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I've been keeping this blog for all of my beekeeping years and I am beginning my 17th year of beekeeping in April 2022. Now there are more than 1300 posts on this blog. Please use the search bar below to search the blog for other posts on a subject in which you are interested. You can also click on the "label" at the end of a post and all posts with that label will show up. At the very bottom of this page is a list of all the labels I've used.

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I began this blog to chronicle my beekeeping experiences. I have read lots of beekeeping books, but nothing takes the place of either hands-on experience with an experienced beekeeper or good pictures of the process. I want people to have a clearer picture of what to expect in their beekeeping so I post pictures and write about my beekeeping saga here. Along the way, I've passed a number of certification levels and am now a
Master Beekeeper Enjoy with me as I learn and grow as a beekeeper.

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Tuesday, July 19, 2022

Harvesting Honey in the Dearth

Since I moved last June, I didn't harvest last year. I was in the process of moving my hives. And this year, I had only one hive out of two from the year before that was still standing when it was time to harvest honey - that was the hive that is at my daughter's house. Generally I try to harvest at the end of May, early June, instead of now in July, when the bees are in the throes of the dearth and really unhappy.

This year I was sitting at a red light and a woman crossed two lanes of traffic turning left into my lane, didn't see that the red light had caused the traffic to stop and slammed into my driver's side door (ARGHH). So given what the pandemic has done to supplies, the accident happened in April; I couldn't even get an estimate until May; the repair couldn't begin until mid June and my car was in the shop until this week. I didn't want to put honey in the trunk of a rental car so I delayed harvest until this week.

Needless to say, the bees were not happy. This was a hive we moved from Sarah's backyard to the front when she had a tree next to it cut down. I haven't opened them since the move on May 16. 

First I observed the hive for a long time from the front of the hive. The bees were very busy and active, coming and going in and out of the hive, quickly but peacefully. There was nothing unusual in their pace or the way it looked on the entry. A lot of bees flew in with honey on their back legs - about every fifth bee. The bees weren't carrying out dead bees or dead larvae. 

From observation of the front of the hive, I decided we did not have to do an inspection. The hive had a bottom box full of brood and the box above it has always been a little brood on the left side and then all honey. But it's the dearth and not a time to go deep into a hive because the bees tend to be "hangry." 

AND because it's the dearth, I put on a zip-on veil and jacket. I meant to put on gloves but forgot and when I opened the hive, I was immediately stung on my hands. The message was quite clear so I put on my gloves! On the top of the hive were about five cockroaches - not unusual in the height of summer in Atlanta. They are kept on the top by the bees and just remain their optimistic that they will get fed, I suppose, but to no avail. Roaches, earwigs, black widow spiders are all often on top of the hive and are no threat to the bees. There were also LOTS of bees. 

The top box (#4) was completely empty with every other frame drawn or partially drawn. None of the comb was being used so I removed that box. The third box had honey in about three of the frames and none of them were full. I decided to take those three frames. 

Typically in a honey harvest, you don't use the smoker because you don't want smoke to infuse your honey. But these bees were in such a bad mood that I decided that the smoker would be a definite feature of this inspection. With the help of my daughter, Sarah, I took the three frames - I actually had to take four because one of the frames was slightly cross-combed with a drawn but empty frame beside it. I took those two together in case breaking the cross comb might open honey cells. I had put this box on the hive right at the very end of the nectar flow and the bees had not been able to fill it. 

I put the three/four frames into a plastic nuc box. Then I filled the spaces we left in the third box with the drawn frames from the top box. I left the top box off of the hive and took the nuc box home to harvest. I have no photos because I recorded the whole thing. I'll have it up on YouTube and add it to this post on July 27 when I am offering my bee club a virtual hive inspection.

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