can't believe it.. honey!
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  1. #1
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    Oct 2017
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    Default can't believe it.. honey!

    Hey all,

    1st season for me and I have some basic questions about honey extraction. I just pulled off four frames of capped honey (from my one more aggressive but fortunately cranking colony). The super is fully drawn with honey but these were the most capped so I took them and replaced with empties. A few questions:

    1) Each of the four frames is fully capped with the exception of one side of the 4rth frame (see below- and sorry for the orientation, can't get them to orient correctly). It's partially capped and the rest are mostly full cells that didn't run when I held the frame upside down for 30 seconds or so. I know people use hygrometers etc to check moisture content, but I don't have one (and planning to extract tomorrow). Is the fact that it's not 'runny' enough to assume it's low enough moisture content?

    2) On the other side and rest of the frames they're fully capped- but the capping doesn't 'stick out' further than the wood, so I'm not sure how I'm going to uncap the frames with the cold uncapping knife I was planning to use. I do have one of those hair-pick looking things, but wanted to use the uncapping knife if possible and keep it neater. Any advice on how to do that?

    3) I stuck the frames in a closed chest freezer that is turned off/room temp to keep basement bugs off them. I'm planning to extract tomorrow; I assume this is ok or should I be cooling them? I figured I'd want them warm for extraction so no sense in cooling now. Yes?

    4) Finally, what happens with the other partially capped/drawn frames of honey in my super when, in the middle of July I plan to treat for Varroa? The local club here wants everyone to treat July 15 and I'm assuming the bees won't been making much honey as everything is slowing way down now. Do I remove the partially capped/drawn frames with their nectar and stick them into chest freezer until after treatment /strips off and nectar/pollen flow back on? Not really sure of the mechanics of this. Do the bees just pick up where they left off with these partially drawn frames?

    Finally- a less important question: Given that these frames aren't protruding past the wood, but still have some weight to them, how much can I expect from each frame? I was thinking somewhere in neighborhood of 4 pounds per frames but I have no clue.

    And Nancy- I did the sugar roll test today on both hives! Loved your explanation- very clear. Found 3 mites (1/100), but seems the local club still wants everyone to treat.

    Thanks,

    Brad

    1) IMG_2504.jpgIMG_2505.jpgIMG_2506.jpgIMG_2507.jpg

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  3. #2
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    Apr 2016
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    Rutland County, Vermont,USA
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    Default

    Hey congratulations I know how exciting it is to get your first honey. I am in my third year and this is the first year I have harvested any. Usually you do not Harvest any in the first year to ensure that they have plenty to get them through the winter. Do you have a strong fall flow? Are you planning on feeding them sugar water before the winter months? I am on my phone and it does not give your location but those are important questions. I could have harvested in my second year but I chose to concentrate on having them draw comb. I fed the honey back to them the second winter also and froze some for the spring because they frequently run out of food in the springtime. Fortunately they did not and I harvested those. You can do what you want but next year you might have wished that you didn't Harvest your honey. Patience pays off. If you are in a moderate climate and plan on feeding there is probably no harm in harvesting A-frame to give you a taste of your efforts. J

  4. #3
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    Apr 2016
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    Default

    Also I forgot to mention that if you have been feeding your hive it is quite likely the honey is actually sugar water. I made this mistake after my first year totally forgetting that I had fed them heavy concentrations of sugar water . I sampled a tablespoon of it and was amazed at how light and clear it was compared to the honey that I purchased from the store. It tasted pretty good too. I felt pretty stupid when I realized it was sugar water. J

  5. #4
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    Default Re: can't believe it.. honey!

    Quote Originally Posted by Fivej View Post
    Also I forgot to mention that if you have been feeding your hive it is quite likely the honey is actually sugar water. I made this mistake after my first year totally forgetting that I had fed them heavy concentrations of sugar water . I sampled a tablespoon of it and was amazed at how light and clear it was compared to the honey that I purchased from the store. It tasted pretty good too. I felt pretty stupid when I realized it was sugar water. J
    Thanks.

    No- I haven't fed them since I hived the nucs back in April. They've been bringing in gobs of pollen and filling cells with nectar so I figured it wasn't necessary after the first two weeks.

    So, now I'm confused. The bees filled up both deeps with loads of brood and stores. I added the supers once the top deep was 80% full, and they filled that with honey. Was I not supposed to do this? Wouldn't I risk a swarm (though I know this isn't common in season 1 my friend who started same day from same supplier had a swarm after 5 weeks) by not adding the super? And, currently the upper deep is mostly honey, the bottom full of brood and stores. I didn't know I wasn't supposed to take the honey from the super- I thought that was "my" honey. At least that's what the book said.

  6. #5
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    Default Re: can't believe it.. honey!

    1. A kind of rule of thumb is that honey you extract must be at a minimum 80% capped. Based on your pics, looks like you qualify. However the uncapped honey, basically, stick your finger in and see how thick it is. If it's thick and obviously close to being capped, you are good. If it is still very thin and watery, excercise caution.

    2. You will have to use the hairpicking looking thing. Don't worry, they do a fine job.

    3. Good idea protecting from bugs, but yes, when extracting, warm is good.

    4. To fully answer, depends what kind of treatment you will be using. But as a general rule you should not treat with honey on that is intended for human consumption. The honey can be removed and given back later if that's what you want to do, however it may granulate in the comb when removed. This can be avoided by storing in a deep freeze, which does not freeze the honey solid, but slows everything down, so granulation takes way longer, generally years.

    Other questions, even skinny frames will often give 4 pounds long as you can get it out.

    Quote Originally Posted by thisoldfish View Post
    So, now I'm confused. The bees filled up both deeps with loads of brood and stores. I added the supers once the top deep was 80% full, and they filled that with honey. Was I not supposed to do this? Wouldn't I risk a swarm (though I know this isn't common in season 1 my friend who started same day from same supplier had a swarm after 5 weeks) by not adding the super? And, currently the upper deep is mostly honey, the bottom full of brood and stores. I didn't know I wasn't supposed to take the honey from the super- I thought that was "my" honey. At least that's what the book said.
    Don't be confused you have done everything exactly right, and in fact are to be congratulated on having done so well in your first year.
    Yes, take the honey from the honey supers. Some people like to leave it to ensure the bees have plenty of feed, but me, I'll take it. If later they do need a feed, you can always give them some sugar syrup, which they do just fine on, long as they have pollen to get the needed vitamins, minerals, and protein from.
    You'll get differing advice about how much honey to take, much of this is because people in different areas, with different honey flow patterns, form different views on the matter based on their own experience in their area, which may differ from another area. But in my view, if you want the honey take it, just actually manage and "beekeep" your bees, take honey when you can, but check they don't go short in the lean times by giving sugar syrup if needed.
    It will take a season or two for you to get a good understanding of when the good times are, and when the lean times are, in your location.
    Last edited by Oldtimer; 07-02-2018 at 04:50 PM.
    "Every viewpoint, is a view from a point." - Solomon Parker

  7. #6
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    Mar 2016
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    Default Re: can't believe it.. honey!

    I think you've done everything right regarding filling the deeps and supering. Enjoy the rewards.

    As for uncapping, I suggest trying a heat gun if you have one. Try carefully running a heat gun over the fresh white cappings to melt them (do this outside as the wax will splatter some and can get on everything in close proximity). I used this method last year and it worked well for me on newly drawn comb. However, when I tried it on the club's older, much darker comb, it was a miserable failure. Otherwise, use the capping scratcher to open the cells for extractor spinning.

    As for the uncapped honey, shake the frame. If nectar shakes out, it's not ripe. If it doesn't it will probably be fine when mixed in with the rest of the honey. If you belong to a club, generally someone will have a moisture meter to test it for you. As for weight, I got 20 lbs from a super last year with new comb and not protruding (10 frames per super), so approximately 2-2.5 lbs per frame.

    Treatment typically occurs after all honey is harvested; i.e. supers off. Also, you should treat based on testing indicating you need to treat, not profilactically. If your tests don't indicate you need to treat, you should not treat.

  8. #7
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    Default Re: can't believe it.. honey!

    Quote Originally Posted by Gumpy View Post
    I think you've done everything right regarding filling the deeps and supering. Enjoy the rewards.

    As for uncapping, I suggest trying a heat gun if you have one. Try carefully running a heat gun over the fresh white cappings to melt them (do this outside as the wax will splatter some and can get on everything in close proximity). I used this method last year and it worked well for me on newly drawn comb. However, when I tried it on the club's older, much darker comb, it was a miserable failure. Otherwise, use the capping scratcher to open the cells for extractor spinning.

    As for the uncapped honey, shake the frame. If nectar shakes out, it's not ripe. If it doesn't it will probably be fine when mixed in with the rest of the honey. If you belong to a club, generally someone will have a moisture meter to test it for you. As for weight, I got 20 lbs from a super last year with new comb and not protruding (10 frames per super), so approximately 2-2.5 lbs per frame.

    Treatment typically occurs after all honey is harvested; i.e. supers off. Also, you should treat based on testing indicating you need to treat, not profilactically. If your tests don't indicate you need to treat, you should not treat.
    ________________
    Thanks guys. Appreciate the info and reassurance.

    I feel better reading your messages after I just talked with some local folks who insinuated that I was wrong in taking the honey that's in the super- made me feel like a bad parent! Wow.

    I simply followed my book's info and outline of the basic sequence. And, I had one of the nucs go nuts and quickly filled both deeps and now the super. I didn't expect to get any honey at all this season, and was fine with that. My goal was just for the bees to survive my horrendous 1st season of trial and error. But now, surprisingly, I have a full super. I think I was anchored in the term "surplus honey" meaning, well, surplus.

    Helpful to read your explanation above about leaving the super on vs taking some and feeding later. I had read that most people feed in the fall anyway trying to bulk the stores up for winter. Do some people leave the super on all winter as backup? I didn't think so which is why I assumed this was simply surplus and wouldn't be used by the bees. And, I can't imagine that the people put those medium supers back into the deep hive bodies, right? So, when I was told "you should leave that honey for the winter," I'm not understanding the mechanics of how to give them this honey in the winter, without leaving the super on all winter.

    I've tried hard this 1st year to learn good technique, disease mnmgt (by the way, as a human doc I agree that empiric treatment despite normal mite concentration seems fraught with error- ie the resistance issue we now have with antimicrobials- I need to learn more about this before treating). But one thing I'm definitely learning is that, like every other hobby, people have widely varying opinions.

    Again thanks for the help!

    Brad

  9. #8
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    Apr 2016
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    Default Re: can't believe it.. honey!

    Brad, you will find differing opinions on everything involving beekeeping. I would listen to local advice and plan on feeding this fall if you take the honey. Yes, people in colder climates leave the super on over 2 deeps. Keep in mind that the broodnest shrinks and the deeps will also have stored honey. Your bees are kicking butt. I would "undersuper" and let them keep going. Or, if you want the honey, extract it and put it back on the hive. J

  10. #9
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    Default Re: can't believe it.. honey!

    capping scratcher: I have three. Two are red-handled, molded things that look like a dog comb. They are night and day different. Either works great for clearing wax from the times of the other, but only one cleanly inserts into the tips of the cells for _lifting_ rather than scratching the cappings. The other's points are too dull. I need to find a way to sharpen it. The third is a machined and very nice-looking stainless steel lifter, but it also didn't work terribly well for me when I tried it. My cappings held honey at the rate of about one pound of honey per 8 frames. This will depend upon how much of the cells you take off with the cappings, but you might want to recover this rather than wash it off and _then_ melt the wax.

    I mismanaged my colonies this year, many going queen less from some cause (I look in the mirror sometimes), but I mostly made bees rather than honey. The colonies I planned for honey refused mated queens from me after going queen less. One lives and learns. I pulled 3# each from my relatively well-capped and all-cells-full medium frames. They were not "fat" cells, and were spaced at 10 frames in a 10-frame box.
    "I thought I made a mistake once, but I was wrong." (heard often from the late David Sebree) Still making them, myself

  11. #10
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    Apr 2018
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    Default Re: can't believe it.. honey!

    Quote Originally Posted by DerTiefster View Post
    capping scratcher: I have three. Two are red-handled, molded things that look like a dog comb. They are night and day different. Either works great for clearing wax from the times of the other, but only one cleanly inserts into the tips of the cells for _lifting_ rather than scratching the cappings. The other's points are too dull. I need to find a way to sharpen it. The third is a machined and very nice-looking stainless steel lifter, but it also didn't work terribly well for me when I tried it. My cappings held honey at the rate of about one pound of honey per 8 frames. This will depend upon how much of the cells you take off with the cappings, but you might want to recover this rather than wash it off and _then_ melt the wax.

