Honey Extraction and Bottling

I have extracted the honey in the supers from my colonies. In all there were 12 supers but most were around half full, at least the majority were capped off. About 8 were uncapped and I didn’t extract these as the water content might lead to fermentation problems later with the bottled honey (don’t ask me how I know this!). I checked the water content with a refractometer and it gave a reading of 18.25 to 18.5 which is what I was after. This also means the honey will be ideal for creaming (more in a future post).

To uncap the honey I resorted to suing my uncapping knife which as it’s heated made short work of the job, but is a bit messy. I did try using a heat gun on some of the frames but the results were a bit patchy and there was quite a bit of honey left in these frames after spinning. The advantage of the heat gun method is that it’s a lot less messy and should be quicker. However, past experience shows that it only really works with frames that haven’t been previously extracted.

In all I managed to get around 75Kgs which is about 50% of what I had expected earlier in the season. But it seems that yields across the UK are down significantly. I also produced some cut comb for the first time. Found it very easy with the comb cutter and certainly not as messy as I had envisaged it would be.

Finally after a couple of days in the settling tanks I have started to bottle some of it into 454g and 227g jars. The cut comb goes straight into containers and is topped up to 227g with some liquid honey.

I have had some new labels printed up using one of my photos and I am really pleased with the way they have turned out.

Taking off the supers – Honey Yield Down

I took the supers off today ready for extracting in a week or so. At this stage I have 12 supers but quite a few are only about half full. I find it quite difficult to estimate how much honey I will finally get – normally I’m a bit too optimistic. So my guess would be around 200lbs. Last year I was a bit careless in bottling honey that had a water content of around 23% and it started to ferment within about 3 months. So this year I will be a bit more rigorous and ensure that I’m at 19% – 20% to avoid post bottling issues.

I removed the supers using either Porter type escapes or my clearer board with some “Bee-Quick” sprayed on it. The clearer board works really well if it’s reasonably warm but as is often the case in the UK the temperature isn’t hot enough and the bees are still evident in the supers.


Overall I would say the honey yield is about 50% of what I would have expected from the colonies I have been managing. Talking to other beekeepers it appears my experience is typical. I notice that the BBC is also saying honey yields across the UK are at about 50% of the average. http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/science-environment-19521845

This year I will also produce some cut comb and have taken off 1 super of unwired combs. Fortunately I marked the frames so know which ones to use the comb cutter on.


Collecting Swarms

I had 2 swarm calls on the same day this week – I guess as the weather had turned nice the bees decided to take off. Both of them were within 600m of each other so I thought that there were likely castes from the same colony. How wrong; both full size swarms – one with amber coloured bees and the other very dark. The first one was very easy to get to – only about 1.6m off the ground in a small conifer. Shook them into a cardboard box and dumped them into my nuc box, which was on the ground. Within 5 minutes the remaining bees found the entrance and were using it. A bit of a panic with the second swarm as I didn’t have a box ready, but made up some frames and went off to collect the second swarm a few hours later. It was in the grounds of Woodlands Park Hotel near my River Mole apiary site. Again very easy to get to, about 2m off the ground in a small tree. Repeated the process of shaking the bees into a cardboard box and tipped into the hive. Came back in the evening and collected both and fed them when I put them onto stands in my home apiary.

Next day bees were flying from both and within a day were bring back pollen.

Decided to inspect today which is 4 days after collecting them. The first swarm had drawn 3 of the 4 frames in the nuc and there were eggs in 2 of the frames and a nice looking queen. Quite a bit of pollen had been collected. The second swarm had drawn 5 of the 6 frames in the full size box and I spotted the queen. It looked as though she had been out on a mating flight as there was the orange coloured remains of the “mating sign”. This is the first time I have seen this and wished I had my camera with me. Anyway no eggs yet but beautifully amber coloured bees.

Swarming and Prevention with Clipped Queen

I inspected one of my colonies on Saturday late afternoon and found a number of queen cells – 2 sealed, 4 unsealed and 5 with eggs in them. The queen cells had been raised in the 5 day period since my last inspection. The queen was still present and there were 3 frames of brood with quite a few eggs. A bit of a surprise as this was a nucleus colony set up a few weeks ago when the parent colony showed signs of swarming. I had hoped that by setting up a nuc with the old queen they would stop wanting to swarm. The queen is 2 years old, but the number of queen cells doesn’t indicate it would be a supersedure process.

Swarm over the front of hive

Getting Ready To Leave

With the queen still present and being unprepared I decided to leave for a day and go back in on Sunday to take out the queen and bank her.

Well the bees decided not to wait and had tried to swarm. The front of the hive was covered with bees and quite a few were on the floor. But fortunately for me I now clip all my queens and so the swarm was without a flying queen and didn’t take off. The clipped queen was on the floor surrounded by a few bees, so I picked her up and put into a Butler cage and banked her on top of one of the other colonies.

