On Wednesday, July 29th we pulled the honey off the Dow Gardens bee hives. We used fume boards to drive the bees down out of the honey supers. This was a much calmer approach than our method of blowing them out of the supers with a leaf blower – last year’s technique. We took our haul to Dan Keane’s honey house for extraction. This was a wonderful, sticky day and we wound up with well over 200# of honey. An absolutely FULL 5-gallon pail holds about 60 lbs of honey, so we had about four 5-gallon pails that were mostly full for easier lifting.

Fume board atop the hive. Sprayed with a repellant that drives the bees down out of the honey super.

It was late when we got back so two days later we added a wet super (one that just had the honey removed) to each hive. Since the hives were now smaller, we decided that it was a good time to do a thorough inspection as well as test and treat for mites. This was NOT a smooth process.

Our fearless leader. Full supers on hive one removed, fume board on top of the middle hive.

The hive on the left is always a little bit testy for some reason, so we usually deal with that one first to get it over with. We decided to try a new technique of completely removing all but one deep box from the hive so we could see what was happening throughout. This was a good move, because the bottom box wound up having so many bees that disturbing them proved stingy (new term we coined for when a hive is just not having any of it). Dan would say, they “failed the interview.” We alternately went into the deep box we had removed and set away from the hive and that was a bit of a calmer experience. We quickly applied HopGuard 3 (it is important to know if a miticide is safe to use when honey is on the hives and if it will penetrate the brood caps or not) and put them back together with the wet super on. We then took a small break to let them settle down.

Of note: We have concluded that the hives we tend are too close together. Once you disturb one hive, it is more difficult to work the others. We will remedy this before winter.

Hives before removing honey supers.

The middle hive, we broke down the same way. Upon removing a frame, it was very obvious that there was something not right. The bees were very buzzy and running around. This is a hint that maybe they don’t have a queen. We were able to inspect the frames in the bottom box and they had no brood to speak of and the typical brood space was being filled with food. This is troubling because it means there is not a laying queen. We checked out the other box, treated for mites and got out of there. They too were troubled and stingy. We stepped away again to let them simmer down before continuing.

The hive on the right, is our luxurious hive. One that has a gentle temperament and has mothered a few other hives with the same nature. We thought for sure, this was going to be smooth sailing. Well, it would have been if we hadn’t tried to remove an old hive beetle trap from the bottom board. Bees are excellent at gluing things together and the trap was stuck. As Elly lifted the hive body, I reached in with my hive tool (expecting it to be stuck some) and tried to scrape it away. It was so stuck that it flopped back down flinging bees everywhere, causing Elly to quickly let go of the box that was tipped, and the stinging commenced! Now Elly doesn’t usually get upset when she gets stung – I am amazed by this, but it happened a lot this day and she was MAD! Her words were ‘they crossed a line’. At that point, we stepped FAR away and composed ourselves. We let the bees compose themselves as well. When we went back in, we took our time, checked for mites, treated for mites and even pulled some frames out to create a nuc. I told you, this hive is VERY forgiving. We closed them back up and continued to lick our wounds.

When things go bad on a beekeeping day, it is a bit of a blow to my personal confidence, but we reflect. What were the issues? Hive 1 is ALWAYS a bit of a problem child – we know this. Hive 2 is queenless, creating a colony in chaos. Hive 3, the disturbance was a little extreme, but they recovered quickly…still a gentle hive. The biggest issue across the board is one I haven’t mentioned. We had just cut their hive space almost in HALF! That is a lot of bees to put into a much smaller space. We hope that adding back the super space will help a bit.

When things go bad, you need something good to turn it around. My personal hives had to be relocated because my parents sold their house. After all of this chaos, we decided we needed to remove the honey from my hives to get the moving process started. That went so well, we both felt better about the day…(note, we may have worn WAY more clothing to protect ourselves for that adventure).

SHAMELESS COMMERCIAL: Soon we will have honey from the Whiting Forest bees in the Dow Gardens Gift Shop.