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Hello Everyone,

The week before I pulled my honey surplus off my hives, (two weeks ago) one of our members had seen a video on the internet that showed some guy using a heat gun to remove the capping from the frame. I watched the video and thought how easy that looked so I used that method to uncap my frames. The method worked just like the guy in the video but, after uncapping twenty boxes or so, I realized that there was still some honey in the cells that I could have gotten out had I used my uncapping knife method. I finished the rest of my boxes with my uncapping knife.

What happens with the heat gun method is that when the wax cools after the heat gun passes over it, the wax seems to reseal itself over some of the cells so the honey can't spin out in the extractor. I figure I lost about 5% of surplus per frame because the cells resealed. That amount can really add up if you are extracting lots of boxes.

For those of you who know me, I am always doing some kind of experimenting on some bee project. I am curious now if the "Uncapping Plane" works as good as the uncapping knife. I see this tool in the bee magazines. If you have used that method to extract your honey surplus before, please email me and let me know how good that method works. 

Thanks, Dennis

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Bee Talk

Dennis, 

Any thoughts about collecting uncapped honey?  John

John,

 It is normal for beekeepers to think that they should not extract uncapped honey because that is what you read in most books. However, if you sit down and really think about how the bees handle nectar that is coming into the hive, the answer will become clear.

Let’s think past the general answer you read in the books and do what the bees do. When the field bee gathers the nectar from the flower, she stores it inside her honey pouch. While the nectar is there, enzymes from the bee will mix with the nectar.  When the field bee gets home, she will pass this nectar off to a house bee. The house bee takes the nectar into her honey pouch and enzymes from her will mix with the nectar. These enzymes along with moisture evaporation are what change the nectar into honey.

The house bee stores the nectar in a cell. The nectar will stay in the cell until the moisture content evaporates down to about 18%. When the moisture level reaches this magic number, the bees will seal the cell. This seal will help prevent any further moisture outside the cell from reaching the honey.

So, now we can answer the question. If the honey super has been on the hive at least three or four weeks and the bees still haven’t capped the cells over, it is probably OK to go ahead and take it for extraction. By that time the excess moisture has evaporated. Sometimes the bees don’t seal the cells because the honey flow has ended and the house bees have quit producing fresh wax. Most wax production takes place when there is a large amount of nectar coming into the hive. That stimulates the house bees wax glands. Just to be safe, you should purchase a refract meter and check the moisture content of the extracted honey. If the moisture is too high, place the open buckets in a room and raise the room temperature up to about 90 degrees for a couple of days. Then check it again.

 Dennis

  Hi Dennis,

We are second year beekeepers, and after splits and swarms are finding ourselves with four hives now. The books seem to indicate a long line of hives is not good due to "drifting." What do you think of a U formation? Is it OK to have hives with entrances facing each other? Any suggestions?   Karen

Hello Karen,

It is absolutely true. You will create a drifting problem if you line your hives up in a row right next to one another. I have always placed my hives in two’s. I place two hives in line next to each other (A foot or so apart.) facing the same direction. Then I will place two more in line but, five feet apart from the first set of two in the same direction. You could add another set of two in line five feet from the last set in the same direction. At this time I would change direction. You could begin to create a “U” shape if you like. You can add three sets of hives to create the right arm of the “U” and then three sets of hives to create the left arm of the “U”. All the hives can face the inside of the “U” or turn them 180 degrees. It doesn’t matter. Personally, I like my hives to face the inside of the “U” because I can observe all the entrances at the same time. The important thing to remember is that your hives on the arms will be ten to fifteen feet away from each other when you create your “U”. The base of the “U” has a clear path in front of it.

My hives are much easier to work when placed in two’s. I can work one hive from one side and the other hive from the other side. If you have more than two together, you will have to bend around and work the middle hive from the back. Your back can wear out pretty quickly like that.

Review:You can line your hives up but, keep two together and then two more at least five feet away from the first set. Entrance direction does not matter. Add a third set then start changing hive direction. (Don’t place more than three sets in a row.) If you want a “U” shape, move up in front of the last hive in the first row five feet and place three sets of two hives five feet apart for the left arm and three sets of two hives for the right arm. Now you have a perfect “U”.

With this configuration, drifting is never an issue.

 Hey Dennis, 

A couple of months ago my brother-in-law found some bees in an old small whiskey barrel
on his porch, and at his wife's insistence moved them to a fence corner of his and my pasture.
They have been busy, as upon closer inspection, the barrel appears full and the bees don't
have a place to go, as they are attaching themselves to the outside and workers are still flying
In to deposit their wares. Is there a way to move them to a hive?  The only entrance is thru the cork hole and for a while thru the spout hole, but I think it is closed as there is no activity around
It as previously observed. The barrel is thought to be intact.

My wife and I have attended a couple of your classes, and are still interested in beekeeping, but have not purchased hive or frames and related materials(as we have started to do, but did not do). Life has gotten in the way, as I think you put it one time. Your thoughts, suggestions, and/or solutions please.

Thank you.    Tom and Joyce Ferguson

Hello Tom,

 It is a hard job that would be made somewhat easier for someone with experience to remove bees from a barrel/house wall/eave etc. If I were you, I would find an experienced beekeeper near you to help you remove the bees and place them into a standard hive. You will be doing the bees and other nearby beekeepers a favor in doing so. When you have a hive of bees around that you cannot manage properly, the possibility of those bees becoming diseased/mites/beetles etc. is much higher. Then those bees are able to spread the problem to neighboring bees.

 It will take some work, but it is best to hive those bees in standard equipment that can be worked and monitored properly. Look on our club membership list if you need to in order to find someone near you to help.

 Dennis

 Hi Dennis, Do you check your tallow honey With a Refractometer? If it is 100% capped Is it okay?    Thanks,           Wesley

Hello Wesley,

 If the frame is 3/4 the way capped, there is no reason to think that the moisture level is too high. It should be OK to extract.

 Dennis

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 Days Gone By