Added syrup to the feeding trays, they were all empty. And the bees had devoured all the "spare" honey on the langstroth frames in hive #9, so we have abandoned any plans to build a new hive there. So, we're out of sugar and will have to make a trip to the wholesaler. At about 1e per kilo for sugar, the cost of feeding them through the autumn and winter is significant.
Also bought myself a book on beekeeping
Peter knows only the Finnish and Swedish words for all the beekeeping paraphernalia so I decided I need my own manual, then I can learn all the proper technical terms and sound like a real pro!
The forest is FULL of wild raspberries. I spent an hour or so this morning picking them and a few blueberries as well. I think I prefer picking raspberries: it's not so back breaking and the smell is really wonderful.
I'm sure the bees, as well as the warm, sunny weather, explain why we have so many raspberries this year. We've never had such quantities before.
The taste is close to cultivated varieties but they tend to be slightly smaller. I find the pips are more palatable than the ones in the huge berries you get in the garden.
I think we will be picking raspberries for another week or so.
I have made juice using a Finnish "mehumaija". It's an easy way of juicing as no messy filters are needed. Not sure how much vitamin C is left after the fruits have been steamed though!
Finnish "Mehu" is probably better than squash or soda but not as yummy or as healthy as a nice smoothie.
We've been working nights, scraping the wax off the frames and spinning. Now we have about 200 kgs of fresh honey. We average about 1.3 kgs from a farrar frame and so, over 30kgs per hive (only 6 of the 8 hives were productive right through the season).
Scraping the wax off the frames is quite hard work. It is a manual process and each of the 170 frames has to be scraped on both sides. Some of them are really heavy. By 4am on Saturday night I was exhausted: my right arm had no strength left in it at all and my left shoulder was really stiff. P. carried on until about 6 am. We finished off on Sunday night but managed to get to bed by 1 am (a weird way to spend a birthday but, then again, I stopped celebrating a few years ago...!)
P. got the hang of the spinning machine after a few frames. Spinning slowly to start with and then accelerating. But some of the frames had to be spun more than once. There is a huge difference in the viscosity of the honey depending on the frames.
We had absolutely no idea how much honey we had because we couldn't find any scales! Then we sent the boys up to the farmhouse (there HAD to be one up there) and, sure enough, they came back with some bathroom scales (ironic considering there is no bathroom in the farmhouse). So we weighed the large buckets and each one is around 20-23 kgs. Then we could do all the maths and get a rough idea of the yield per frame and per hive.
We are really really chuffed to have our own honey! And never expected to get so much.
Starting to feel like real producers now... we ordered some pots!
Couldn't decide between plastic or glass so we got both. We have ordered some 500g plastic pots which come printed with the Finnish honey association's standard label (we can add our own name and address sticker on the lid). Also ordered some small hexagonal glass jars which we will use as gifts for friends.
Ordered everything from Mesimestari
From left to right:
New hive #9 (?), then 1, 3, 2 (at the back), 4, 5, 6, 7, 8.
All the original hives have food trays at the top and langstroth boxes at the bottom.
We still have no idea if we are doin' it right but we do have about 170 honey cakes ready to spin...
I think we are just about done with harvesting honey and are now ready to spin!
Altogether we have about 170 frames to spin but the last few were not completely full.
We have absolutely no idea how much honey we will get from these frames!
We have fitted langstroth boxes at the base of most of the hives and food trays at the top.
I don't think we will harvest any more honey, even if the beesdo keep going through August. We just won't have time to process the honey and get it in jars (we both have a "proper" job to get back to fairly soon!)
But we will keep an eye on the hives to see how they are faring and of course there is a lot to do before winter including some serious pest control and we will have to top up the syrup in the food trays.
What started out as P and S's new hobby (two hives) has become a serious part-time job and as usual I seem to be roped into it!
Making progress with the smoker. I spent a whole evening watching YouTube videos on how to light bee smokers.
My best result so far came with a small piece of newspaper screwed up in the base, then a tightly-rolled strip of corrugated cardboard and then dry bark stuffed around the edges. No lighter fuel needed. Lots of smoke, not hot and it kept going for a couple of hours. And it does seem to make a difference :-)
FatBeeMan video on lightng a smoker: Note: there are dozens of videos on YouTube about this.
From left to right hives #1, 3, 2 (at the back), 4, 5, 6, 7, 8
You can see the L-boxes at the base of hives 3, 4, 6 and 8
There are also food boxes (gold coloured) at the top of hives 3, 4,6 and 8
(Hive #6 has 4 empty boxes on top - we just forgot to take them away before we took the photo!)
Hive #2 still needs to be harvested but otherwise, we've made good progress.
We have been seriously busy the last few days spending around three hours each evening working on the hives.We are still on a steep learning curve so we are definitely not working efficiently but we are learning a lot, every day.
