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Summer Harvest August 2023

Beekeeping this year, has been real good to us ! We finally feel like we have a good strong hive, not a lot of hiccups, lots of fresh equipment and all those good thoughts are doing us some good! The Queen has been VERY busy lately, laying lots of brood and the rest of the ladies are doing well making honey! Here’s a little update on what we have been up too!!

New Equipment ?

Last year we had a hive collapse due to no fault of our own. Our hive had developed some sort of disease and killed them off. They had made it through the 2021-22 winter, made it to spring and then by July, they couldn’t make it any longer. After doing some extensive research and talking with local beekeepers, we found the best solution was to burn all of our equipment! We didn’t want to take the risk of this spreading into a new hive.

To read more on our tough year last year, click this link:

Fast forward to our 2023 season, we had purchased all new equipment. New boxes, frames, tools, bee suits and an extractor. It wasn’t cheap but we managed to make it work for a successful year, so far anyways!

How Do You Know What To Do?

We get asked often, how do you know what to do or what is there to do? Honestly, a lot of work is done by the bees themselves. As long as they have room and a good nectar flow, you just let them do their thing. You still need to open up the hive and check to make sure they aren’t building in weird places. If they get left along too long, they can make strange comb sometimes and they work QUICK!

Depending on the weather and how much time you have, a weekly check wouldn’t be a bad thing. You don’t want to mess with them too much, but also don’t want to mess with them at all or they can get angry when you do. You want them to be used to your smell and get comfortable with you.

We personally do about once a month, sometimes twice. It really depends on the weather, our time and if we think we need to check them out.

Coming into August – Nectar Flow

I had mentioned in my last blog post, how I think we are having a really good year because our bees came in later then normal. I feel like the time they came in this year, they didn’t have to fight so hard to get good nectar. Everything was prime bloom when they came in. So they were set in the hive and put right to work!

Its been a HUMID and HOT summer here in Northern WI. It hasn’t rained much but the bit we do get, keeps the flowers blooming! Their has been a ton of nectar for the bees it seems this year and you can tell they have used it to their full potential.

When we decided we wanted to add a second honey super, we were shocked to find the first one so full! They had this jam packed with honey and the brood box was also full! We knew it was time to set on this second box. We chose to put the empty box in the middle and the full box on the top. Less travel for the bees and easier for extracting later.

We came back to check things out, 3 weeks later and to our surprise the second honey super was FULL as well! When this happens early enough in the year, it gives you hope that you may get 2 extractions this year. As of right now, the goldenrod has JUST started to bloom.

Goldenrod is the last big flower that blooms in the late summer, that the bees collect from. Typically goldenrod has a darker brown color to it. A lot of beekeepers, including ourselves, like to harvest the first round before the goldenrod round. It’s fun to compare the 2 flavors.

Different Flavors?

Did you know not all fresh honey has the same taste? You could try multiple different harvests and I bet they all taste different! It depends on the flowers that are in the area of the hive. Some can taste like apples, if there are apple trees. Some is sweeter then others. Which is why when goldenrod comes out, if we harvest again, we like to keep it separate.

How Do You Harvest?

Harvesting is SO fun! I think it’s my favorite part of the summer! This is the part where the bees can get kind of angry. There are ways to keep them calm, most common would be to smoke them. There is a little smoker tool you use, send a couple puffs into the hive and watch them chill out. This step is not necessary, but they can get angry as you tear them all apart.

You can take as much and as little honey as you prefer. We took a total of 9 frame I believe out of 16. There was plenty more to take, but in case we don’t have a super great fall, we don’t want to take too much of their honey. They still need this to survive through the winter. All together we got 8 pints and 2 quarts worth of honey, that’s more then we expected out of those 9 frames!

When you remove the full honey frames, you want to uncap the honey. There are again many ways to do this. We chose to use a hot knife, to save some of the comb so they don’t have to rebuild all that comb again. Them having to rebuild comb, sets them back from honey making. This way now they just need to clean up the frames and get back to making honey.

Once we have uncapped all the frames, we set them in the extractor and start spinning! They make quite a few different styles of these, we have a 3 frame, that fits all frame sizes, but it is a manual turning one. They make powered ones now and they make some that fit more frames. This is our first year having our own and it was really fun having it! It turns so smooth and the honey dripped down the sides nicely!

While the frames are in the extractor and you are spinning it, all the honey flies out and hits the side of the barrel. The honey then drips down the sides and into the bottom. There is a valve on the bottom you open to let the honey drip out and into your bucket.

When the honey drips out of the barrel, you will want to strain it. You get some bee body parts in there sometimes or some honey comb. Using a strainer bowl or a cheesecloth, over the top of your bucket and let the extractor drain into your bucket. You can strain this once again if you feel, but as long as there is no bee body parts, you are good to go. Some honey comb wont hurt you any.

Last and Final Step

Once you have your honey strained to your liking, you can jar it up. Yes, really, that is all there is to it! Pour your honey into your jars, screw on the lids and wash up the outside of the jar! Viola, honey is ready to be shared. Honey has a shelf life of infinite years, as long as it doesn’t get any bacteria in it. Store in a cool dark place for many years!

2023 August Harvest

Thanks for reading along this far! I hope you learned something and/or enjoyed everything here. I always feel there is so much more to say, but not sure what! Drop any comments or questions in the comment section! I love reading them!! We are now starting to think about winter, keep us in mind as fall starts rolling in (sadly, sooner then later). Stay tuned!!

Much Love & Honey,
The Beekeeper and His Lady
Mark & Megan

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