Clipped Queen on Floor

Clipped and marked queen on floor in front of hive

The bees gave up on the swarming activity, well at least for now, and within half an hour had gone back into the hive.

I will need to go back in a couple of days and reduce to just one queen cell.

Queen Rearing – Wilson Technique

Split Board made from solid floor

Split board with two entrances

One of my colonies has reached the stage where I expect it might begin its own swarming activities if I don’t intervene. The colony, Aqua, was on a double brood box with 12 frames of brood and 1 super. So I decided to carry out a variation of the Wilson technique (see for the full description).
The only extra piece of equipment I need at this stage is the solid floor that I have modified to act as a split board. The photo on the right shows the 2 slots covered with mesh and the entrance cut into the back of the floor with the normal entrance block narrowed down slightly. This technique is similar to one using a Snelgrove board, but it’s simpler with less manipulations required.

Modified brood box

Queen raiser box with division board

The brood box for the queen raiser portion has also been modified so that it can be split into two halves if a division board is inserted enabling me to raise 2 nucleus size colonies (my current plan).The split board and the modified brood box can be clipped together with toggle clamps to make subsequent inspections of the parent colony easier. I can just lift the queen raiser box and floor off in one go.




Wilson - Day 1 a.m.

1st manipulation on Day 1

Manipulation 1 – On Sunday a.m. 13th May – I split the colony up as follows:
1) Queen raiser – 8 frames of brood with as much unsealed brood as possible. 2 frames of drawn comb “filled” with syrup and placed at each end.
2) Parent colony – 4 frames of brood, 6 frames of stores and drawn comb
I built the colony up as follows: the parent colony (with the queen) on the existing floor, queen excluder, queen raiser, super.

The purpose of this manipulation is to get as many bees as possible to cover the brood in the upper box as this will become the queen rearing one.



Wilson - Day 1 p.m.

2nd manipulation with queen raiser on floor


Manipulation 2 – On Sunday p.m. 13th May – I swapped the positions of the 2 brood boxes around and replaced the queen excluder with the split board. The bees without the queen should start to raise queen cells from the eggs and larvae. The top box with the queen is now on the split board with the 2 side entrances open. The majority of the flying bees from the queen-right top box will return back to the original entrance and boost the queen raiser colony.





I will inspect the colony in a week to check that the queen is continuing to lay and that the queen raiser has built queen cells. I only need to perform one further manipulation in 10 days time before the queens emerge in the queen raiser. I will split the box into 2 halves with the division board and take out any excess queen cells leaving just one sealed cell in each half.

So as you can see it’s a fairly easy technique to use to raise one or two queens with no interruption to the colony’s foraging activities.

Apidea – Trials and Tribulations

My endeavours with queen rearing in the two Apideas doesn’t seem to be working out.

Eggs laid by a worker

Drone Laying Worker

They have drawn the frames out very well and seem to have enough stores. The apidea with a ripe queen cell seems to have hatched out but I can’t see any sign of the queen and it’s probably too soon for her to be mated and laying eggs. So given presence of multiple eggs in the cells I can only assume that it’s a drone laying worker rather than a normal queen. I’ve never seen so many eggs in individual cells.

The apidea that had a laying queen in it for a day has developed a nice looking queen cell. Not sure whether I will get a viable queen but decided to leave it and see what happens. Hopefully the weather will improve for her to stand a chance of getting mated.
Apidea Raising Its Own Queen Cell

Queen cell built by bees in the Apidea

Swarm Control – Using a Modified Snelgrove Board Part 3

I managed to dodge the showers to complete the last stage of the swarm control activity with the modified Snelgrove board I started 10 days ago.

I inspected the queen raiser brood box and found six capped queen cells, of which three were reasonably sized. So kept one, cut out two others for the apideas and discarded the remainder. Didn’t take long and so the bees didn’t get chilled.

I had opened the entrances on the apideas this morning so it was fairly straightforward to put the sealed queen cells in. However, I obtained a laying queen from somebody uniting two small colonies and put this into one of the apideas instead of the queen cell. I used a Butler cage to introduce the queen in. Not sure how long the queen will tolerate the small mini nuc, so will need to think about setting up a proper nuc when the weather improves.

The other colony at the Mole apiary site had started a new batch of queen cells. With the weather being poor I decided to take the queen out with 3 frames of brood and stores plus bees shaken from one additional comb into a nuc and bring it home. As the bees don’t have much stores I put a contact feeder on. I will have to inspect the parent colony in nine-ten days to select a queen cell. I guess if the apideas don’t succeed with the current queen and queen cell then I will have some more queen cells to use.

