This is my third summer with bees. The first entire season is about building up the hive. I fed the bees constantly and my two hives slowly built up combed frames, lots of brood (new bees), and honey for the winter, but there was never a plan to harvest honey. Last year I really didn’t know what to expect, but I got about 36 pounds and I was excited about it.
I had higher hopes for this season, but I still only had one hive coming through the winter. I added a package (hive #2), and then caught my own swarm – what I call an automated split. The package did very well in terms of population and hive building, but the splitting of the other hive diluted the efforts of that hive to generate honey. The package and the swarm hive both started with frames of comb and honey, so that helps kick-start their efforts, but I knew harvestable honey would be scarce.
Up until two weeks ago I still had very few fully capped frames of honey (if any) despite having five honey supers on the three hives. It was looking pretty bad for harvesting, but in the last couple of weeks they managed to find a little more nectar and cap off a bunch of frames. The prior week was very hot and dry which meant that the bees were out every day, but also might have meant that nectar could be hard to come by. Maybe wishful thinking works because the last two weeks made the difference between some honey and almost none. It is not unusual to have a hive that will produce two full boxes of capped honey. Medium frames that I use for honey supers will weigh about 3 1/3 to 3 1/2 pounds per frame. Twenty frames would yield about 67 pounds of honey. Two such hives could produce over 130 pounds. Maybe one year I will get lucky, but in the meantime, I just hope that I get something every year.
I was able to extract the honey from 12 frames and got 40 pounds. Johanna and Justin came out and helped. We all suited up and everybody helped with the various jobs including taking a few pictures. No one was stung. The bees were very cooperative. We worked for about four or five hours in some hot weather, but it was satisfying to see the bucket fulling up. It has been five days and the honey is still ‘resting’ in the bucket, but I should start to think about filling jars. I don’t have enough to sell again this year, but there should be enough for holiday gifts and personal consumption. I still have three jars left from last year, so that worked out about right.
The leftover wax cappings can be given back to the bees and they will get all the remaining honey left. It only takes a few hours and the wax is pretty clean and dry and can be collected for a future use.
The rest of the season is about keeping the bees healthy and feeding a little and providing some pollen substitute patties so the queen will keep laying and go into the winter with a strong bunch of over-wintering bees.