This morning we went to Sjuntiö to the supply shop because we needed to buy feeding frames to add to the hives as we remove the honey. We also decided to buy some langstroth boxes because we have realised that it will be too complicated, in fact almost impossible to get farrar frames throughout all the hives before winter.
And... I bought myself a pair of size 8 gloves because I'm "all thumbs" wearing Stefan's gloves!
We also had coffee and fresh pulla at the shop, as usual.
So, as of this evening, we have harvested 91 farrar frames with honey cakes and 4 langstroth frames. And we haven't finished yet.
We have been voice recording what we do to each hive on Free Recorder (on my Lumia phone) and then using that info to update this blog. All the details are on the hives' pages (see drop down menu).. But we still manage to get really mixed up!
One of the easiest ways to decide when is the right time to harvest, is to use the Vaakapesäseuranta (hive weight tracking) website. On these webpages it is possible to access data from several hives all over Finland that have been installed on electronic weighing devices in order to track daily changes in the weight of the hives. When the hive reaches its peak weight, it is usually time to start harvesting because the hives will start losing weight as the bees begin eating the honey reserves.
At the Inkoo hive which we have been following, the max weight of about 100 kgs was reached on 18th July and then 26 honey cakes were removed (click on the link above to see the data)..
This roughly coincides with the end of the maitohorsma flowering season. Some honey could still come from heathers which will start flowering soon, but I don't think we have large amounts of heather in this area. We noticed that some of the bees were carrying large amounts of bright yellow pollen which suggests they are reaching some rapeseed fields but these are really at the limit of their range and suggests they have been travelling much further in recent days.
Here is a nice picture of the drone larvae which we remove from the hives and feed to the neighbour's hens. P. is really adept at pulling them out with the comb. We are not finding quite so many now as we were a few weeks ago.
We spent a couple of hours going through three of the hives but it was time well spent, we got a lot done and we were quite pleased with ourselves. We noticed that it is easier to do the work during the afternoon when a lot of the bees are away and the light is better. Usually P. works on the hives in the late evening as they are supposed to be more docile.
In hive #3 we found the queen and isolated her in the bottom box where there are five langstroth frames and five farrar frames. In other words... it's a bit messy. We'll fix this before the autumn, probably add five more langstroth frames if we can. We also re-ordered the frames above the queen so that the fuller frames are right at the top and the ones that are not yet completely sealed with wax are lower down.
In hive #4 we removed eight farrar frames that were completely sealed with wax.
In hive #2 we found a new queen and isolated her in the two bottom boxes of farrar frames. We also re-ordered the higher boxes and removed five more honey-filled farrar frames.
In the process Peter was stung on the nose quite badly and he has had typical allergic symptoms: runny nose, itchy eyes. He was wearing his full outfit but the bee stung him through the mesh - partly my fault as I was holding the smoker but the smoker just doesn't seem to work very well (or I don't have the knack, more likely).
On Friday night we started going through the hives doing some basic maintenance and checking out the honey situation. We need to number the hives and keep a proper log book of everything we do. Originally with just two hives we thought we could remember all the details but with eight it is not so easy to keep track.
There is still a lot of activity and a ,lot of worker larvae still to hatch. Our worry is that the new bees won't find enough pollen and nectar now that the main flowering season is over and grasses predominate in the fields and in the forest. Not sure what they are feeding on at the moment.
(From left to right, hives #4, 5, 6, 7, 8)
We managed to get through three hives.
P. is planning to get a bee buddy over to give an expert opinion on the state of our hives and advice on the next steps.
The queen is in the centre of this photo. She has a white dot painted on her head. She is also recognisable by her longer body, brown abdomen and shorter wings.
This frame is full of honey and pretty much ready for harvesting. The honey is sealed into the comb with a covering of wax. Nice frame.
All these frames appear to be full of honey.
This frame, on the other hand, needs some maintenance!
There are two queen cups protruding from the right-hand edge so we removed them. These contain larvae for new queens (which we don't need).
Next to the upper queen cup there are a couple of drone larvae which we also removed. Some of the other frames had dozens of drone larvae which we had to pick out with a metal comb. These fat white bugs are given to our neighbours' hens who love 'em.
We're starting to wonder how beekeepers with hundreds of hives manage to cope. It's very labour intensive and heavy, physical work.
We now have eight hives and none of them have swarmed, yet. One of the new hives that P. and S. split off is not very active so we need to have a good look inside to see if there is a queen. But the deputy beekeeper (Stefan) has just started his compulsory military service, so he won't be in Pojo much over the next few months. We hope he comes home on leave when we start closing down the hives and putting the honey into jars.
Some Finnish beekeepers are already starting to shut down their hives, Certainly the fields are now dominated by grasses and the main flowering species are finished.