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Food!

Today was my monthly beekeeping meeting and it was extremely beneficial. But, before I record these notes, I must comment on the one check I made of the hives today. I only had a couple of minutes between work and the meeting, but something had been nagging me the whole day. The pollen that I placed on the hives last night was a little damp. I had simply placed it directly on the top board, without anything between it and the particle board that makes up the center of the top board. As I contemplated this during the day, I kept thinking that this was only damaging the board and that I need to move it to a small plate that I would sneak out of the kitchen so the wifee wouldn’t know about it.

Feeding pollen to my bees the first time

Feeding pollen to my bees the first time

Well, I took two plates out to the hives and opened the top off of Hive 1. There must have been a hundred bees all over that pollen! They were going to town on  it. Usually, I might have 6 or 7 bees between the cover and the top  board. Now, there were a hundred and more! Needless to say, I left the girls alone and departed for the bee meeting. Moving this stuff onto a plate was not going to be a quick thing, as expected.

The bee meeting focused on Honey Extraction, but I picked up several useful tips in other areas from both the speaker and chatting with folks after the meeting. What follows are my notes:

Honey Extraction : When you do this, which most folks with established hives are doing now through July, you only want to use the frames that are 80% full (both sides) of capped honey. The rest is nectar and will mainly dilute your honey.  The best honey has about 18.4% moisture, so you do not want a lot of nectar (which is nearly 95% moisture!)

Also, once you extract the honey, put the empty (but still dripping with some honey) in an empty box above the main hive. In a day or two, the bees will come up and pull all of that honey out and put it in their stores. It’s the best way to clean honey frames.

Nectar Flow: It turns out that bees will typically completely ignore both feed (Sugar Water) and honey during the nectar flow. This very much explains my experience with the spilled honey in mid to late May. I put some  honey that had spilled on the floor on both of my hives. The bees pretty much ignored it (a couple of bees appeared to drown in it, actually!) Now, this activity makes perfect sense. The Nectar Flow (Spring) was on and they were busy at work.

The fella that gave the talk mentioned that this year was not a good nectar flow for his area (coastal Virginia). In fact, he was pretty sure it was over. Kenny, a wise member of our group, said ours was still on, but it was dwindling. It appears that early to mid-June marks the end of our Nectar flow.

When the Nectar Flow is on (Spring or Fall), the speaker hardly bothers his bees at all. He might lift the top cover to see what they are doing, but he does not smoke them or break the hive apart. This is the time that they need to be working 100% and any setback is not good. Another good tip to remember.

9 Frame Strategy: The speaker likes to use 9 frames in his honey supers. The bees will draw them out further and fill them with more honey. There were a couple of very important tangents to this advice.

1. When you do the 9 Frame Strategy, always start with 10 frames. Remove one later on, otherwise the bees (when started with 9 frames) will build comb all over the place (burr comb is an example.)

2. You want your 10 frame setup to be 10 frames pushed close together. They should, in fact, be touching. This will leave space to either side. This is a big lesson for me. When I first picked up my hives, the sequence went like this :

a. I went to my provider around 2 pm and brought a brood chamber full of frames.
b. We took 4 or 5 of his frames and put them in the brood chamber.
c. I returned at 8 pm to get my brood chamber and take them home

The problem with this was that I never opened them after putting the nuc’s in them. This meant that they were jostled on the ride back (and me carrying them around.) Needless to say, on my first inspection, they were not snug together and there was comb everywhere. I have still not rectified this, but Kenny advises this is something for me to do in the Winter, when I need to add a new Brood chamber for the bees to work. When I do it, put a Queen excluder between the boxes and the Queen will stop  laying in the lower or upper chamber.

This gives me a chance to clean up the frames some, which I will have to do later this year.

Food: With the Spring Nectar Flow waning, I definitely should be feeding my bees, according to Kenny. I need to get my top feeders going tomorrow, if possible. Wade, another member of the Bee Group, advised that it’s a good idea to always do this with new or small hives. If they need it, they will use it. If Nectar is available, they will ignore it.

The sequence, according to Wade, is to put the pollen right on top of the frames. Remove the top board and put the feeder on top of the brood chamber. Finally, put the  cover on (you do not need the cover in this setup.)

Ventilation: It is very smart to get some ventilation on your hive to help them keep the hive from overheating and it helps with curing honey (the bees rely on the flow of air to make this easier.) Wade said to drill a hole and cover it with number 8 hardware cloth. Kenny said to just put something about a quarter of an inch wide on top of the top cover ridge and rest the cover on it. Right now is a good time to do this.

1 comment to Food!

  • While reviewing my notes, I had a chuckle at the picture of the pollen substitute up above. That is definitely NOT the way to feed my bees. I now know to only take a small piece and actually put it on the top of the frames, directly above the brood. Heh. One more for the gipper!

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