Swarm Control – Using a Modified Snelgrove Board Part 2

The split seems to be doing well. The colony looks to be balanced with more bees in the queen rearing half. This is to be expected as the flying bees are returning to this colony. Both entrances are being used.

  1. There are no queen cells in the lower parent, didn’t spot the queen but there were about 3 frames of eggs out of the 6 brood frames.
  2. In the queen raiser half there were about 6 unsealed queen cells, none on the frame I gave them from the lower box. I will go back in 3 days to select one cell to remain and take 2 for my apideas.

The apidea frames that I put into the super hadn’t been drawn any further than when I visited on Tuesday. So I just took them out and stocked the apideas with bees from the other 2 colonies. As I hadn’t added any feed I was able to use the bottom slide and it’s certainly easier than trying to get them in past the frames and push the lid on quickly.

I brought the apideas home and fed with syrup. Normally I find this to be very messy and lose a lot of bees taking the lid and cover off. But this time I drilled a small 4mm hole in the acrylic cover and used a syringe to squirt the syrup into the feeder. Certainly a lot easier than my past experiences. Finally I sprayed some water in through the front grill and put in a quiet spot to acclimatise and hopefully draw out the wax in the next few days.

Swarm Control – Using a Modified Snelgrove Board

My largest colony is on two 14 x 12 brood boxes and at the week-end showed signs of swarming with a number of charged queen cells and 2 additional ones with eggs in. The colony has plenty of space but as it is very big , 13 frames of brood, it seems to have decided to make preparations for swarming. Not being prepared I went back 2 days later to perform a split with a modified Snelgrove board. The technique was described by Ken Basterfield in Beecraft (April 2012).

It’s similar to the technique I normally use to raise 2 nucs above a brood box in a single stack system, but looks simpler and involves less manipulations. My usual split board is a solid floor with 2 entrances on opposite sides of the same face. So I made up a new Snelgrove type split board by cutting 2 entrances on opposite edges of a crownboard with one on the upper side and the other on the lower side. I then covered the porter escape slots with wire mesh on both faces.

Modified Split Board

Modified Crownboard

At the last inspection I used a queen excluder to confine the queen to the bottom box. Fist step was to take off the super and the top brood box and set to one side. I found the queen and put her in a clip cage whilst I went through the bottom box. The bottom box and floor were turned through 180 degrees and the entrance block closed off. I shook the bees off the frames to make sure I didn’t miss any queen cells knocking down the queen cells the bees had started in the last 48 hours since my last inspection – 3 charged ones and 2 with eggs in. I took a frames with mainly eggs from the bottom box and swapped this with a frame of stores from the top brood box. The modified split board came next with the upper entrance open for the top brood box in the same orientation as the original lower entrance. The entrance at the rear was opened up for the lower brood box.

The theory being the flying bees from the lower box will return to the front of the hive where the old entrance was and crawl up to the new entrance boosting the bees in the top box. This is different from most other methods using a split board as they normally ensure that the flying bees return to the parent colony, i.e. bottom box. But as the 2 brood boxes have a similar amount of brood combs it means that they should both be strong enough to rear the brood and the foragers can still access the super above the top box.

The frames with the open queen cells could have been moved into the top box, but as I had shaken them I decided to let the bees draw their own queen cells from one of the existing brood frames or even from the transferred frames of eggs and larvae.

I will inspect in 5 days to select just one queen cell for the top brood box and if there are any spare ones transfer them to Apideas. It will also give me a chance to inspect the lower box and check that it has no queen cells and enough bees. If there aren’t enough bees in the bottom box I can reverse the split board and boost it with the flying bees from the top box. The bees had started to draw the comb on the Apidea frames that I mounted on a top bar and put into the super at the week-end.

It will be interesting to see how the technique works.

Reigate Beekeepers Auction 2012

The auction for bees and beekeeping equipment was held on 31st March at the club’s apiary site in Mickleham. Once again the weather held fine and we had a good turn out. Paynes Beekeeping also had a stand selling new stuff and seemed to do a reasonable trade during the day.

With around 130 lots there was certainly a lot to get through. Highlights were the bees as usual with the 2 full size colonies fetching £180 and £200 which I thought was quite reasonable when compared to bee breeders asking for £130-£150 for a nuc.

Other items sold included:

  1. 2 x national supers – £16
  2. Observation hive, nicely made – £62
  3. Complete National hive including brood box and 2 supers – £65
  4. New National brood box, assembled – £24
  5. Manual extractors – 3 sold for £50 – £75

Once again I struggled to auction off the Dadant equipment and ended up only getting £10 for about 5 old hives.

Not many unsold lots and these tended to be for equipment in very poor condition. I have to say that on the whole I think the buyers got items quite cheaply.