Friday, October 9, 2009

Bees Clean Up Equipment

Honey bees generally store honey in two places in the hive: adjacent to the brood along the edges of the frames and in supers above the brood nest. The honey that the bees place on the edges of brood frames is close and convenient for the bees to mix with pollen to make bee bread to be fed to the rapidly growing larvae. The honey that the bees store in the honey supers above the brood nest is available to be harvested if the beekeeper considers it a surplus. The beekeeper must estimate how much honey will be needed for the colony to consume over the upcoming winter. If the beekeeper is too greedy and removes too much of the honey, the bees will starve over the winter. The beekeeper removes the supers and extracts the honey. After the honey has been spun out of the frames, there remains a thin coating of honey that needs to be removed before the frames are stored away over the winter. A convenient way to clean the honey from the equipment is to stack it outdoors and allow the bees to collect the remaining traces of honey. In the photo we see foraging bees surrounding stacks of “wet” supers holding frames sticky with a thin coating of honey. After a day of exposure to the bees, the supers will be clean and dry and ready to store. Supers are usually stored with moth crystals to protect them from wax moth damage.

In preparation for fall set-up of a hive for winter, it is important to remove the queen excluder from the hive. If a super of honey is left as winter food above a queen excluder, it is likely that the cluster of bees will move up through the excluder and leave the queen on the lower side because her body can’t pass through. Without the cluster of bees surrounding her, the queen would die in cold weather.

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