Here is a video showing opening one of our bee hives. You can see honey and capped pollen. The bees have moved higher in the frames than we expected, which may indicate queen issues. The bees seem to be healthy.
We expected more capped honey than is shown. That may mean the nectar didn’t flow as early as last year. By this time in 2016 we took 10 pounds of honey out of this hive. This year so far – none.
It’s been unseasonably warm the past few days at FrogPondAcres, and our bee hives are active gathering pollen, and hopefully creating new bees.
Bee hives need room to grow. Queen bees move upwards in a hive, so as the lower part of the hive gets filled with pollen stores or brood, the queen moves up to the next ‘super’ and starts laying more eggs. So, the upper supers must have room for her to lay.
Supers are filled with frames. Frames are made out of wood, and are reusable.
Comb is then put into the frame. Comb is a cell-like structure that gives the bees a stable platform to lay and hatch eggs, and store pollen and honey. It is made out of beeswax or plastic.
Comb is then put into the frame. The small wires on the comb are held into each frame by a piece of wood and a couple small nails. Wires in the frame are embedded into the comb for more stability.
And after preparing several frames, they are put into an empty super and added to the hive.
The bees made it through our latest cold spell. We had 5º weather a few days ago, and were below freezing for several days. Since it warmed up to 68º they were out foraging for food.
Bees form a cluster and surround the queen, keeping her warm and the hive at around 90º inside by shivering their wing muscles. This takes a lot of energy and they use the stored honey to keep going in the winter.
We will also put out some commercial pollen for them to eat while it is warm for a couple days. Purchased pollen comes in long patties and looks a lot like taffy candy.
We made a hivetop bee feeder this afternoon. As nectar gets more scarce during the winter we need to feed a thick sugar syrup to the bees for their winter food. Each of the hives has one of these.
This box has two parts. On the left is an area open to the hive below where bees can enter. They crawl over the low wall and cling to the screen to get to the sugar water. If they get past the screen and into the open sugar-water ocean they drown. Bees don’t swim well.
We recently purchased a used honey extractor. This is a large stainless steel tub (20 inches in diameter) about 3 feet tall with a spigot at the bottom. Honey frames are inserted around a centrifuge-like device in the center of the tub, and then spun rapidly by hand through a gear mechanism at the top.
This device was used to extract our most recent batch of honey. On the last frame, it stopped.
We opened up the gear box and found the worm gear had disintegrated.
No luck finding replacement parts online. This thing was apparently made in Italy. The product label is in Italian, and (after translating by Google Translate) roughly says:
Made by (the equivalent of) Sears Italy
Of really good stainless steel
Here are the detailed specs on the steel
Not much help.
So, back to the drawing board.