This is the Season for Honey, Honeycomb, and Preparing for the Winter ahead.
We all can probably remember why we first foraged into becoming beekeepers. Some wanted to help the environment and the struggling honeybees, some had been curious about this passion of ours from very early years when a parent or grandparent had introduced us to their love of beekeeping, some wanted to see their gardens flourish, and many of us looked forward to a fine honey crop.
With all the work we do as beekeepers, the planning, the feeding, the (everything else that you do), and best intentions, sometimes we have disappointments, and gratefully, at other times, we have huge wins. For me, the success of a great honey crop from many hives is confirmation that maybe I did a few things right to help my bees along their journey.
There is nothing more exciting than holding a frame of honey in one hand and an uncapping knife in the other while gliding it across the frame, watching as the wax is removed, yielding a golden glow of the very precious nectar provided to us by our bees.
Spinning the honey from frame to extractor wall and then seeing it flow like a sparkling stream, first coming through the honey gate, then a filter, and finally into our buckets, is a great thrill. Whether it’s your first time or your 30th time, it is still a miracle to see and to conceive.
This year, in my more robust thriving hives, during the honey flow, I again tried something new. Rather than wait to remove honey frames all at once later in the season, as my bees would fill frames of honey, I would remove one full-frame for every two or three that were loaded with honey, and replace the removed frame(s) with drawn-out honeycomb. This gave me a head start on honey removal later in the season and was an experiment to see if hives would fill the new comb any faster than if left to a more normal approach of just adding new supers when 80% of the lower super was full with honey. The jury is still out on this approach, but it was a fun experiment and made it easier later in the season when I removed all remaining frames for extraction.
This year also was a year to get more comb honey using both a purchased system, the Hogg half comb system, and the more tried and true simple removal of comb from a frame by carefully cutting squares out with a sharp knife. Both work well.
The Hogg system holds 40 cassette trays in one super and is easily removable once filled. Each cassette has a thin layer of beeswax coated on the bottom to help and encourage the bees along. For me it is a great system when the hive has a very high population of bees in it at the start of a honey flow.
Having honeycomb for personal use or to give as gifts to friends and family is one of the great rewards we have as beekeepers. The honeycomb can be given in any suitable container as is, or can be added into a jar of honey. Along with the amazing taste and texture, comb makes an impressive and eye-appealing gift.
Post extraction, we now have to concern ourselves with getting our hives ready for Autumn and Winter. You can start feeding your bees syrup now if your hives don’t have enough honey stores built up yet for the coming seasons. Putting mouse guards on your hives are advisable. Checking mite counts is mandatory and your choice of treatment to follow should be on your agenda. Combining hives when necessary and consideration for any winter wraps you may do in a month or two is additionally part of the beekeeper’s calendar.
All during this COVID crisis, our programming committee has been working hard behind the scenes to fill the gaps in our normally robust schedule of in-person guests at our monthly meetings. Many guests have already rescheduled for 2021 and 2022.
We are hoping to be back to normal within the coming months. In the meantime keep your eyes open for announcements from BYBA for all Zoom meetings scheduled and all special announcements as they occur. And as always, please reach out to us if you need any guidance and if you have any suggestions for BYBA.
Have a Great October!