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Lets Split!

What a busy time. What a busy, busy time. What, with work, kids, bees and chickens, all demanding their pound of flesh. In particular, Hive-wise, I have finished extracting for the season, and split a hive using a purchased queen cell.

Dizzy

I don’t know how helper A took this, but it is cool, and makes me feel a little dizzy.

The detail follows:

Extraction:

The new extractor works so smoothly, but it does take some of the romance out of the process.

I like honey. I really like honey.

I like honey. I really like honey.

There was nothing like the old beast dancing around the shed whilst carrying fully grown men. However, stainless is good. I love the way the honey slips down the sides so quickly, and I love the easy clean approach. The new knife is not as efficient as the old heated one, tending to leave a more ragged comb – which will take the girls a little longer to rebuild and refill. It works well after being soaked in hot water, but I also don’t want to to add water to the honey in any significant amount.

This effort led to another 50 Kg of the good stuff. I was not able to separate the two hives yields, so will call it 25 Kg per hive. When I add Dad’s hive to the mix, it adds to 170 Kg for the season. That is a significant haul. It is also a significant amount of sticky – there seems to be no way of getting the gold from the frames without ending up in a stickle. The sticky bit I hate the most is upper arm honey, from reaching into the extractor, or brushing something. It is always wise to have a bucket or two of hot water on hand, as well as some clean cloths. For anyone setting up their own honey house, I would suggest the following:

  • Plenty of water
  • bee proof entry
  • temperature control – it is best like the little bear’s porridge, not too hot, not too cold.
  • hose-able flooring – despite your best effort, the floor gets mucky

I now have buckets and buckets of honey all stacked up in the laundry. A good thing.

The honey came in different flavours, with one bucket turning out very mild, and nearly clear – possibly almost pure clover. The other buckets were golden, with a stronger flavour. I don’t yet know how to describe flavours of honey, but a wine taster would mention floral notes, oak, and other stuff. Definitely yum.

Splitting:

The following day, I received a new queen, still in her cell (like Mary, Queen of Scots?). The queen is an unhatched, unmated, virgin (hmmm, like Elizabeth I, I guess?). It was dinner time when she was delivered, in a tiny little plastic tube, and had to be kept at hive temp – Beloved gratefully kept it warm between her, well, in a convenient place, until dinner was over. I decided to split Olive hive.

Just checking the hive to find the queen.

Just checking the hive to find the queen.

Looking for the queen. She is the black and yellow one.

Looking for the queen. She is the black and yellow one.

My new hive. I did have a different base, but it is elsewhere, right on the day I needed it.

My new hive. I did have a different base, but it is elsewhere, right on the day I needed it.

I love how the bees all line up to feast on the broken cells.

I love how the bees all line up to feast on the broken cells.

I then had to find the old queen – she was not overly wanting to be found, and it took two careful sweeps of both brood boxes before I spotted her. In the meantime I caused enough disruption that even placid olive hive was getting tetchy, and managed to sting both me and D through our suits.

Helper A laughed and laughed, and then cackled 'that bee is sticking its bum in the air'.

Helper A laughed and laughed, and then cackled ‘that bee is sticking its bum in the air’.

He bailed on me just before I found the queen, so no pictures of her today. Now, I am not the most experienced beekeeper, so I did what I thought would be best, and placed the old queen box beside the queenless box – my reasoning is that some will drift back to the old box, but it will be down on numbers for some time yet. I also reason that others will smell their queen in the new site, and stay there. On the face of it, my plan is working.

Helper A was a little worried about something. He wasn't even the one being stung.

Helper A was a little worried about something. He wasn’t even the one being stung.

So, in 3 days (today or tomorrow) the new queen will hatch, be looked after by her nurses, and then go for a flight. On that flight, her pheromones will attract drones, which will then… They grow up so fast these days. I would love to be there to see the mating flight of a virgin queen, but will sadly be otherwise occupied.

This little beasty is a queen cell, just a few days off hatching out. All I had to do was slip the tube between the frames.

This little beasty is a queen cell, just a few days off hatching out. All I had to do was slip the tube between the frames.

She will then start laying eggs, and in 21 days there will be new bees, starting the cycle again. I hope that the weather holds, so the hive can be nice and strong for winter.  I also treated for mites using a different product, called apivar. We should all do our part to avoid resistance, by swapping treatments, and by treating at the same time. Eventually, with a little help in the meantime, our beloved apis mellifera may just adapt to living with mites instead of just dying out on us.

So this is what apple hive looks like normally, before she throws a giant spaz attack.

So this is what apple hive looks like normally, before she throws a giant spaz attack.

Apple Hive

I was going to add mite strips to apple hive. But didn’t. It scared me too much. Trying to open it resulted in mayhem, chaos, and an apocalyptic crescendo of aggressive psychopaths hell bent on defending the hive to the last body. I will try again soon. I kind of like that hive.

Apple Hive

Apple Hive, after I had messed with it for less than a minute. What is with these girls.

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