That Time We Remembered That We Have Bees

BeesSo, we keep bees… something I have yet to talk about here. Truthfully, we haven’t been the most successful beekepers. Honestly, don’t ask me for beekeeping advice. We read all of the books, watched all of the videos… we got bubkes. (Side Note: My toddler is now jumping up and down screaming “BUBKES!” at the top of her lungs and laughing hysterically.)

We’ve had 3 hives in 2 states in the last 5 years. Fun, right? We’ve experienced colony collapse, we once had an entire hive up and disappear literally overnight, and over a year ago, we thought we lost our 3rd hive to a particularly cold winter (at least in my part of the world… many others would find that description hysterical). After – we thought – losing our last hive to cold weather, we kind of gave up. Frustrated, we decided it just wasn’t our calling right now. We thought maybe we’d give it another go in the future. So imagine our surprise when a few months ago we realized there were bees in that there hive. (Say that last part in your best ‘Deliverance‘ voice.) Imagine our even greater surprise when we realized this past weekend that, despite more than a year of neglect, there weren’t just some bees… that hive was overflowing, and was building comb outside of the hive. Comb that was full of honey! I totally did a Mom Dance in my front yard.

We decided we needed to take a closer look.

We got the smoker ready, grabbed the hive tool, and headed over. I’ve never seen that many bees in a hive. I don’t know how that many bees fit in a hive. So. Many. Bees. Comb everywhere. Honey everywhere.  I might have happy squealed. Then I grabbed the queen excluder and 2 honey supers. Hey, I felt optimistic.

If you aren’t familiar with a honey bee set-up, here’s the basics. You have a bottom board – kind of the floor of the hive – on top of which you have deep square box frames with no to or bottom which hold deep frames on which the bees draw out comb. This is the main part of the hive. They use these deep hive bodies both for brood (baby bees) and for honey and pollen (food). During most of the year, this is it. You add an inner cover and an outer cover on top, and call it good.

During the late spring and summer and sometimes into early fall, you theoretically add a queen excluder and honey supers.  To do this, you remove both of the covers on top of the hive, and first add the queen excluder. This is basically a screen which prevents the queen from being able to access the frames of the honey supers. This means she can’t lay eggs in those frames, so that you don’t have baby bees in your honey. On top of the excluder, you add the honey supers. These are shallow square box frames which hold shallow frames. The worker bees use these for honey. Bees are incredibly methodical and logical, so they won’t touch these frames until they’ve filled the frames below in the deep hive bodies. Thus, these frames are their ‘extra’ honey… their stockpile. They’re like nature’s little doomsday survivalists. This is the only honey you take. You do not take the honey from the hive body, because you love those little bees, and you want to try to help them stay alive.

So, we have 2 supers on. How long it will take to fill them depends on way to many factors for me to want to try to estimate it, but we’ll check them every week or two, and then we’ll harvest when they’re full. If we’re lucky, we could potentially get multiple harvests this year. *squee!*

I’ll keep y’all updated… and next time I’ll take pictures.

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