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RJE2
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I think I'll get my wife to turn on the taps in the morning from now on! Smile
Marlin1894
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Can you tell us a little about the honey operation. How many bees are in the colony, how much honey you collect, what kind of honey is it, etc? It sounds fascinating.
RJE2
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On 2012-06-12 10:49, Marlin1894 wrote:
Can you tell us a little about the honey operation. How many bees are in the colony, how much honey you collect, what kind of honey is it, etc? It sounds fascinating.


Sure.

I live in south central Ontario on a large country lot with about an acre of it as deciduous forest. This winter, I decided to utilize some of what is there, so I began with tapping my maple trees for the first time and boiling up a batch of maple syrup. When that was done, I looked to see what else could be done and I struck upon the idea of beekeeping.

I bought the hive (wooden structure to house the bees) in late April/early May and order the "nuc" of bees. A "nuc" is short for "nucleus" and is a laying queen bee along with a relatively small number of bees. You place the nuc in your hive and let them go to work. I picked up my nuc just over 4 weeks ago.

The queen's only job is to lay eggs. She lays about 1000 to 2000 eggs a day. The workers create the comb for the eggs to be laid in and then feed and raise the young through their various stages of life. It takes about 21 days for a worker bee to emerge from the comb. The inside of the hive is kept at about 92 to 94 degrees F. by the bees to facilitate the young and developing bees.

Most of the bees are worker bees and females. There are a couple of hundred males in the hive, known as drones. Their sole job is to fly out and try to mate with a queen. If they find a queen and mate, the process kills them. If they don't mate, during times of famine or winter, the workers throw the drones out of the hive and they die. The queen will make new drones in the spring.

So, my hive is now about 4 1/2 weeks old and the number of bees in it is growing at the rate of about 1000 per day. The hive will grow into the ten's of thousands. The life expectancy of the worker bees is anywhere from about 2 to 4 weeks during the warmer months. They often work themselves to death.

A typical hive is made up of boxes called supers. (There are other types, but this is the most common in North America). The "brood supers" are at the bottom of the hive. They have frames that hang in them that the bees attach and make their comb on. Inside the brood supers, there will be a combination of eggs/developing bees, pollen and honey in the combs. Pollen and honey are their food sources.

You want to allow the bees to mostly fill the brood supers to ensure that they will have enough food to survive the winter before you put on your honey super. Honeybees do not hibernate but remain awake in the hive all winter. They keep the hive warm by vibrating their wing muscles to generate heat. The temperature must remain above 50 degrees F. for the bees to survive. The bees in a hive can eat a 1 to 2 pounds of honey a day over the winter.

Once the brood supers are at least 70% filled with capped comb, then you place a queen excluder on the top of the frames in the top brood super. This screen allows the workers to get through, but the queen cannot. This means that only honey and pollen will be put on the frames in the honey supers.

Once the honey super is combed and 70% capped, you remove it from the hive. (The 70% is important because it is at this stage that the honey you get from the frame will be of the correct water/moiture content to ensure that it will not ferment.) You cut off the caps of the honey combs and drain the honey from them. You replace the frame, with the comb, and the bees will fill it again. You take the caps, drain them of honey, and render them into beeswax by melting them and filtering them.

A standard hive should produce about 70 to 100 pounds of honey in a year. I currently only have one hive, but hope to increase that to three for next year.

Each worker bee produces about 1/12 of a teaspoon of honey its lifetime. Each bee visits about 50 to 100 flowers per flight. A flight lasts up to an hour and they can make as many as 10 flights per day. The bees in the hive fly anywhere between 40 000 to 50 000 miles to make 1 pound of honey. There can be hundreds of pounds of honey in a complete hive.

The honey is edible straight from the hive. The type of honey depends on where the bees were getting the nectar from.

Honey is made from the nectar of flowers or plants that the bees ingest. They then regurgitate it in the hives. It is put into a cell in the honeycomb where the bees will monitor it until it is of the right moisture content for storage. Then, they will cap the cell.

The bees are mostly interested in the survival of the hive. They mostly work at gathering food and rearing the young. There are guard bees near the entrance of a hive, but most have no interest in stinging you unless they feel threatened by you. If the hive is attacked though, the bees can attack in large numbers.

The bee will die if it stings you since the sac containing the venom is ripped from their body in the process. The sac continues to pump venom into you after the sting and the bee is no longer there. The stinger itself is made up of barbed piercers that alternate back and forth so that is actually digs itself deeper into you after it detaches from the bee.

I wear a full beesuit, with gloves and have not been stung. I have not even noticed a bee trying as of yet.

And, they're really cool to watch!
Marlin1894
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Very cool! Thanks for the info.

What are the bees feeding on in your area mostly, clover? That's quite a bit of honey, can you use that much or do you plan on selling or giving the excess away? Good luck with the hives!

BTW how was your maple syrup operation this season? I live in WI which is basically due south of you and even up north this past winter was fairly mild. Production was way down this season. Did you get enough to make a good batch of syrup?
mastermindreader
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I wear a full beesuit, with gloves and have not been stung. I have not even noticed a bee trying as of yet.


