Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Honey Supers in Storage

The honey bee is the only insect in the temperate region that stays alive and active throughout the year. The honey bee evolved this survival strategy of using the colony’s work force to produce enough high-energy food during the warm seasons to feed the colony during cold weather. The honey bee’s winter-time food is, of course, honey. In nature, the honey is generally stored in honey comb in the upper portion of the colony’s nest. In modern bee hives, the honey is stored around the brood nest and in boxes called honey supers, which are stacked on the top of the brood nest boxes. The prudent beekeeper removes honey in excess of the colony’s needs by removing the honey supers. The honey, which is contained in frames of honey comb, is uncapped, extracted, strained, and bottled or stored. The empty supers and frames are cleaned and stored over winter to be returned to the bee hives in the spring. Protecting the delicate beeswax honey comb in the frames is of great importance to the beekeeping operation. It takes the bees considerable time and resources of honey to draw out the cells of beeswax honey comb to hold the year’s honey crop, often a year’s effort. Placing frames of empty, drawn honey comb above the brood nest in the spring stimulates the bees’ hording behavior and encourages them to gather nectar and produce honey. With drawn comb in place, the bees can rapidly fill the frames with honey.

While storing the supers of drawn honey comb over winter, the beekeeper must protect the frames from damage from wax moths, bee hive scavengers that eat protein in the combs from pollen, bee bread, and pupae cocoons. Since the wax moths do not eat pure beeswax alone, clean frames from honey supers can often be safely stored in an unheated area in a manner that allows air to circulate freely. These frames contain very little protein to attract the moths.

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