Thursday, September 9, 2010

Harvesting Honey

It is honey harvest time, and there are many ways to accomplish the removal of the honey from the hives. When deciding upon a particular method to use, the beekeeper should consider the time available, amount of labor required, and the stress placed on the bees. Stress is a concern, as honey bees under stress give off alarm pheromone which attracts small hive beetles from great distances. Small hive beetles are honey bee nest scavengers; and they often wait in one hive, even a strong one, until they receive pheromones signaling that a colony is queen-less or under stress.

All methods of removing honey from the bee hive require the beekeeper to remove the bees from the frames of honey. A common method of removing honey from the bee hive used by many beekeeping operations employs an offensive-smelling chemical placed on a fume board to drive the bees from the honey supers. This is often matched with the use of a blower to blow the bees from the frames. The method is effective, but somewhat stressful on the bees. A more gentle method that we use at Peace Bee Farm involves removing the bees, one frame at a time, using a brush. Flick the bees gently off their feet with the brush and they will fly back into the hive. Long, sweeping motions roll the bees and quickly upset them. Smoke can be used to help drive the bees down into the hive. We control the moisture in the honey by only harvesting frames that are almost completely capped with beeswax. Bee escapes fit into the oval hole in a bee hive inner cover. The bee escape can be placed under the supers; and when the bees leave the super, they cannot return. The beekeeper returns on another day to harvest the honey. However, bee escapes are only effective when the weather is cool enough for the bees to leave the supers to cluster together in the brood nest at night.

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