It was a lovely day today and so I opened a hive for the first time this year, my top bar hive located at ‘Ourganics’ permacultural holding at Litton Cheney. Unfortunately, when I got there, I realised that I had mislaid my tool belt containing, among other things, my hive tool. Fortunately, I had in my pocket my Swiss Army hive tool.
I haven’t used a smoker for over a year now, but the hive smokes as you’ll see in this picture for which it posed:
I took one puff of the cheroot myself, which I blew into the entrance, then gave the rest to the hive. I also gave him a single waft of liquid smoke from the sprayer you see on his roof. That was just before the picture was taken, which is why there are no bees to be seen. They had been flying strongly, bringing in loads of pollen.
The purpose of the visit, apart from the joy of playing with bees was to take a harvest of honey and, maybe, a bit of propolis. I didn’t feed the bees last Autumn, but neither did I rob them as I like my bees to winter on their own stores, only harvesting what has been proven to be surplus to their own needs and ensuring that what I harvest is not composed partially of recycled Tate & Lyle’s sugar.
I worked from the rear of the hive and the first few bars were devoid of stores, then came some that weren’t worth harvesting, but then came 5 bars that did have sufficient stores to make it worth while. The method is to take the bar round to the front of the hive, brush the bees off with a goose quill, then lower the comb into a supermarket carrier bag, cutting it from the bar with the knife, leaving a ‘footprint’ of comb to guide the bees in re-building on the right lines.
Then I was among brood. 8 bars had brood. One looked a bit patchy so I applied the back of my hand gently to move the bees away to give me a better look and I saw bees emerging from the cells, the patchiness having evidently been caused by recent births. Other bars had closely packed brood with few gaps and there was plenty of drone brood. I didn’t see very much unsealed brood and no eggs, but I wasn’t looking very hard once I have acsertained that they seemed healthy. I moved a couple of bars of honeycomb to the front of the hive so as to give the queen fresh, unused, comb in which to lay.
Putting it back together, I used the knife blade to obtain some propolis from between bars, and this is currently wrapped in paper, lost among the debris in the back of my car. Due to the lack of a hive tool, I wasn’t able to apply the usual leverage to get all the bars back in place easily and it took about 3 attempts to squeeze them all in, but I got there in the end. The bees were perfectly docile and well-behaved during the examination and I was unstung.
Some of the comb was suitable for cutting and I now have 8 pieces cut, boxed and labelled ready for sale. The remainder was put into a plastic container, well bashed with a spatula, and put into my warming cabinet with the business end of a digital thermometer inserted. I have just read the temperature as 102 degrees fahrenheit, so I think I shall turn it off now as I don’t want it to rise to 120 degrees and ‘kill’ the enzymes that make raw honey a ‘living’ product rather than the flavoured sugar sold as honey in the supermarkets.