Over 20 beekeepers braved the heat to share ideas & learn about 4 major methods for getting bees out of honey supers without harming them: fume boards, bee escapes, leaf blowers, and the “bang and brush” method.
Above, Host Dan Maughan, LCBA’s Community Outreach Coordinator, set aside a section of his apiary – about a dozen colonies with supers ready to remove.
Below, Dan holds up a beautiful frame of capped honey, all ready for spinning:
Below, the fume board method for removing honey supers: beekeepers with lots of colonies & limited time like this method for its speed; done right, it does not harm bees. Here, LCBA Vice President Kevin Reichert demonstrates spraying “Honey Robber,” which (like Bee-Go, Honey Bandit, & related products) contains butyric anhydride (the chemical that makes vomit smell so wonderful) onto the fume board.
Below, Dan puts the fume board on top of a honey super. The heat helps distribute the odor throughout the super; the bees flee from the super & move down into the empty super below, leaving the top super bee-free for harvesting. It is normal to see bees bearding on the front of the hive till the fume board is removed (& even for a little while after). On a warm day, ten minutes should do the job – you don’t want to leave a fume board on the honey super for very long lest its odor affect your honey. Another key point: it’s a good idea, whatever method you use in removing supers, to give the bees an empty box above the full brood boxes for expansion to avoid late season swarms.
Below, Dan demonstrates spraying the almond oil alternative to "Honey Robber" on the fume board. Again, bee sparing – a little is plenty:
Below, next up – the bee escape method. Bee escapes are designed with a small metal one-way exit – the bees can squeeze through to leave, but they can’t get back in. You place them between the honey super and the top brood box or an empty super (better – see congestion issue, above), and give the bees about 2 days to work their way out. If you do this, be sure to close any other way that bees could enter the honey super (cover any inner cover notches, plug any holes). Like the fume board, this works; it requires more time and visits to the colony, though some beekeepers prefer it as a less invasive way to remove bees from supers than the chemical methods. This photo shows a small $3 bee escape insert into the hole in the inner cover:
Below, Dan shows a honey super with relatively few bees, 18 hours after inserting the bee escape:
Below, while using the bee escape board, to aid ventilation for the colony yet not let bees back into the honey super, you can flip the inner cover so that the notch faces up, then insert one of the small bee escapes into the hole in the inner cover. (The twigs are to raise the telescoping cover off the inner cover a bit, further aiding ventilation in hot weather):
Below, a nice honey frame from this super, with just a few bees after the bee escape board method:
Next up – the leaf blower method. Below, Kevin shows the group how to work the leaf blower – emphasizing that LOW speeds are best. You want to blow the bees out of the super without harming them, or scattering bees not yet at the foraging stage so far from the hive that they can’t find their way back. Also, if you are not using a queen excluder, be sure your queen is not in the box you’re blowing out. . . .
Below, Kevin deploying the leaf blower as Tim tilts the box up. Note that Kevin holds the blower close to the box & works quickly:
Below, Dan’s son Tim helping out:
Below, workshop attendees watching demonstrations:
Below, once all the methods were shown, we retreated to Dan’s covered breezeway for Q&A in a cool place:
Below, Dan demonstrated how his electric-powered honey extractor works. LCBA has three hand-cranked extractors (2 bought with club dues in 2014, one donated by President Norm Switzler) – these will be available for members to use to spin honey at our August 1 workshop in Rochester.
We also discussed methods for storing honey frames after spinning. Many beekeepers like to let the bees eat up the honey that clings to cells after spinning. This can be done by putting frames out in the bee yard – at a distance from the colonies that won’t promote robbing – the bees will clean them out within a day. Alternatively, Dan likes to number his supers and put them back on their original colonies, letting the bees that made the honey clean it out (and this minimizes any chances of transferring any possible diseases or parasites to other colonies).
