Sunday, August 04, 2013


Today I had to take some honey supers off my four newest hives. The weather was perfect for it: not too hot with a little breeze.

As you can see, I don't wear a whole lot of protective clothing anymore when I'm out beekeeping. If I have a large hive and the bees are cranky, I'll put on some jeans. But it was very quiet and calm today...

Those capri pants ARE elasticized so that nobody crawls up my legs!

When I started back in 2009, I used to dress like this...

I was wearing WORK BOOTS in the photo. Sheer terror! :) 

I rarely get stung, but even when I do, it's not enough to make me want to wear that cumbersome get-up again! And gloves make me crazy.That's a very personal thing amongst beekeepers. Some people like gloves, some don't. No shame in wearing gloves! But I hate the way they impede my finer hand movements, and I worry about squishing bees with them. I am quite used to bees crawling on me now, so my gloves are gathering dust.

And today, my helper husband was very brave...

No gloves! I never thought I'd see the day. He picked a good day to try going gloveless, because the bees were very calm and there weren't man left in those honey supers. I was proud of Gordon for going gloveless. He has to be careful; he's not allergic to stings but he does react a lot more than I do, and is more uncomfortable as well.

So once I got the lid and inner cover off the hive, I started pulling out frames of honey. Most of the bees were out of the honey supers, because a few days ago, I put bee escapes under them (you can see them in these photos. They are the wood things separating the top boxes from the bottom deep boxes in the photo below.) The bees go down through the escape hole to leave the honey super, then through a sort of triangular maze. They can't figure out how to get back through the maze, so once they go out the escape, they are out of the honey super. When the beekeeper comes to take off the honey supers, there aren't usually many bees left. I just brush off any that are hanging around in there.

Pulling out a frame!

This one is not entirely capped but I will dry it with a dehumidifier and fan for a few days until the moisture content is acceptable (around16 - 17% is nice, give or take.) If there is too much moisture in honey, it can ferment in the jar.

Here's a frame of completely capped (cells covered with wax) honey:

Usually if a frame of honey is capped, it means the moisture content in the honey is fine. But you can't always rely on that! This year we had a very wet spring, so a lot of the capped honey is running at an 18% or higher moisture content! I have a digital refractometer to test the moisture level in my honey. It was a pricey device (there are simpler ones) but I find it very easy to use and very accurate.

This will be some very tasty honey! And I got my nice t-shirt from the Ontario Beekeepers' Association. You can buy it and other cool shirts here, and help raise money to help honey bees.

They are raising funds for bee advocacy. This shirt has a quote from Anne of Green Gables:

"I'd like to be a bee and live among the flowers!"

There's my helper, loading supers of honey into our car. We drive our little Mazda 3 along the grassy cow lane (which we keep mowed) to our beeyard in the fields. It off-roads well! :)

And here he comes!

That thing in the foreground (looks like a jail for bees!) is a queen excluder. It goes under the honey supers and above the brood boxes. It stops the queen from going up and laying eggs in the honey supers. She is too fat to fit through the bars, but the worker bees can pass through just fine!

Sometimes they like to muck it up with excess wax, which I eventually scrape off.

And my helper had a well-deserved rest after giving me a hand!

A truly beautiful day for beekeeping! And a very brave, gloveless Gordon. 


  1. Oh goodness, not sure I'd be that brave. Anything that flies, bites or stings seems to make a beeline (sorry) for me..

  2. Anonymous12:19 am

    You are both incredibly brave. The separators you use are quite interesting and this whole beekeeping thing is getting more complicated (but I still find it interesting).

  3. It sure looks like a lot of work extracting all that honey, but I'm sure it's just heavenly!

  4. When you said fermented honey I suddenly had an image of bees flying away from the hive doing drunken spirals. I wonder if bees do get drunk... ;) This is presupposing that honey that stays in the hives actually gets to that point.

  5. Okay, send some over. Just kidding, of course.

  6. How fascinating to see the process!

  7. Did you take a beekeeping course or learn as you went along?
    Jane x

  8. Since extremely few people know anything about bee keeping, your posts are full of information that I had never heard of. Now you've got me curious. where does the wax come from? I will have to look this up.

    1. Red, the worker bees extrude wax flakes from special glands on their abdomens, then work it into shape with their feet and mandibles. It's truly amazing. Here's a website that explains:

  9. All that capped honey looks scrumptious!

  10. I am still in the full-on protective suit mode like you used to do haha. I'm looking forward to the day when I will be able to go glove-less and not freak out! Love all these photos and it's so cool to see your hubby helping you out! Learning so much from you, so keep the bee posts coming! :)

  11. This really does look amazing! I can't imagine "going in" without being completely covered. As for the elasticized Capri pants: I once walked across a grassy parking strip on my way to work. Fully dressed in suit & tie. A wasp flew up my pants leg and stung me several times around my knee. Fortunately it didn't make it up any higher! I had no idea what was happening. My leg would go numb (I fell down the first time). I'd walk a bit more, get a pain, and go numb again. Fortunately, I was less than 5 minutes from the office. When I got there, I slapped my hand on my knee (at another pain) and felt a lump. I dropped my pants (right in the hall) and a dead wasp dropped to the floor... And I was driven to the hospital with seven stings and anaphylaxis. Sorry to go on. I'm finding your posts fascinating, but they do stir things up. I should remember being 8 and finding a honey bee on my way to school, which I carried in my pocked to my Science teacher.

  12. You must give off positive vibes that charm the bees. Now if you could only bottle that! All the information on bee-keeping is just fascinating. I have new respect for the little critters and the big critters who manage them!

  13. Bravo Gordon for going glove-less! This is just fascinating. I am a lover of honey (eat it every day) so your posts about beekeeping are so interesting. And informative. Thank you!

  14. I do hope we're going to see your extraction process! Honey is such a wonderful thing.

  15. Anonymous9:51 am

    We don't have bees, but the neighbors behind us do, so I love reading about yours. Thanks to you, I knew what bearding was when their bees did so. I must say, your colorful hives are much snazzier than our neighbor's.


Thank you for all your comments, which I love to read!