    I mismanaged my colonies this year, many going queen less from some cause (I look in the mirror sometimes), but I mostly made bees rather than honey. The colonies I planned for honey refused mated queens from me after going queen less. One lives and learns. I pulled 3# each from my relatively well-capped and all-cells-full medium frames. They were not "fat" cells, and were spaced at 10 frames in a 10-frame box.
    Which capping scratcher is the one you have that works well? Where did you get it?

  12. #11
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    Apr 2018
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    Default Re: can't believe it.. honey!

    Hi Brad,

    I'm a new beek also, started with a 5 frame nuc May 26th and my hive has grown like crazy ever since. Being in suburban Long Island i had very low expectations in seeing any honey to harvest this year especially with many beeks telling me new colonies from nucs usually dont produce a surplus in the first year. I also had no idea what the flow would be like especially after missing the spring trees and flowers. Well, a surplus i have! They are almost done capping about 80% of a deep honey super and have already started to draw out comb and store nectar in a medium i added 8 days ago. One caveat though, i'm running a one brood box hive. So once my initial box with 5 nuc frames and 5 empty frames were fully drawn out i added a second deep first without an excluder since the queen had plenty of room to lay down believe. About 10 days later i added the excluder. Here we are 2 months after starting the hive and the deep super is 90% full of nectar and about 80% capped and they've immediately began working on the second (medium) super. Now like you i have to figure out how to extract and am not prepared since extraction this year wasnt on my mind. With single brood box management, you expect them to back fill with more honey has the brood making slows down in the late summer and fall and if the flow is low, feeding is recommended into the winter.

    Brad and everyone else,
    I now need a bucket with honey gate, capping scratcher, filters, tubs for wax collection and bottles. A quick look at Mann Lake and i saw they sell bottles but you have to buy a bunch of the same size. Doesnt anyone sell a mixed size batch of bottles? I want to give a decent amount away but dont want to give everyone huge bottles. I want to just give some people a taste. Where else can i look? What size bottles do you recommend, perhaps a bunch of small tasting bottles and some decent size ones?

    thanks all!

  13. #12
    Join Date
    Mar 2016
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    Default Re: can't believe it.. honey!

    Mason jars work really well for honey. Canning season is upon us all over the U.S. so you can probably find them at any of your local home improvement stores, Wal-Marts, grocery stores, and hardware stores. I recommend half pints or 4 ounce jelly jars so you can share with all your friends and family and retain the bragging rights through next year.

  14. #13
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    Default Re: can't believe it.. honey!

    'Scratcher' is a bit misleading, here's a quick video on the way to use them.

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YCk4U9xjlvg
    5 Production colonies, 1 side by side 5 frame nuc for support- 7 working queens is all I want.

  15. #14
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    Default Re: can't believe it.. honey!

    BeeDuto: Check out the youtube vid from Brushy Mtn. linked by Grins. That the tool used there looks just like my two red cappings "lifters," which I can't tell apart but for the different decorative design on the handles. They look the same. I have recently learned that one of my daughters has been occasionally using one in a hammer-like fashion (points first!) against hard surfaces. That is likely why one works better. I also just sharpened the forged tool, but haven't had a frame to uncap with it. (points bent over; same suspect.)

    I offer my observations and experience on use of this uncapping tool, for what it's worth. The Brushy Mtn. demo showed pushing the handle toward the honeycomb cells, lifting the points of the tool and pulling the cappings off the frame. However, used this way, the butt end of the tool presses against the comb and crushes the walls to some extent. There is less such pressure against the cells if the butt end of the tool is pulled away from the comb, and even less if the user actively tries to pull the whole needle region of the tool away from the comb. Sometimes when things are working smoothly and the walls are not being crushed, I'll push the tool along 1/3 of the frame before using the other copy of the same tool to dislodge the accumulated cappings from the first tool. If the wax is not "young" and soft, but is more resistant to the tool, then I only undercut the 2" or so length of the tines as in the video, but I pull the handle away rather than push it toward the frame to pry the cappings off.

    Just my 2 worth. I hope it's worthwhile.

