Where I am, with high capacity and high quality honey harvesting and bottling equipment and supplies, keeping twenty hives is easier, takes less time, and is more lucrative than keeping four hives with low capacity and low quality equipment and supplies. Buy once, buy right.
Fundamentally, pulling honey is identifying the supers that have cured honey, getting bees out of those supers, moving those supers to the extracting area, and decapping, extracting, and bottling the honey. Making each of those steps as amusing and painless as practical is important.
Identifying the supers that have cured honey is, for me, mostly about identifying the supers that don’t have cured honey. The afternoon before the pull, smoke each hive to be checked and any nearby hives, pop the cover, smoke ‘em a little from the top and wait a few moments. Loosen the top box; feel its weight; if it’s heavy enough, pull a frame from the middle and one or two nearer a side; glance down into the super at the comb on the frames still in the super on either side of the pulled frames.
In my hives, if the top boxes are full and capped, the lower supers above the queen excluder are ready. Smoke the bees down, put any supers from the top that aren’t ready to extract above queen excluder (that is, above the brood and food chamber), put a bee escape board on, put the boxes with cured honey above the escape board, put the inner and outer covers back on, proceed to the next hive till done, and leave ‘em overnight. As you pull away, glance back to see the outer cover that you left off and the frame grabber and hive tool that you forgot. Hopefully, we stop by the gas station and top off the truck’s tank so we don’t have to do it with the honey supers and associated bee stragglers the next day.
Last edited by Riverderwent; 11-05-2019 at 10:33 AM.
Ideally, the next morning we wear double pants. (Bees like it when you are in their hive two days in a row and take boxes full of their preciously gathered honey.) We grab commercial aluminum bun/baking pans just larger than our medium bee boxes. We use five of these as bases on which to stack the supers in the back of the truck and a couple as temporary covers to keep bees out of the supers as we stack them. We take five outer covers to cover the stacks once they’re topped out. We take a (hopefully) well tuned Husqvarna leaf blower with a full tank of fresh pre-mixed, “canned” gas. We bring a smoker, smoker fuel, a propane torch with an automatic igniter, hive tools, bee brushes, BeeQuick and fume board (just in case), a couple of sodas, and ibuprofen. The smoker and the blower are kept away from each other in the back of the truck, even when the smoker’s not lit. Ideally, we dress out with cuff straps, jacket and veil, and have our gloves at hand before we head to the bee yard so we know we didn’t forget them and so we can park the truck close to the hives and shorten the distance we have to haul the supers. We try not to bring things that we don’t need.
At the bee yard, we leave the keys in the truck ignition, light the smoker, and smoke all the hives before cranking up the leaf blower. We pull the supers quickly, blow off stragglers and cover the stacked supers with bun pans as we go. When stacks are topped off, we replace the top pans with outer covers, grab the bee escapes, double check that the covers are back on the hives and the tools are in the truck, and roll to the next yard.
On the way back to the shop/Honey House, we text the ladies who comprise the bottling, marketing, and canteen departments of this vast enterprise. We back up close to the shop, fire up the blower to remove stragglers from the supers, stack the boxes inside, shut the doors, spray around the outside of the door with BeeQuick, move the decapping, extracting, and bottling equipment into place, change out of protective garb, and eat lunch.
Last edited by Riverderwent; 11-05-2019 at 06:22 PM.
I want frugal bees that winter well with small clusters. I don’t want to feed them in the fall to artificially cause them to produce more brood going in to winter. In order for Varroa to reproduce, they need their host bees to reproduce. If there is little or no bee brood going in to winter, then there is little or no opportunity for Varroa mites to breed. (There may also be a detrimental effect on the phoretic female mites caused by overcrowding in the few cells available for breeding.) This causes the mite population to decline as the older mites die off, hopefully (and over time due to natural selection, necessarily), at rates exceeding the rates at which the bees die off. Natural selection rewards colonies with frugal winter bees that outlive the phoretic winter mites.