Unleveled hives

Transitions Are Tricky

I spent a little bit of time yesterday leveling my beehives. Why do that, you ask? Well, I’m slowly shifting from using foundation in my frames to using only foundationless frames, that’s why. And when bees build comb into thin air (and it is beautiful and perfect comb…I don’t know why we ever ever ever ever switched to using preformed, recycled beeswax as a guide) they let gravity lead them. And gravity always pulls one way…if the hive isn’t level, the comb will not be straight in relation to the hive. See? It could get quite messy.

So, as nice and “homey” as those hives look up on the unlevel hill, I had to straighten them out.

From Home Depot I bought enough cinder blocks (of various sizes) and 8′ 4×4’s to construct a platform for the colonies. I have enough room on this platform to add one more hive; and I have enough material to construct another platform. Deb’s gonna freak out when she learns we now have material enough to hold 8 hives.

I also raised the hives a little bit. This will keep the rascal mice out and the skunks and possums from disturbing the bees.

In the after-leveling picture, you’ll see a blue tarp in front of the hives…I’m killing the tall grasses that grow right in front of the boxes because I think it may be disrupting flights.

I’m transitioning all around…from using foundation to foundationless frames; from 10-frame deeps and 10-frame shallow supers to all 8-frame mediums; and from bottom-entrance hives to top-entrance hives. These transitions will take some time, but I think they all make great sense. So, once I move to top entrances, the grass won’t matter too much because the bees won’t need to reach the bottom of the hives. But, for now, I have to kill the grass and raise the boxes.

Unleveled hives

Don’t you think the raised cover below makes Tomboys (center hive) look like a little tomboy with her baseball cap tilted back? I love it. She looks like my friends do in the summertime…happy, relaxed, sweaty, worn out.

Leveled and raised hives

I’ll be glad when I get to lower the new platform a little bit. I don’t love seeing it, but I guess it’s the best alternative for now.

View from the yard of the leveled hives

Simplify

I’ve been doing a shitty job of keeping TwoHoneys updated. You’d think nothing is going on with the bees. But a lot is going on out there! And a lot is going on regarding my learning curve, Reader. It’s skyrocketing.

You know that we have one established hive; it’s the swarm hive we captured a year ago from my friend Chris and named Amazons. One other hive, a hive that originated from a package of bees we ordered, died over the winter.  This year, we installed two more packages of bees in their own hives, and those bees should do nothing but build comb and raise brood and store enough honey with which they’ll depend on to survive the winter. Those hives are named Tomboys and Girls of Summer.

The Ohio River Valley is in the thick of a honey flow, and I’ve installed three shallow supers on Amazons in which they are building beautiful comb and storing glorious-looking honey. This is the honey we’ll harvest and eat and give as gifts.

Harvesting honey, however, usually requires a honey extractor—which is an expensive piece of spinning equipment. And, as you know, I usually lean toward less equipment…I like to make and bake bread using only my hands and a cookie sheet. I’m leaning that way more and more with the bees.

So, I’ve been mulling over this extractor thing. Do I want to spend about $500 on a piece of equipment I will seldom use? Should I rent one? If I rent one, I’d have to plan when I want to extract honey, then I’ll have to drive a long way to get the extractor, and then I have to clean the thing and return it. I hate that idea. I could borrow an extractor from my friend Christy, but for some reason I hate to borrow stuff like that. And I’d still have to plan when I want to harvest, drive to get the extractor, clean it, return it, and think of some nice way to repay her, etc.

My parents are visiting us soon, and I know they are freaking excited to have some honey. And I want them to enjoy a little bit of it at the time of their visit without all the fuss of an extractor and without my having to spend a lot of time harvesting a big load of honey. It’s a bit too early to do a full-blown harvest. I want to take only a frame or two (or three or four) and get some honey from them and leave the rest alone. So, I’ve been reading and thinking.

Which brought me to a couple of quiet websites that briefly mention a honey-harvesting method called “crush and strain.” I thought, “WHAT?! I’m not about to crush all that honeycomb those bees have worked so damned hard to build because they’ll just have to do it all over again, and I’m not going to make them work their brains out for nothing.” Oh, Reader, I am sooo wrong about so many things. The more I learn, the more sense I get.

Thanks to this video over at Linda’s Bees, I have now decided to crush and strain all of our honey…some when the parents visit and the rest whenever the heck I’m ready.

No fancy, expensive, loud equipment for us. It doesn’t seem natural. I’m going rogue.