Our first honey harvest of 2018 was a celebratory event. The bees had been very productive through late spring and early summer. Our hard working crew spent the hottest days of the summer either in bee suits or the sweltering extracting room – and still came out smiling!
There are numerous ways to take the honey supers from the hives. One big difference at Chinook Honey Company is that we use the Tip Up method.
This method works best when the weather is warm and the bees have ample flowers to forage on. The honey supers are removed from the colony and stacked on the top of the hive. Because they are exposed and there is no brood to protect, the bees soon abandon their honey to continue working either inside the hive or in the fields. In an hour or two we return, remove the few remaining bees with a leaf blower and load the supers.
Alternatively, most commercial beekeepers use fume boards to drive the bees to the bottom of the hive so that the top honey supers can be removed ‘bee free’. The fume board is an absorbent sheet which is sprayed with Butyric anhydride (butyric acid)- a permitted chemical which smells like vomit. The bad smell quickly forces the bees to abandon the supers. The difficulty is that if the fume board is left on too long, if the temperatures are too high or if the bityric anhydride is over applied the smell will permeate the honey and/or the bees will be forced right out of the hive for an extended period. It’s because of those risks that we don’t use it – not to mention that it’s NOT pleasant to work with.
Other methods include using ‘escape boards’ or ‘escape entrances’ which allow the bees to leave but not return. This method is handy but requires a lot of time. Also removing the frames of honey one at a time, brushing the bees off as you work, is fine if you only have a few hives. Whatever method is used, we should always be grateful for the bounty of ‘sweetness’ honey bees provide!