Honey Harvest

July 16, 2017 – My first honey harvest!  Talk about exhilarating!  With the weather being sunny lately after all the rain we had I knew I was going to have some extracting to do, and soon.  So, I bought an eight-shallow frame manual extractor from a supplier in Ottawa.

With the help of my Mom and Dad we harvested the top shallow super situated above the queen excluder from hive #2.  Upon inspection, we saw that the bees did a pretty good job capping the honey, using nearly all cells in most frames of the shallow.  My oh my, that shallow full of honey was heavy when I propped it up to see underneath.  My Dad and I went about removing the frames one by one from the hive to an empty box in the RTV.  We worked slowly and methodically.  The bees didn’t get too worked up about us taking their honey reserves, that is until I began gently brushing them off the frames with the bee brush to ensure that we did not take away any stow-aways bees.

After putting the lids back on the hives we drove the RTV back to the roadside building, unloaded the super into the back of my vehicle, where I’d had the forethought to lay newspaper down to catch any honey drips.

I uncapped each frame using my electric uncapping knife.  Having used both methods – heating a regular knife under hot water, as well as the electric uncapping knife – I must say to any other novice beekeepers out there, the electric knife is worth the splurge; the uncapping process is sped up and much more of the comb is left intact, equating to less repair time for the bees to fix the comb/ more time and energy spent on making honey.  After uncapping a frame as carefully as possible, I slid it into position in the extractor.

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The wax cappings

Given that I was doing this in my entranceway, without a table nor all the proper equipment, it was a painfullly slow process, however my excitement banished all concept of time while extracting.   Now, for anyone who knows about the type of extractor I’m talking about, they know that the feet are to be bolted to the floor for stability purposes.  Also they know the centrifugal force of the frames in the basket inside gets to be substantial after cranking the handle.  Since the extractor’s location in my entranceway was temporary, I was not about to drill screws into the tile to anchor the feet for that extra stability.  Instead, AJ and I wrestled to keep the extractor stable while cranking the handle.

Honey Extractor

Honey frames after being spun and honey collecting at the extractor’s bottom .

The honey flew out of the frames onto the sides, then slowly slid down to collect at the bottom of the barrel.  After spinning enough times to remove honey from one side of the frames, we then cranked the spinner handle the other way to remove honey from the other side.  By the time I was satisfied with the amount that we’d extracted from the frames, we stopped for the night to allow the honey to slowly gather at the bottom.  (Coincidentally, our air conditioning is not working and we’re experiencing a heat wave.  The one up side to that is that the honey is moving very well!)

 

 

 

What excitement I felt while opening the honey gate, watching the golden honey pour

Honey Flowing From The Honey Gate

The bounty from my first extraction pouring onto the sieve!

out onto a sieve for filtering.  I was buzzing with pride.  I’ve read that a shallow super typically yields 25-30 lbs of honey.  My yield was 24.5 lbs!

 

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About

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My Seasonal Harvest blog is an effort to share my passion for the outdoors, nature and the environment with others, and connect with like-minded individuals.  Here I share my experiences as a maple syrup producer, beekeeper and gardener.

I love good food.  Moreover, I genuinely appreciate knowing where my food comes from.  Knowing how my food got from its raw state to my plate gives me great satisfaction: knowing the trees my maple syrup came from, knowing the garden my vegetables were grown in, knowing my bees have access to food that hasn’t been sprayed with toxic chemicals, or pesticides.  This is why I am a maple syrup producer, a  beekeeper, and a gardener.

The maple syrup pursuits I share here are really family pursuits.  A tremendous amount of work goes into the maple syrup season and I am thankful to everyone who helps out. The slogan of Julia’s Tree Stand Maple Syrup, From my trees to your table should really be ‘From our trees…’ or at the very leastFrom my family’s trees…’.  I chose to use ‘my’ to emphasize that I am involved in every step of the process and know exactly what is in my maple syrup, that I am confident it is 100% pure.

My newest pursuit, beekeeping gives me great joy.  I am thrilled to see my colonies grow and flourish.  For me, beekeeping is a natural extension of my passion for the outdoors, environment and nature.

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Advice

An interesting conversation I had with the head beekeeper of the Ottawa Community Beekeepers Association stands out in my head.  He told me to always be thinking about the next winter – in the fall, do the bees have enough honey stores in the hive?  Winter is coming.  Is there enough brood for the winter cluster?  Winter is coming.  In the summer, do the bees have enough to forage on?  Winter is coming.  Are the bee pests at a manageable level?  Winter is coming.  In the spring, is colony build up happening fast enough?  Winter is coming.  Is my queen healthy and strong?  Winter is coming.  The list goes on.  He stressed to always be two steps ahead in terms of preparation.  As with most things in life, my honey production will depend on my preparation and anticipating my bees needs.

