Eying a near-empty honey jar in our kitchen the other day, someone asked, “Do you still do honey?” Good question, since we did not harvest any last year. A rough winter in 2011 did in all of our bees, and a harsh summer did off two of the four replacement hives we bought.
(Digression: The ESL teacher in me ponders the meanings of did in and did off. Why not just say killed? Just goes to show that you can take the teacher out of the classroom, but not the classroom out of the teacher.)
Anyway, this summer looks much more promising for a honey harvest! Hive A survived the winter but is now busier than ever after accepting a new queen. We just put a honey box on her. Hive B has been going gangbusters. A second honey box was put on B recently and John expects to add a third in a week or so. New Hive C just got a honey box and new Hive D is still getting established. So, all told, as of the beginning of June, we have four honey boxes on. We can’t wait to taste it.
Here’s a little photo essay of the addition of two of the honey boxes. Do click on the pictures to view the bees larger.
First, John opens the hive by removing the hive lid and, under it, the lid to the top box. Today he does not smoke the bees. Smoking them causes them to respond to a hive emergency and they eat a lot of honey. They don’t need to eat all that honey because there is not a true hive emergency. Why waste good honey? John will smoke them when he really is a threat–when he opens the hive to steal their honey.
Today’s task is just to put honey boxes on two hives, but John pulls out a frame for me to photograph since I’ve never been all suited up and able to get close-ups of the bees before.
John moves carefully and is gentle with the bees. They buzz around unconcerned, so his decision not to smoke them was a good one. (If they had attacked me, I would be writing a very different blog entry right now.)
Before putting the next hive box on top, John first places a queen excluder on the top of the existing boxes. This enables all the bees to enter and exit the honey box except for the queen. With the queen excluded, she can not lay eggs in the honey box. The honey can then be exclusively for us humans.
On top of the queen excluder goes the honey box lid and then to top it all off, the lid to the hive itself. The bees remained unperturbed throughout.
Another great day in the bee yard!