Monday, July 13, 2009

A busy week.

Where to begin!

Chronologically, I guess. :) Where we last left the hive - two brood supers with three honey supers on top. Oh, and plenty of active bees!

Sunday July 5 - put the mite board in to check. The Guild meeting got me thinking I'm not tracking the mite potential very carefully. Took it out on Wednesday evening (July 8) and after careful inspection we found wax caps, pollen, propylis, and no mites! hooray!

Wednesday M drove to Mann Lake in Woodland and picked up an extracting bundle, yay!

Thursday afternoon we headed to a creek not far from my work and picked a ten-gallon bucket worth of Elderberries. We've made Elderberry wine twice before, and each time it's been one of the favorites. We mix the berries with hot water to sterilize, add sugar, some rasins for body and a bit of grape concentrate to punch up the color, and viola - a total of about $15 in materials for 60 bottles of wine - not bad!

Friday morning we decided to work with the bees before berries and got to work around 10am. The weather was clear with a light breeze, so the bees were definitely out to forage. Our plan: to add a new honey super with foundation only frames to the hive, replace the newest of the honey supers (added July 5), add an escape board on top of that, and then replace the two full honey supers (added May 28) in preparation for extraction Sunday. On the advice of Tom from the Guild, we decided that we'd move and shift the frames about to get the girls to clean up any tears now, with the hopes that all frames would be repackaged, making for a neater extraction process on Sunday.

Overall, the work went well. The Urania ladies have suddenly discovered the wonders of propolis, and we had to work harder to separate equipment. Trouble happened when we found the May 28th honey supers were fused together by copious amounts of burr comb. The honey supers were already taller than ideal lifting height for either of us, so out came the rickety step ladder and kitchen step stool. Since breaking them off the hive caused honey to flow, they also became slick with honey and drew the interest of the bees. Not an ideal situation, but we managed. There were several "Ok, let's step away" breaks, much to the delight of my neighbors daughter, who stared at our funny outfits with an open mouth.

I realized two brood supers and two honey supers is about my height limit for working with the hive. (the picture speaks volumes - that fence is over six feet high!) To work with the top super at this height, I was standing on the hive stand and the step stool, having to step down and turn, and it is more than I am physically comfortable with. Hopefully we'll be able to maintain two supers through the honey flow, and with the extraction equipment and extra supers, we will be able to keep the supers and frames in rotation quickly.

The slippery and heavy nature of the two fused honey supers meant at one point we had to set it on the ground. (it was that or drop it - not much of an option when many many bees are involved.) This resulted in getting wood chips on the bottom of several frames and the supers as well. That created the gaps and bad spacing on the top of the hive body. Not ideal, but at the same time - we were planning to take them off Sunday. We were able to seperate the two fused honey supers by breaking the comb once it was on the table, but at this point - the bees were pretty done with us, so we opted not to pull and shift the frames. We left the hive (bottom to top) with two deep brood supers, the July 5 honey super (surprisingly full already!), the new empty super, an escape board, the May 28 honey supers, the inner cover, and the outer cover.

A mess of honey was left on the table from our work, and the bees happily got to work cleaning it up. We had moved over to the deck to sit and cool off for a bit, and I decided that the frame tool, also covered in honey, was just too tempting. I walked back to collect it, the bees not minding a bit. We then took our part in cleaning up spilled honey. It was delicious! Honey fresh and hot from the hive... there really is nothing like it.

My cat likes to use this table to move between fence and ground, so I did take care to set it on its side to prevent her from jumping onto a table of honey and bees. It also kept the ground a bit protected, as plenty of bees were working on the honey spilled on the wood chips below.

The bee work took us longer than expected, but we did start on destemming the Elderberries in preparation for wine making. A few more hours work on Friday evening and Saturday evening and the berries were ready for adding hot water, sugar, and the grape concentrate. We had enough berries that we decided to split the ten gallon container off into two, twice the wine for the same amount of work is fine with me!

Destemming elderberries is something I usually prefer to do outside - the berries bounce far and stain darkly. I did start to consider that they may make excellent natural dyes if beeswax projects take us that route.

(if you are tempted to make Elderberry wine - freezing the stems and berries makes for easier de-stemming.)

That leaves at the end of Saturday evening, and Sunday is a post in itself!

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