Bee Update

These past few weeks have been busy.  I got 5 more nucs last week, totaling 8 nucs now: 4 at our property, 2 at a farmhouse down the way, and 2 more next to some clover fields around the corner.  I am filled with appreciation on how welcoming my family and the neighbors have been about this venture.

After an afternoon in a beeyard, trimming, tidying, and arranging bee equipment I was bagged and thought little of leaving my beekeeping apparel in a pile at the front door.  Come morning I pick up my jacket from this pile and who lazily flies out but a stow-away IMG_20160608_121011honeybee!  She lazily flew up the staircase to land on a window curtain high up on the wall, out of my reach.  I laughed while wondering where she had hidden herself when I was wearing the coat.

Later on in the week with my Dad’s assistance we set-up another electric fence around 2 hives in a different bee yard.  This location was previously a bee yard to another beekeeper but hadn’t been used in years.  There were old, broken hive boxes, disheveled frame parts, some with comb still attached.  As I walked around, saw and tidied up odds and ends of wooden-ware from years past and prepared the site for growth I felt like I was in the right place at the right time again.

More updates to follow as my bees settle in….

 

Bee Arrival

 

I became a beekeeper today with the arrival of my bees.  It was an exhilarating day.  I chose to get my bees from a local bee supplier, Mahmoud Elzeftawi at Forestdew Apiaries lives.  I’m glad I chose to get the bees from a nearby location: driving with three nucs in the trunk sure made me nervous.  When I picked up a box to move it, the buzzing and vibrations coming from the bees inside the box sent a thrill through me.

With the help of my parents and partner we prepared the hive site in the morning and installed the bees in the late afternoon.  More photos, explanations and updates to come in the next couple of days.

Hive Box Construction Underway!

We began putting together the hive boxes this weekend.  After cumulatively drilling 284 pilot holes in the finger-joints of the box sides (day 1), we began gluing and nailing them together (day 2 & 3).  Here is our progress so far:

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My Dad and the hive boxes.

I feel better knowing the bees will have comfortable quarters to live in.  Even more luxurious quarters are going to be available after I get down to Sarnia to pick up the hives my Opa is constructing.

We have decided to start with white paint for the exterior this year.  Every year subsequent to this we will paint new hives a different color, for example, 2017 orange, 2019 blue, to better keep track of which year each box was constructed.  That will make judging which boxes need replacing first easier.  Next task is to paint them (exterior only).

 

 

 

Hive Site Visit

Knowing everything I’ve been learnt about beekeeping floating so far – the bees’ living needs, nutritional needs, foraging needs, wintering needs, etc. – I thought it best to get a second opinion on the potential hive site we’d found.  I invited Graeme Peterson, the founding member of the Ottawa Community Beekeeper’s Association to come assess the spot.  He gave me loads of wonderful advise and suggested that atop the bluff was probably too windy, but around the side was an ideal location.  Perfect.  And I spotted a crabapple tree for foraging but 10 meters away too.  They will be happy there, as there will be ample food around – corn that is treated with a bee-safe chemical in the field close-by, clover over yonder, hay in the opposite direction, the apple trees we’ve been planting nearby, a diversely treed forest, ponds a stone’s throw away.  Better yet, this spot can practically be driven to by the RTV.  Bueno.  With that decided upon, the hive assembly begins on Sunday.  Thankyou Graeme for your input; it was invaluable to me.

New Equipment!

Ottawa Tool and Fastener Supply is having a sale and we might be buying a drill press tomorrow!  I never thought I would be this excited to get a workshop tool.  The hours and days of back-breaking bucket cleaning are over!! ….Hopefully…!  Plus, now we have the precision drilling tool needed for putting together the beehives.  Excellent.

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April flurries bring May…..worries?

I am looking outside at a snowstorm.  It is April 6 and it is snowstorming outside.  Brrr.  It has been too cold the past few days for any sap to flow.  The forecast for tomorrow is promising for good sap run.

I am torn between feeling elated that I’ll be able to get at least one more boil in before the end of the maple syrup run, and feeling angst about the cold weather’s effect on the health of the bees’ that I am ordering.  Talk about a new feeling, being worried about bees.  The bees are not even in my possession yet and I am already worried about them.  I must remember that the bees I am ordering from my local supplier, Mahmoud at Forestdew Honey (www.forestdewhoney.com), are overwintered in an indoor,  climate controlled ‘beedome’ so they will not be subjected to the erratic weather conditions outside.  The bees I have ordered are New World Carniolians.  While half of the colonies I am getting will have imported queens, the other half will have Ontario queens.  (My reasoning behind this: why not?)  I will take note of which are which and make observations on whether the colonies featuring imported or domestic queens perform better. Courtesy of my Opa, the beeyard will host several homemade hives, as pictured below.  IMG_1552What a craftsman he is.   The bees will be ready for pick-up in late May.  In the meantime I have more beehives to assemble and a bee yard to prepare for their arrival.  That, I believe will keep me busy as a bee until they arrive.