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.

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 harvest 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.

Honey harvest

The hive inspector was here the other day to check hives, and we discovered that the three hives were all honey bound. Honey bound happens when the bees fill up all the frames with honey and the queen has nowhere to lay eggs. The solution is to move emptier frames from the outside of the box to the inside (bees work from the center frames to the outer ones), and to harvest the honey from the filled and capped frames, then put the emptied frames back in for the bees to use.

All told, I extracted around 20 pints of honey from the frames. I didn’t harvest all of the honey-filled frames on the advice of the inspector. The final product is beautiful and tasty! I’ll also be processing the wax to use for salves, balms, and candle-making.

Flow honey super update – I have the slowest bees ever, I think! They are taking their time to fill in the gaps with wax, then make the honey. I’m hoping since I harvested a bit of the honey they had, they will start working on getting the Flow super filled up. Only 3 frames have activity at this point.

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Honey

It’s not much, but I got some honey from the hives today! One of the hives had been exhibiting swarming behavior, so during a calm period yesterday afternoon, I went to the beeyard and did some hive maintenance – cut the grass down around the hives and checked all the hives to see how everyone was doing.

Hive #2 was the one acting like it wanted to swarm, but everything looked good. They haven’t been as excited about the Flow honey super as hive #3. I removed the Flow super, made sure all the bees were out, and replaced it with a standard 10-frame honey super. I looked over the Flow frames, and the bees had started to fill in the gaps, but there wasn’t much going on in the frames. We’ll see if they like the traditional frames better.

Hive #3 had build some lovely comb up through the queen excluder and to the Flow frames. This lovely comb was filled with honey! I scraped everything clean and put the comb aside. They are all over the Flow frames, and I will check again in a couple of weeks to see their progress. It’s not as fast as I was expecting, but with the cool weather we’ve been having, I have to wonder if that’s not part of the delay.

Hive #4 is perking right along but honey super for them yet. They also had some comb built on the queen excluder – that got scraped off and will be put in a container for when I need wax for a salve or something.

Here it is – our first honey “harvest” from the Apiary at Innisfree, along with the clean wax (on the left). Delicious!

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In case you’re wondering, the best way to eat this honey is to pop a piece of the comb and chew – honey flavored “gum”!

Hives – complete

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After re-pinning the fence behind these hives because the cows had worked it loose from the posts – because look at all that grass!!!!

I did find a couple bricks to put on top of the covers, just to weight them down. We don’t want the cover to blow off in a wind!

Shaded by the fruit trees, close to water, pretty much centrally located on the farm to take best advantage of all the flowers for pollen, out of the way of most human activity – let’s start the experiment.

Day 237 – applesauce, tomatoes and honey

It’s been a food-themed few days around here.  Tomatoes keep coming on, so I’ve been coring them and filling baggies to keep them in the freezer until I have several hours to can.  I think I’m at 4 or 5 bags full right now. I was out harvesting tomatoes this evening, while the apples were […]

It’s been a food-themed few days around here.  Tomatoes keep coming on, so I’ve been coring them and filling baggies to keep them in the freezer until I have several hours to can.  I think I’m at 4 or 5 bags full right now.

I was out harvesting tomatoes this evening, while the apples were cooking, and saw that there are even more green beans ready to pick.  I’m very happy about this, since we had to dispose of jars that did not seal properly this year.  As the House Stark motto goes – winter is coming.  I’d rather see too much food preserved, than not enough.

Also cooked down and canned up the mess of apples from our tree, along with some various and sundry apples that were laying around our refrigerators.  6 pints of applesauce later, that’s done.

Had the great opportunity to watch a honey harvest Saturday afternoon at Angry Hippy Farms.  Robert has had bees for several years, and they open their home at honey harvest time to show the process and sell the honey right then and there.  Doesn’t get much fresher and pure than that.

We’ve been considering getting bees for the farm, and since it would be up to me to tend the hives (Denny + bees = bad), I wanted to get an idea of what I would be getting into.  Robert already had taken the supers (the boxes with the honey frames) from the entire hive, so I didn’t get to see the excitement that happens when working around angry bees, but I remember from having hives as a youngster that lots of smoke is advised, to keep the bees sluggish and less likely to sting.  Robert said he wasn’t able to pull all the frames because of time, and the bees were particularly angry that morning.  Good thing for bee suits.

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This picture is Robert using an electric “knife” to cut the wax caps from the comb.  Once both sides are un-capped, the frame goes into a separator, which spins the honey out of the frame.  From there, the honey is collected and strained several times to remove any wax, bee bits, and other debris.  Finally, the strained honey goes into the jar, and out the door.

Final answer – it’s not easy (but what is on a farm?), but doable.  Another beekeeper friend gave me his last year catalog, from which I can buy starter kits – comes with everything needed to start beekeeping.  Looks like my Christmas list will be very short – beekeeping kit, please!

Tomorrow is the first day of one of my 2 college courses to teach, so that will throw another “thing to do” into the mix.  I’m ok with that though, because time management has never been one of my strong points.  I actually do better (well, up to a point!) with a busy schedule, because I know that thing A needs to be done, and class A starts at this time, so I better keep on track or else thing A doesn’t get finished.