the two full ones on top. In a day or two there will be an early harvest.

We had a taste of the fresh honey from on top of the crown board. It had a light colour and subtle aroma which probably indicates Horse Chestnut. The taste had the intensity which only fresh honey can deliver.

Cleaning out after a harvest

Submitted by will on Mon, 20/08/2018 - 20:00
Honey comb if it had been designed by Gaudi

I harvested a super of honey from Colony 1 a couple of weeks ago. I also had some uncapped honey in frames which had been Hive C containing Colony 11 before I went through all the complicated rearrangements.

The conventional view is that the bees will thoroughly and carefully clean comb if you put it on their hive. In my wisdom I found an exception to this view.

I put an Ashforth style feeder on the hive and then placed the hive parts on top. An Ashforth completely covers the top of a National hive body so it all fitted together neatly. The bees could get to the comb to clean it. Everything should have been fine.

The problem was that, while the bees did move up into this new addition to their hive, they did not remove the honey from. Instead they just sat around. Some of them built a weird structure in the feeder. It looked like honey comb which had been designed by Gaudi.

The comb was built around some wax which I'd given them to clean up. They encased it and built comb up over it. I have an idea that the bees only build straight comb when the smell of the hive is right. Sometimes they go haywire but usually, if there's a nectar flow going,  they'll build beautiful straight and regular comb. Not this time.

After a few days I took the 2 boxes off the top of the hive and took the risky step of setting them outside to be robbed. I placed them uncovered over least 5 metres from the hive. The bees went nuts and had cleaned out all the honey in a few hours.

The wasps set about robbing too. It's my belief that the smell of the wasps is made acceptable when they've been eating honey. If they've been robbing then they acquire that smell. This made me concerned that they might then successfully rob the hive but I've seen no evidence of them getting in.

Summer Harvest

Submitted by will on Mon, 27/06/2016 - 21:48
Jars and empty frames after the harvest

We took some honey off our long established Hive (A) over the weekend. It amounted to 12Kg including extracted honey and comb. As always, it tastes fantastic. It's so strong that I can't eat very much.

I use National frames but mostly without foundation. There is evidence that chemicals leach from the wax in foundation and get transported around the hive (NB: I don't have a journal article reference for that claim, so treat with care please). I wanted to avoid that.

I was nervous because I haven't often extracted without foundation. I tried to use baking trays this time to support the frames but they blocked extraction and cut into the wax. I removed them and found that the comb didn't burst. I just spun it gently. Extracting the frames twice for each side - one gentle and one vigorous spin - is effective. It does take a longer to extract though. The most dangerous part is where there is a full side on the inside.

I don't feed the bees, except occasionally with their own honey. Everything comes from local flowers. I'm very grateful to the bees.