Flow hive – honey harvest

I wasn’t sure that this day would actually arrive – new technology, lots of things that could go wrong between putting on the Flow honey super and it being filled. But it happened today – I harvested a whole bunch of honey without carrying frames, upsetting the bees, or getting stung.

Like with everything to do with bees, I suited up, got the smoker going, and took things slowly. No sense in making silly mistakes (which I’ve done before and will do again) and losing honey.

First order of business was to check the side viewing window to see if the cells there were capped – they were not, so I was pretty certain that my maximum harvest would be from the 5 central frames and not the 2 ends.

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Side viewing window – bees hard at work making honey

I pulled each frame out to inspect it – if the honey cells are not capped with wax, they are not ready to harvest. If too many uncapped cells are drained, the honey is too “wet” and can ferment over time.

The 5 inner frames were all capped and heavy – it still surprised me how much honey weighs!

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View from the back of the hive – look at all that honey in there! The far left and right frames were not harvested today – too many uncapped cells.

I had read through the instructions and watched several videos from the Flow hive people about how to harvest. Easy enough to do and everything worked as advertised. After reading about how some Flow beekeepers had cut lengths of flexible tubing to run all the honey into a covered bucket, I decided to go that route. It was much easier to cut a few holes in a bucket lid and let the honey drain directly into the honey bucket than to carry glass jars to the apiary and have to worry about 1) having enough jars for the task, and 2) dealing with curious bees trying to rob the honey from the open jars.

Now to insert the long metal “key”, crack the cells, and hope this thing worked.

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It worked!

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Honey draining from the Flow frames through the tubing.

After the frames were empty, I replaced the caps and reset the Flow frame. I had barely gotten the next frames ready to drain, and the bees were already cleaning the dribbles of honey from the first frames in preparation to rewax the cells and make more honey.20160726_175443

A picture of the whole setup, with a cow photobomb – 2 deep brood supers (painted white) with the varnished Flow honey super on top. No honey will be taken from the brood supers so they have food to eat over the winter (I will supplement with winter “candy” patties to make sure they have the best chance of surviving to the spring).

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And there you have it. It took much longer than I was expecting for my bees to start filling the Flow honey frames, but once they did, they filled them quickly. There is still a lot of summer left, and the fall flowers will be blooming as well. Maybe I’ll get another harvest out of the Flow.

What we do when it’s 102 (degrees, that is)

Our part of the world has been dealing with some serious heat recently, which, as animal farmers, is worrisome. All of our animals have free access to shade all day, every day. Most of the time, they actually take advantage of that shade – the cows and horses will be in the barn until mid-afternoon, the chickens stay in their coop or hunker down under a piece of equipment, the sheep and goats go in their hoop hut or under a tree.

With the heat index in the 90s or over 100 degrees F (Friday was 110F according to my weather app, and it’s projected to be around 107F today), it’s even more important for us to keep an eye on all of our critters, so I will make the rounds every few hours to make sure no one is in distress and that all the water buckets are filled up.

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The cows and horses are the easiest, since they have access to fresh running water. For everyone else, it’s a matter of moving a hose around to fill up buckets or waterers. We do this in stages – water to the sheep and goats, take a break; water to the egg chickens and pigs, take a break, etc, etc. We can’t take care of them unless we’re also making sure to be hydrated and alert.

As far as farm work goes, it gets done before 9 or 10am, or after 7pm. Being prone to overheat anyway, I’m not interested in being taken to the emergency room due to heat exhaustion. The rest of the time, I do like the animals – stay in a cool place and keep hydrated.

Thankfully, this type of weather doesn’t happen very often, but when it does, it takes an extra level of watchfulness of the animals and of us.

Soon…

As you can see, much has changed since my last Flow hive update – for the better!

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Some people with Flow hives have reported that the bees are not capping all the cells on their frames all at once. I will need to open things up and pull out the Flow frames to make sure that all the honey cells are capped before I harvest – if too many cells are still being filled, the honey will have too high of a water content and ferment. I do want to try my hand at making mead, but on my own time, with properly “dry” honey!

Unfortunately, it’s going to be a spell of hot and humid days around here, so that will have to be an early morning hive check. I have no desire to overheat in that bee suit. But once the frames have been checked, if any are 90% or more capped, I can harvestĀ just that frame and leave the rest of the frames alone. I find that fantastic.

The outer frames appear to be works in progress, as seen from the observation window.

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I have a traditional 10-frame medium honey super on the other hives, and am keeping an eye on that as well. The frames just have foundation on them, so those bees need to draw out the comb before they can start making honey.

Minding my beeswax

With regular hive maintenance and honey harvesting, there is beeswax as one of the “by-products”. Bees build comb where they shouldn’t (called “burr comb” or “brace comb”) that needs to be scraped off for me to be able to get the frames out. Honey can only be extracted when the wax caps over the honey are removed.

What to do with all this? Melt it down, strain out the impurities, and make something! In this case – votive candles. They will need to set up over a day or so (I will wait a few days to be certain that the centers are solid), then can be removed from the mold and trimmed.

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