Harvesting Honey, Treating Hives

Harvesting Honey, Treating Hives

I have been pulling honey and putting thymol on the hives this last week. This blog’s been silent for quite a few weeks. July and August simply got out of control.

Busy Times: July to August

In general I was:

Doing a festival a week. These were usually 2-3 day events, often preceded by a day of set up.

Some of the honeys sold by Brookfield Farm at their Market Booth

Introducing some late season queens from Northwest Queens. I like to have some nucs to over winter. This gives a fast replacement for any queenless spring hive or a quick start to hives in the new year.

Making frames, wiring frames, hanging foundation, making supers, and supering hives.

Putting in a new water system at the farm – an on-going project to be completed before snow flies. (Which will be followed by the new solar panel system, which can be done in the snow if need be).

In the upcoming weeks I’ll post a retrospective of what I was doing at the hives.

Harvesting Honey

I run about 80 hives in Whatcom County, Washington (state) – the most northwest corner of Washington.

Bee hives at Brookfield Farm Bees and Honey, WA

Farm Hives before Harvest

I used to pull honey in September, but I’ve upped the date to the third week of August. Two reasons: 1) more time for the bees to harvest late season blooms and set themselves up before the rains come in mid-October and 2) September has better hiking weather here. It’s win-win for me and the bees.

I leave about 70 pounds of honey on each strong hive after pulling the honey. They add more and eat a bit as time progresses towards winter. I don’t weigh the hives.

All my hives are mediums (westerns). I figure an average frame of honey in my hives weighs 4 pounds (I weighed a lot frames, then averaged). If the bees in a strong have 18 frames of honey I figure they’ll be ok.

How The Hives Are Set for Winter

The line up this year (a slightly crazed year) is basically:

  • Top box: Full Box of honey
  • Next box down: 6 frames of honey (positions 1-3 and 7-10) Center: Brood
  • Next box down : 2, or more, frames of honey, depending on the brood count (positions 1, 10)
  • Next box down (bottom box) : Whatever the bees have put there. Usually it’s filled with pollen.

If the hive has a huge load of brood there’s usually a fifth box that is the 2nd or 3rd box up.

Even if there’s no honey for me, I leave this amount of honey on the hives. I need the girls alive for next year. I have not figured the harvest yet, but I think I’ve averaged about 6-7 frames per hive (some gave little to none; some gave nearly 20 frames).

Before And After In A Few Bee Yards

 

Tall beehives at a Brookfield Farm (WA) bee yard

 

 

Colorful bee hives in Washington state

After The Harvest

 

Colorful hives before honey harvest

Brookfield Farm Hives at Spring Frog Farm before Harvest

Brookfield Farm Bee Hives, Washington

After the harvest: Spring Frog Farm

My Farm Helpers

I run dark bees. These are “known” to be not very nice. I disagree, as do my “hive grounds maintenance crew” who work at the farm.

Goats eating clover by bee hives

Brookfield Farm ground maintenance crew

Rudy Goat seemed to wish to emphasize the gentle nature of my dark bees.

Happy Goat and Open Bee Hives

Rudy Goat And the Bees During Honey Harvest

Or perhaps the bushes at the front just looked particularly nice.

Goat eats amid Bee hives

Bees? What bees?

Naturally Treated Hives

I treat every year with either thymol (Apiguard) or formic acid (Mite Away Quick Strips). Both occur naturally in hives. Neither seems to have a negative affect on the bees (no clustering at front, and fast removal).

The two treatments are alternated each year. This comes from my years of raising goats. You never used the same wormer twice in a row. You want to avoid having the pests become resistant to the treatment.

This year is an Apiguard year.

Apiguard, scale, and hives

2014: an Apiguard Year

I hate Apiguard years. The treatment is fine. The cost is reasonable. The effect is good. So what’s my problem? You have to give a first treatment, and then repeat with a second treatment, and then remove the card the gel was on (if the bees haven’t done so). It’s one extra trip around the bee yards. One more time lifting all those boxes.

All those boxes: I use Randy Oliver’s idea: I use half the amount, but put it between brood boxes. So each time I go I need to lift at least 2 boxes. I’m not as young as I used to be (we can all say that).   That’s what the scale is for: to measure the dose.

September: Hiking Season in northwest Washington

It takes a week for me to pull all the honey, prepare the hives for winter (all that organizing of brood and honey), and treating the hives. Plus it rains every so often here. But when I can, I head for the local mountains. I live near the second most glaciated volcano in Washington. It is absolutely beautiful here.

Pack goat at Cascade Mountain pass Washington

Pack goat at rest on High Pass

 

pack goats in Training

Two pack goats in Training
Mount Baker in background

That’s the news from Brookfield Farm Bees And Honey, in Maple Falls, Washington. How are your honey harvests going in the northern lands? How is your honey year shaping up south of the equator?

About Bean

I am the beekeeper at Brookfield Farm Bees And Honey, near Maple Falls, Washington. My bees fly from naturally treated, antibiotic-free hives in the foothills of Mt. Baker (the second most glaciated volcano in Washington). I sell the raw honey my bees make, as well as honey produced by Washington beekeepers who are friends - the emphasis is on raw honey from naturally treated, antibiotic-free hives. I also make and sell Raw Honey Infusions (Ginger, Lavender, and Vanilla Bean; Raw Honey Infused Organic Vinegars; and Beeswas Salves. You can find me or my husband at Seattle's Fremont Market and at Bellingham's Farmers Market. When not with the bees, you'll most likely meet me up some mountain trail, pinhole camera and digital camera slung over my shoulders, and my pack goats trailing behind me.
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