If you've read this blog or followed along on Facebook, you've seen some of the problems we've experienced with our bees...we started this Spring with two hives, two nuks - a "nuk" is a five frame mini-hive. Essentially, we purchased two somewhat existing hives in order to give them a head start - they were to have a working queen, brood (bee babies), built out frames and we were to add them to a 10-frame hive and start from there. We had started with what we called "the good hive" and "the bad hive". Needless to say the bad hive had a failure to launch. We tried to feed them, add bees and requeen and nothing seemed to work for them...and one day, they completely collapsed. Within a two week period we went from "maybe they have a chance" to dead, gone, robbed (by other bees). It was sad, but at least we had this other hive, the good hive, that seemed to be going gangbusters. They took advantage of the Spring honey/nectar flow and built out some of their hive with honey, instead of brood. They were strong. It was fascinating to watch the front of their hive - always bustling with activity. Just a couple of weeks prior to the extraction party, we pulled out these beautiful capped frames. The super (the top honey storage box that contains short frames, which makes for easier handling and extraction) was FILLED with honey, so much so that we put on another box, just in case. There were many deep frames that were filled with honey too. When I talked to the leader of our beekeeping club, he estimated that there would be 20-25 pounds of honey in the super and about 9 pounds of honey PER FRAME of the deeps that we had. He suggested that we pull out 4 of them and extract the honey out. Doing that kind of math, my eyes turned golden at the thought that we might be pulling 50-60 POUNDS of honey off this hive. What an amazing extraction party that would be - we'd have plenty of honey to harvest, store for ourselves, share with others and perhaps even sell.
I went home and put on a bee escape - which is essentially a board that has a circle on the top and a maze of sorts on the bottom - the bees are able to crawl down, but can't figure out their way back up (in theory). We went the next morning to pull off the super and those 4 deep frames and were disappointed. The bee escape seemed to work - many of the bees were out of the super and the job of pulling off those frames was fairly easy - but as we started to work through the super, we noticed that the frames weren't fully capped, as they had been. Almost like the bees had started to break into their honey storage already - which didn't make sense. This honey was just meant as reserves and shouldn't be touch unless the bees have gone through their winter storage below and are in desperate need of honey.
As we started to go through the deep - we noticed how light it was, each frame we pulled out was nearly empty. WHAT HAPPENED!?!?!? We were saddened and confused and oh...no...we were having an extraction party the next day and what if we had NO honey to share. We watched the front of the hive to see if we could see something, a clue as to what was going on. After closer inspection, we noticed strange behavior - there seemed to be a wrestling match on the"landing pad" of the hive. Bees were literally pinning each other down and throwing each other down and kicking some of the bees out of the hive. Our hive was being robbed. Jerks. Apparently there is a strong colony (maybe a feral one??) nearby and found our hive, that since they we are a newer hive (weaker hive), the stronger colony decided to take advantage of this "free honey source" and attached our hive. Ugh. Heartbreak. At this point, I don't think there is anything we could do. It's so late in the season to try to requeen (did I mention that the queen is gone from this hive too). We've learned some valuable lessons from beekeeping this year. I know some things that we'll do different next year. Yes, we've already decided that there will be a next year. We enjoy the bees. And now, more than ever, we realize how fragile these beautiful pollinators are. We plan on expanding our hives and building out three hives/colonies for next year (at least that is the plan).
We debated not having the party - but then thought, no, this happened for a reason. This is a way to share the message about how fragile bees are, to talk about the importance of these pollinators for our food. Without bees, we don't eat.
So friends, old and new, and even some strangers, who became friends, came to our home, on a rainy Sunday afternoon and talked animals, birds and bees (get your mind out of the gutter :-) ).
Here are some photos from the day:
|Talking about the frames and breaking down the hive.|
|Here's a deep frame, with foundation only.|
|Notice the deep gouges in the wax? This isn't good - I'm not sure if this is from the robbing activity or if something else is happening. That a question for beekeeping club.|
|Uncle Dave and Cousin Rhett - checking out the frames.|
|My girl, Lissa. See the mess that something made on that frame. Frustrating.|
|Josh holding up a frame of foundation only and another frame that has comb and honey. Definitely a surprising difference in weight.|
|Lissa, modeling the capped honey frame vs foundation only frame.|
|Mark - making sure that the extraction is put together correctly. In the forefront, you can see some of hive tools, including our beloved smoker.|
|Super Model! I should have put this on and modeled my lovely beekeeping attire, but it was hot and frankly - I know it isn't a good look for me. LOL|
|Mark, modeling his classy member only/london fog 80's style jacket that he wears for beekeeping. SEXY!|
|A nice view of the heat gun uncapping.|
|Almost ready for the extractor.|
|Mark using the standard knife. Our favorite. It's natural. It's non-electric. It does the job.|
|Asking if anyone else wants to try uncapping - Emily (our new friend and photographer - THANKS EMILY!!!!) was the first taker.|
|Beautiful job Emily!|
|Look at those wax caps just rolling down the frame. MMMM!|
|We collected the wax cappings in a bowl and shared with everyone around the table.|
|Lissa digging in and uncapping.|
|Here's a look inside the extractor - bits of wax stuck on the sides - but if you look at all that golden liquid on the bottom - that is PURE, RAW, AS LOCAL AS YOU CAN GET HONEY!!!! From our backyard!!!!!!|
|Another honey picture! Look at that rich, golden color. Isn't it BEAUTIFUL?? This is such an excited sight to us.|
|This picture, excites me, makes me proud, makes me hungry :-) I love watching the honey flow out. It's just gorgeous!|
|Our new friends Emily and Little D :-) Modeling our takeway honey bears. He was so excited to have his very own bear filled with honey. CUTE!!!!|