A Year in the Bee Yards- Part II
Summer & Fall


A Year in the Bee Yards - Summer & Fall - Ever wonder how honey is made by the honeybees, what a beekeeper actually does - Here is a month by month pictorial of how we do it at Honeyflow Farm Spring - Late winter feeding, installing breeder queens, raising new queens and making spring splits.


 June Supering - Adding extracting and comb honey supers!


In June we start putting supers on the bees so they have room to fill them with honey. The second round will be done in early July. This month we checked each hive to see if our new "splits" were sucessfull by checking for the presence of a queen (looking for eggs). Most colonies need 1 - 2 honey supers at this time.


The above left picture shows 2 hives with regular extracting supers on them. These supers are used for many years and the comb is re-used. (The supers marked "drone" are filled with drone comb that I separate and use for honey producting only. This is a mite control technique.)



The above right picture are comb honey supers ready to go on a colony. These combs are very fragile and will produce the comb honey that you spread on your toast. The picture to your left shows two comb honey supers on a strong colony that is cooling itself by partially clustring outside their front door.

We also pick one bee yard to use for comb honey. To produce comb honey you need very strong colonies. I remove any extra regular extracting supers from the colony, put a queen excluder (a special frame that the worker bees can pass through but the queen cannot) and then 1 -2 comb honey supers. Comb honey supers are slightly different as the foundation (sheet of was that is used to start the frame) is much thinner since it is used only one time and then it is cut out for us to eat.





July Supering - Starting to take off comb honey!

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We start to take off comb honey in july and usually continue every two weeks until Mid September. By now the honeybees have stretched and added beeswax to the combs we have inserted and have filled them with honey. Each hive is checked, new supers are added and full ones are taken off. The honey supers are pried up and laid on their side on top of an outer cover. The honeybees are "blown" out of the comb honey super with a gas operated blower.

The comb honey supers are brought to our extracting room for processing. They are cut into 4 inch squares, wrapped in plastic wrap and put into plastic boxes. Each frame can produce 4 sections, and there are 10 frames in each super. Comb honey is really unique, there is absolutely no heat involved in the packaging. This is truly "Nature's Candy."


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Star Thistle (above two pictures) and Sweet Clover (below pictures) are some of the main summer honey crops in our area. They bloom all summer long. Golden Rod (pictures below) is one of the main Fall honey crops. The honeybees bring this sweet nectar back to the hives and concentrate it into honey.
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Putting honey supers on in July involves a lot of carrying boxes around. Adding the supers will give the honeybees a lot of room for them to store honey in. This is the last supering that I do before we start to harvest the honey in Mid August. The colonies can become quite tall at this time of the year, sometimes I need an extra box or two to stand on to reach the top. Occasionally they can become unstable and when I return in the fall I find some that the wind has blown over. Sometimes there is 200 to 300 lbs. of surplus honey on some of these large colonies. They are not always that strong, if I can average 100 lbs per colony I figure I am having a good year.


Here is a picture of my new trailer, It really works great for hauling large amounts of honey supers to the bee yards. (Since I don't have new baby pictures, I thought I would show you my new trailer pictures)




When the goldenrod start to bloom in September signals that the harvest will start soon. Golden rod will bloom all the way until we get a heavy frost in October and is a very good honey crop. It makes a strong flavored honey. Sometimes the smell of the nectar is VERY noticeable when walking in front of the colonies.




The tall colonies in the picture on the left a ready to harvest. This picture shows one colony ready to tip over from the heavy weight.


The honey is taken off from the top. The cover is removed and a "different cover" with a "bee repellant" is put on top for a few minutes. Most of the bees will go down below. The supers are removed, set on their sides on the ground, and the remaining bees are "blown" off with the "bee blower." (shown above) This is very similar to how we remove comb honey.


The honey supers are then loaded into my favorite red trailer an hauled back to my extracting barn. Each frame is then removed and run through an "uncapper." This cuts the side of the cells off the heavy frame of honey so it can be removed.



These pictures show a frame being un-capped. The areas of the frame that the uncapping knife misses are done by using a hand tool.
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extracting extractor
The frames are then loaded into the extractor. The extractor can hold 33 - 9.5 inch frames or 66 - 6.5 inch frames. The extractor is a centrufuge and will spin the frames at three different speed for about 30 to 40 minutes.
Here is a frame after the honey has been extracted. It will be put back into a super and put into storage to be re-used next year. They are very valuable.



After the honey is spun out of the frames it goes into a settling tank where much or the wax "floats" out. It is then pumped into this 1000 lb tank. This is were we fill barrels and pails from.

The finished product!   
Pails, glass jars or plastic honeybears are available at our roadside market in September and are always available from our e-commerce honey and candle shop.
Click here if you wish to visit our e-commerce store.
The final thing that we do to the honeybee hives in very late fall is to wrap them with some insulation to help them survive the winter. When we took the honey off last fall we left a 16 x 20 inch piece of 1/2 inch insulation on top of the bees, below the outer cover. Now I finally get around to finish the job of applying a special black plastic insulating wrap around each colony in about 1/2 of our bee yards. This gives the bees just a little more protection in case we have a really cold winter.
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The picture on the left shows the beehive with the top and inner cover off. You can see the very top of the winter cluster. (The white stuff is a wintergreen/grease/sugar mixture used to reduce varroa mites) Picture the winter cluster as a round ball with just the top of it showing. The picture at the right is a close up of the same bees.


Many people ask me if the honeybees "hibernate" in the winter. THE DO NOT!  The bees will create a "cluster" inside the hive and keep warm with their body heat by consuming honey. The air on the outside of the cluster may be very cold but in the center it may be 80 degrees.


Wrapping our colonies is usually the last thing that I do to the bees this season. At this point the honeybees are healthy and warm, our crop is harvested, stored in barrels in the barn, and our family is busy with the Christmas Season and preparing for an exciting new year!


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