Below, a refractometer is used to measure the moisture content of honey. 18.6% is the maximum moisture content allowed – higher than that & it's not true honey, & will be subject to fermentation and crystallization. Below are the tools needed: honey, distilled water to clean the electronic eye of the refractometer, tissues, and droppers or toothpicks to put honey on the electronic eye:
Below, the refractometer reads the moisture content. The photos taken at Dan’s didn’t come out because it was dark and cool in the breezeway, so these photos were taken later. Dan’s honeys came out at 16.2, 16.5, and 16.7% moisture; Susanne’s & Peter’s, here pictured, came out at 17.5%. Members can use this club refractometer to test their honey’s moisture content at our August 1 honey spinning workshop; we’ll also have it on hand at the Fair for demonstrations:
Below, LCBA member Steve Arnold & son Ryan checking out a 9-frame spacer, useful for keeping honey frames just far enough apart that the bees can build the cells out beyond the wood of the frame itself – a big help at uncapping time!
Above & below: before you take the honey supers off, assess whether the frames are ready for spinning. Here Dan shows a frame whose honey is largely uncapped. Spinning a frame with lots of uncapped honey means that the “shake” nectar, not yet dehydrated by the bees enough for capping, will make your honey too moist & subject to fermentation & crystallizing.
Below, closeup of a great frame of capped honey:
Below, this close-up shows the appropriate amount to spray on the fabric of the fume board – a little REALLY goes a long way here….do not get this stuff on your clothing, or your family may require you to strip before re-entering your home. Also, Kevin notes, if you do get Honey Robber or similar chemicals on your clothing, do not, repeat, do NOT, put it through the laundry with other clothes. (Don’t ask Kevin how he knows this....)
Below, though the active ingredient in Honey Robber doesn’t harm bees unless grossly over-used, some beekeepers prefer less noxious odors. Here Dan discusses spraying almond oil on a fume board:
Below, Dan holds up a relatively bee-free super, post fume board application. Not all the bees had left – the shade was on this part of Dan’s apiary, and for the fume board approach to work well, direct sun is key:
Below, Dan handed this box off to his helper, son Tim, for the “bang & brush” method (see later in this slideshow) to remove the rest of the bees:
Below,a bee escape board employs the same one-way exit principle as the inner cover insert, but through about a dozen conical escapes:
Below, the bee escape board is placed on top of the brood box or an empty honey super - here it is from above, with the conical escapes venting down. The honey super you want to remove bees from is placed on top. The gully in the middle of the box is where the holes into the bee escapes are:
Below, here is the honey super with relatively few bees after the bee escape process:
Below, 9 honey frames in a Sterilite lock-down box for safe keeping till the honey spinning, removed after the bee escape was deployed. It's important to store frames or supers in lock-tight boxes or heavy duty plastic bags before honey spinning to keep bees, ants, & other critters out:
Below, closeup of the machine used for the leaf blower removal method:
Below, next up – the “bang & brush” method. Here, you remove each frame, shake bees off it, & use a hive brush to remove the rest of the bees. It’s important to brush UPWARD, not downward: cells in comb slant slightly upward (the better to retain eggs and nectar), so if you brush downward, you may crush bees’ legs in the cells. (Once you brush off the bees, you need to move the frame into a closed box to keep bees out.)
Below, the sun was fierce as the temperature entered the low 90s – some attendees watched from the shelter of shade:
Below, Dan’s wife Larissa provided terrific refreshments!
Dan brought out some honey for a demo of some honey judging methods. Below, “Jack’s Scale” shows the gradations of colors of honey – Dan’s comes in between 20 and 25 millimeters (refers to light refraction), classifying it as a “white” honey. Among the classifications: water white, extra white, white, extra light amber, light amber, amber, and dark amber.
We’ll have the club’s Jack’s Scale at the August 1 honey extraction workshop so that members can find out their honey’s official color classification; we’ll also have it at LCBA’s exhibit at the Southwest Washington Fair for use in the official Fair honey judging and LCBA’s “People’s Choice” tasting (for details on these honey contests, see the SW WA Fair link on LCBA’s website, www.lewiscountybeekeepers.org ).
Below, honey is put on the refractometer’s electronic eye:
Below, Dan demonstrates a “robbing screen” to put on the entrances of colonies to help them defend against yellowjackets, wasps, and hornets:
Below, Kevin answering questions after the workshop:
And that's all, folks! Below, a Bee Garden Gnome . . . because every garden needs bees: