Honey Harvest

I caught three swarms earlier this year and I’m pretty sure at least two of them were from my own colony. They were doing much better in the spring than I realized and had seriously outgrown the hive. I kept one for myself, gave one to a neighbor, and combined the third back into the original colony because it ended up queen-less.

My two hives produced 24 medium frames of honey, which I harvested last week into about 6 gallons or 72 lbs.

Here’s a quick summary of the process:

And here’s the video of the first swarm earlier this year –

Caught a swarm!

I caught my first bee swarm in my own backyard! My wife noticed them in the apple tree and called me out. My 11-year-old and I had a blast figuring out how to do it and we successfully sighted the queen at the end of it all. I knew that old nuc box would come in handy one day. I’m now the proud owner of two colonies.
Father and Son beekeepers after the swarm capture

New bees

My hive didn’t do so well over the winter. The queen is still there but I only found a few hundred bees around her (normal hive is in the tens of thousands – healthy hive is 70,000). I moved them to a nuc (small 5-frame box) to see if they can turn things around — if they do, I’ll have two hives.

The old bees, gathered around the queen after a tough winter. Can you spot the queen?

I ordered a new package of bees, which I installed Saturday. Today I released the queen who stays in her own cage for several days until the new bees (who aren’t her kin) decide she smells ok and can be their matriarch. She has already mated with some drones in California, so she has all she needs to lay up to 2,000 eggs a day (less in the winter) for 5 years or so. The other bees’ job is to keep the queen alive and prepare cells so she can lay eggs that will hatch into their replacements. Tough life. After a month or so the whole hive will be the new queen’s progeny.

Here’s a little video, at half speed, of today’s hive entrance activity –

And some photos –

First honey harvest

Exciting times! After about 14 months of beekeeping, we harvested our first frame of honey. It produced about a quart. I’m not sure what to expect for the full season, but it should be somewhere around 10 quarts.

I decided to document the whole process because it’s the sort of thing I would have appreciated knowing going into it. Here’s the 10-minute video:

Amazon links to some of the supplies we used:

And a few photos –