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Harvest honey now or in the Spring?

 
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HappyBees
House Bee


Joined: 22 Apr 2014
Posts: 10
Location: Godalming, Surrey, England

PostPosted: Mon Jul 13, 2015 3:47 pm    Post subject: Harvest honey now or in the Spring? Reply with quote

I have a 12 x 15 National brood box with 2 supers on, with a hessian cover and quilt. I basically have left them to themselves since getting the nuc back in April, apart from adding the supers. I took a peek under the hessian at the weekend (I had to peel it slowly as it was stuck down with propolis) and there were a lot of been in the top super. Would it make sense to take some frames and put in some empty ones now or leave them until the Spring? I want to make sure they have plenty to keep them going through the winter and am not that bothered about harvesting loads of honey but I also don't want them to have no more room and swarm! Advice greatly appreciated!
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DrMartin
House Bee


Joined: 29 Jun 2015
Posts: 19
Location: Cambridge

PostPosted: Mon Jul 13, 2015 4:23 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

You have a 14x12 and two supers? You absolutely can take 2 supers right now if they're all full and capped. By the sounds of things you might add a third. A 14x12 brood box full of honey is quite a generous portion of stores - 2 supers on top of that would take a pretty apocalyptic winter to get through! If they've lots of brood frames of capped honey you could scratch the cappings off to get them to move it to the new super. Joking aside, don't leave the brood box with supers on over winter - you're giving them a cavernous space to live in and try and keep warm.

Bear in mind that if they've been there since April then a lot of the honey may have granulated in the comb by now. This will be a pig to get out. If you can't (don't have a melter to hand or just can't be faffed) then freeze the frames, seal against wax moth and give it back to the bees in the spring when it's warm enough for them to fly but before there's many flowers out.

Set honey is also harder for the bees to use in the middle of winter and why judicious use of syrup in the autumn can be helpful.
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HappyBees
House Bee


Joined: 22 Apr 2014
Posts: 10
Location: Godalming, Surrey, England

PostPosted: Tue Jul 14, 2015 8:37 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Freezing some of the frames sounds like a good plan. I think I will do a bit of both. What would you say in the best way to take the supers off without upsetting the bees too much? I've read that I should put a clearer board in with a porter bee escape but how on earth do I get it between the supers and the rest of the hive without ending with a lot of cross bees?
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DrMartin
House Bee


Joined: 29 Jun 2015
Posts: 19
Location: Cambridge

PostPosted: Tue Jul 14, 2015 10:58 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Have you taken a course? Inspected a colony? Opening a hive is an unavoidable part of beekeeping and you really should be inspecting your bees (for notifiable diseases if nothing else) at least every month or so and every 10 days if you want to avoid them swarming (and potentially swarming themselves out of workers).

Your best bet is to find a mentor or experienced beek to help you, but for now:
We're going to rearrange things to sort your crop out, and take a look in the brood box whilst we're taking things apart.
Suit up. The safer you feel, the calmer you'll be and the less agitated you'll make your bees.
Light your smoker (if you don't have one, get one).
Blow a little smoke into the entrance and wait a minute or two
Lift the roof, lift the cover over the feed hole in the crown board and gently blow some smoke over it. Wait a few seconds. If there are bees pouring out of the hole, puff some more smoke over.
Lift the top super off, roof and all: gently prise the super off, one corner at a time using smoke as necessary. If you've left the bees for months this may take some chiselling. This will be heavy - recruit suitable protected assistants as necessary.
Lift the next super off. Blow some smoke over the queen excluder then lift this off the same way, one corner at a time. You're now down to the brood box. Cover the stack of supers with something like a cloth or the roof and crown board to keep the bees in those boxes quiet.
Gently take one of the edge frames out and place to one side to make some space to work in. Now go frame by frame quickly checking that all the brood looks healthy: big uniform patches of capped brood with slightly raised/domed cappings (no pepperpot appearance and no sunken or damages cappings) and nice white grubs (not brown or discoloured, not chalky, stony or melty-looking). Google for some images in advance to see what healthy brood is, and what diseased brood looks like.
You can take this opportunity to clean up a bit - scrape off the worst bits of propolis and any annoying brace comb. Don't worry too much about being fastidious.
Now to put things back together - put the frame you took out back into the brood box, then the queen excluder and an empty super. Next place a clearer board (I prefer triangle or rhombus escapes to the awful Porter bee escapes) with the two full supers on top. Cover with crown board and roof Wait the appropriate period (hours-days) according to your escape design and you can take the roof and board off, walk off with the two supers, walk back and replace the escape board with the crown board and roof and you're done! Don't leave the escapes in too long or the bees will learn their way back up.


