Bees and honey

Did anybody wonder what is going on with our bees?
As a recap: in May, the bees swarmed. We were lucky to capture the swarm and start a new hive with it. The old hive should have made a new queen after its old queen had left with the swarm. This is how bee colonies multiply. However, when we checked a little later, there was no sign of a queen and no brood in the hive. That was bad. A beehive without a queen must soon perish as the unemployed workers get old and die one after another. To remedy this situation, we moved some frames with eggs from the swarm hive into the queen-less hive. We were hoping that the workers would grow some of these eggs into new queens. That was at the end of May.

On August 17, a hot and humid day, the hives looked like this:

Our beehives on a hot day in August. The “swarm hive” is on the left, the old hive on the right. The bees are outside because it is too hot in the hive.

The hive we were concerned about is on the right. There were lots of bees! And these could not have been the old bees from May. During summer, honey bee workers live only for 6 to 7 weeks. All of the worker we saw in August must have been born after mid June. This means that this hive had indeed a new queen! And not only that: she was really productive and her workers were very busy. We suspected that the entire hive was full of bee brood and honey. With lack of space, it got uncomfortably warm inside the hive. That is why so many bees were outside. This phenomenon is called “bearding” and is not unusual on a hot day.

For us humans, it was time to steal some honey and make room in the hive. On a cloudy and cooler day, our beekeeper friend Ray came over to help as we opened both hives to check for honey. The top box of the right hive was heavy with beautiful light-colored early summer honey. We harvested all 10 frames and gave the bees empty frames to work with. The other bigger hive had also a lot of honey, but the bees were not quite done with filling all of their honey comb. Here, we took 4 frames.

Modern beehives are carefully designed so that bees only build honey comb on the frames that can then be easily removed and replaces without destroying the hive. Any extra space, like underneath the frames as seen on the left picture, is filled with extra honey comb. We extracted lovely light yellow honey that tasted like linden nectar. Here, it is drained from the spinner through a mesh sieve (to keep out wax) into a big bucket to be jared later.

Yesterday, we met again to extract the honey. We got about 2.5 gallons of honey with a nice mild floral flavor. Meanwhile, The bees remain busy and we hope that we can take more honey later in the year.

Busy bees bringing nectar and pollen.