Well if you are dressed like a bee, of course they won't sting you!

(I visualized John Belushi in his Killer Bee costume when I read that part of your post.)
MagicSanta
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Do the bees survive the Winter?
Marlin1894
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On 2012-06-12 12:46, MagicSanta wrote:
Do the bees survive the Winter?


Apparently they do. "Honeybees do not hibernate but remain awake in the hive all winter. They keep the hive warm by vibrating their wing muscles to generate heat."

I didn't know that either. But I do know it can get awful cold up there. I thought they migrated or something. lol!
RJE2
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On 2012-06-12 12:18, mastermindreader wrote:
Quote:
I wear a full beesuit, with gloves and have not been stung. I have not even noticed a bee trying as of yet.


Well if you are dressed like a bee, of course they won't sting you!

(I visualized John Belushi in his Killer Bee costume when I read that part of your post.)


Now that's a beesuit! Smile

Yup, bees survive the winter, even here in the frigid cold of Canada. You can actually put a "bee cozy" around the hive in the winter if you want. It is an insulated wrap that still allows them to come out of the hive on warmer days if they want.

You also have to put a mouse guard on the hive entrance way in winter. Mice like to crawl into the bottom of the hive for the warmth and eat the comb.

I had never made maple syrup prior to this year, so I really can't compare it to any other season's production. I have heard different things from locals, that it was a poor year from some and an average year from others. I don't believe I heard anyone say it was a really good year.

I tapped about 10 or so trees that were close to my house beginning in late February or early March I believe. The sap ran, on and off for me, for about a week or so. I believe, a typical year is supposed to be about 3 weeks of sap run here.

I then made a small fire pit out of cinder blocks (some of these blocks are now painted and my beehive is sitting on them) in my laneway to boil the sap. The firewood I picked up from my woods. I finished the boiling on the stove in the kitchen.

I can't remember exactly how much syrup I ended up with. I believe I bought 4 dozen mason jars and filled most of them. I kept about 20 jars and gave the rest away to friends and relatives. (I plan on doing the same type of distribution with the honey I get.)

It was a fun learning experience and next year, I hope to tap about twice as many trees. It is not very difficult to do. It also is not a bad way to spend time, around an open fire with a sieve (scooping out ashes) in one hand a drink of one's choice in the other.
MagicSanta
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I saw a maple documentary, very neat stuff. It becomes different products from one temp to another.
Woland
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Very nice introduction to beekeeping. Recently had an active hive removed from the wall of the house, and enjoyed discussing the art with the beekeeper who took care of it.

The Queen is not really the ruler of the hive, but it's designated reproductive slave. When the sisters get tired of their Queen, that is, when she is no longer as productive as they require, they make a few new ones, and let them fight it out - with the old Queen, and each other - to the death.
critter
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I knew it. All bees are evil. The honey is like the candy from the guy in the van.
"The fool is one who doesn't know what you have just found out."
~Will Rogers
RJE2
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Woland,

That's actually a pretty honest way to look at the queen and her role. Further on that, every bee in the hive is the queen's child, so it would be her daughter that can challenge her if another queen is allowed to emerge.

Sometimes though, when there are two queens, the hive will split. One queen will leave the hive with thousands of followers. After a short flight from the hive the queen stops somewhere and the majority of the followers bundle around her. This is called a swarm. (What Santa saw) Others will go and scout out a new home for the swarm.

Santa,

You're right. Temperature is everything when making maple syrup. You boil the sap until it is 7 degress F., or 4 degrees C. over whatever the boiling point of water is where you are. That ensures that the sugar and liquid content is correct and you have maple syrup. Most of the boiling off of water is done outside for the hobbyist like me. Trying to boil off over that much (the ratio for sap to syrup is about 40 to 1) sap in the kitchen will mean that you have to scrub and repaint the walls. Lots of stories about people making that mistake!

To get the right consistency to do the syrup on snow thing or maple cream, you boil it to about 24 to 28 degrees F. above the boiling point for water. And to get maple candy, you go 32 degrees F. above the boiling point for water. Finally, to get maple sugar, you boil the sap until it is 45 to 50 degrees F. above the boiling point of water where you are. But you have to be real careful not to start a fire in your kitchen when you get to these high temperatures.

For accuracy, you are supposed to boil a pan of water when you get ready to boil the sap to determine what the water boiling point is. Elevation, humidity, faulty thermometer and air pressure are some of the things that will give you a temperature other than 212 degrees F. or 100 degrees C. for water's boiling point.

I've only made the syrup.

Another weird thing about making the syrup is that minerals or nitrates, or something like that, in the sap crystalize when it is heated. I didn't use proper filters to strain it out because I didn't know how. So, in the bottom of my jars, there is a fine white sandy material (the crystalized minerals). It won't hurt you if you choose to eat it, but we just pour out the syrup to use and leave the grit in the bottom of the jar.
MagicSanta
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Yeah, thap maple stuff is amazing my wife is a New Englan type and love maple candy.
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