    Michael
    "I thought I made a mistake once, but I was wrong." (heard often from the late David Sebree) Still making them, myself

  16. #15
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    Default

    Quote Originally Posted by DerTiefster View Post
    BeeDuto: Check out the youtube vid from Brushy Mtn. linked by Grins. That the tool used there looks just like my two red cappings "lifters," which I can't tell apart but for the different decorative design on the handles. They look the same. I have recently learned that one of my daughters has been occasionally using one in a hammer-like fashion (points first!) against hard surfaces. That is likely why one works better. I also just sharpened the forged tool, but haven't had a frame to uncap with it. (points bent over; same suspect.)

    I offer my observations and experience on use of this uncapping tool, for what it's worth. The Brushy Mtn. demo showed pushing the handle toward the honeycomb cells, lifting the points of the tool and pulling the cappings off the frame. However, used this way, the butt end of the tool presses against the comb and crushes the walls to some extent. There is less such pressure against the cells if the butt end of the tool is pulled away from the comb, and even less if the user actively tries to pull the whole needle region of the tool away from the comb. Sometimes when things are working smoothly and the walls are not being crushed, I'll push the tool along 1/3 of the frame before using the other copy of the same tool to dislodge the accumulated cappings from the first tool. If the wax is not "young" and soft, but is more resistant to the tool, then I only undercut the 2" or so length of the tines as in the video, but I pull the handle away rather than push it toward the frame to pry the cappings off.

    Just my 2 worth. I hope it's worthwhile.

    Michael
    Worthwhile indeed. Thanks.

    What about the roller? Ever use that? Also if the comb doesn’t extend past the frame would a cold uncapping knife be better in order to maintain the combs shape? I dont mind cutting off wax since I intend to use it anyway.

  17. #16
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    Default Re: can't believe it.. honey!

    Quote Originally Posted by Grins View Post
    'Scratcher' is a bit misleading, here's a quick video on the way to use them.

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YCk4U9xjlvg
    Thanks for the video, but how deep do you go when you 'peel' off the cappings. I did scratch them off, first year I'd used a cappings scratcher and not a knife. I'm filtering the honey as it comes out of the extractor anyway, so it filters the wax off. I try to keep the comb intact, so the bees don't have to start from scratch next year.
    Some days it's not even worth chewing through the restraints.

  18. #17
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    Default Re: can't believe it.. honey!

    Quote Originally Posted by Hogback Honey View Post
    Thanks for the video, but how deep do you go when you 'peel' off the cappings. I did scratch them off, first year I'd used a cappings scratcher and not a knife. I'm filtering the honey as it comes out of the extractor anyway, so it filters the wax off. I try to keep the comb intact, so the bees don't have to start from scratch next year.
    Yeah, it's not even peeling actually, it's lifting. The whole idea is to remove the cappings, which are very thin, and do as little damage to the comb as possible. The cappings are the equivalent of only a few sheets of paper thick so you don't need to go deep at all. As Dertiefster pointed out the video shows the general idea but the demonstrator is crushing some comb with the heel of the tines. Bees can repair any damage we do but the idea is to do as little damage as possible.
    5 Production colonies, 1 side by side 5 frame nuc for support- 7 working queens is all I want.

  19. #18
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    Default Re: can't believe it.. honey!

    What about using a Needle Roller instead? Does that do a better job at preserving the comb?

  20. #19
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    Default Re: can't believe it.. honey!

    Quote Originally Posted by BeeDuto View Post
    What about using a Needle Roller instead? Does that do a better job at preserving the comb?
    I haven't used one but the criticism I hear is that they clog with beeswax and are tough to clean. For the few bucks they cost why not give it a try and let us know what you think?
    5 Production colonies, 1 side by side 5 frame nuc for support- 7 working queens is all I want.

  21. #20
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    Just get the honey extracted, your way over thinking this. I don't leave full combs lying around without the bees protecting it. If I pull honey this time of year I work quickly (shb eggs hatch in 2-3 days) or be 100% it's shb free (freeze), otherwise why pull it. SHB can devastate honey so quickly during summer.

    A sharps chef knife and common fork is all you need. The most important thing to extraction in my opinion is hot dry room. I extract at 85-90f 35% humidity, the honey flows like water.

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