If the bees start to get a little agitated, blow some more smoke over. Don't be afraid to cover up and walk away to regain composure (it helps to have a tablecloth or similar to throw over the open boxes while you do this to help the bees settle).


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HappyBees
House Bee


Joined: 22 Apr 2014
Posts: 10
Location: Godalming, Surrey, England

PostPosted: Tue Jul 14, 2015 11:04 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Many thanks for your advice. Yes I have been on a bee keeping course, 1 BBKA type and also a Natural Beekeeping one and have been trying to be more natural and avoid opening up the hive too often. Perhaps I have gone too much the other way. There seem to be a lot of opinions on this forum and it can be very confusing!
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DrMartin
House Bee


Joined: 29 Jun 2015
Posts: 19
Location: Cambridge

PostPosted: Tue Jul 14, 2015 11:20 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Partly it depends on your attitude to swarming but I think regular inspections of some kind are important. There are beekeepers near all of us who rely on their bees for their livelihood so we owe it to them to keep an eye out for disease.

The good news is that your bees are obviously in a nice site if they've managed to give you a nice harvest (if indeed all the frames are full and capped - you should probably check as you lift the supers off the first time). More regular inspections can also help you give the bees more rooms when they need it and take boxes as they are filled. You're in for some heavy lifting and for getting rather hot dealing with the hive now - a stitch in time saves nine and all that.

Provided everything goes ok over the winter you're likely in for more surprises next year if they start to swarm. You will have to decide whether to try and manage the swarming impulse by regular inspections and artificial swarms, or whether to let them go (with the associated loss of honey, loss of bees and nuisance to neighbours).

You might also want to think about what you're going to do about Varroa - whether to apply an autumn or spring treatment or try something like shook swarming in the spring. Are you counting mite drop?
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mark.b
House Bee


Joined: 14 May 2014
Posts: 16
Location: Sileby, Leicestershire, uk

PostPosted: Tue Jul 14, 2015 12:01 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Hi
In a similar position with the 14 x 12 national brood box and I had 3 shallow supers on fitted a clearer board and left it on for 48 hours then removed the super only a few bees in the super so very easy to harvest it. Now the problems start I have tried the cut and strain method but I think it is OSR honey and this is very thick and appears to be setting I managed to strain very little over a 24 hour period using a straining cloth any ideas on how to speed the process up?

Someone I know suggested putting the honey/wax in a bowl sitting this in a heated water bath until the wax melts and then allowing it to cool remove the wax and then strain the residual honey.
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DrMartin
House Bee


Joined: 29 Jun 2015
Posts: 19
Location: Cambridge

PostPosted: Tue Jul 14, 2015 1:05 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

OSR is another good reason to inspect regularly! If you catch it just as the bees have finished making it (just when they are capping it) you can extract it normally. Otherwise it sets. Hard. Harvest little and often.

Given it's out of the box now you can't really store it over winter. Best bet is to see if your local association or another beek has a melter or a warming cabinet you can use. You have to be careful to get the temperature just right so as not to spoil the honey. If you have a hungry swarm or a nuc you could try misting it with water and feeding some of it to them? If they use it to draw wax and for fuel there won't be a problem but you don't want them to store lots of it or you'll have the same problem again.

A similar warning applies to ivy. Make sure brood boxes are filled with runny stores (summer honey or syrup) before the ivy blooms or the bees will fill it with ivy honey which will set rock solid and not be easily accessible in the winter. Ivy pollen however is a very welcome late-season boost. This year I think I might even try and super for ivy honey. No hope of getting at it without melting. Will let you know how it goes.
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catchercradle
Golden Bee


Joined: 31 May 2010
Posts: 1487
Location: Cambridge, UK

PostPosted: Wed Jul 15, 2015 12:08 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

One year, I put a super back on after extracting on one of my national hives. 6 days later it was full of ivy honey! Two days later, I tried to extract it and it was all set solid!
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Broadwell
Foraging Bee


Joined: 22 Jul 2013
Posts: 122
Location: UK, Kent, High Weald

PostPosted: Wed Jul 15, 2015 2:02 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Hi Catchercradle – does that mean you removed the super and let it sit for two days before you tried extracting it?

Just interested to know whether it would be extractable straight off the hive or not.
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