Bluff Beekeepers Calendar September-October: HONEY HARVEST


By Dudley Beck

Sad news for Dudley and Wes. One of our remaining hives was queenless again. So Wes now had one hive and Dudley now had one. KB still had two. The bees were combined with the remaining queen-right hives at Wes and Dudley’s.

Early September was time to look ahead for a honey extraction date. We picked a Saturday, September 14, to rent the industrial kitchen in Moab in order to keep our own houses free of sticky honey and allow KB to experience the process. KB’s SO, Justin, joined the party along with Jerry Shue, the bee guru from Moab, and Gus Griffin, Zak’s sister’s boyfriend.

So… Three days before September 14, we moved the boxes we wanted to harvest above the inner cover, thus separating the honey from the the main colony and brood chamber. We each left an additional box of honey under the inner cover to help overwinter the colonies. Then we placed this one way plastic gizmo in the oval opening of the inner cover. The gizmo, if the bees ready the instructions, is supposed to allow the bees in the upper honey box to vacate down to the main colony leaving the honey box free of bees when the honey box is taken two days later. Then, the day before the scheduled extraction, we gather the honey frame by frame with the aid of a soft brush for the bees that didn’t read the gizmo instructions.

Justin’s truck was loaded for transport the next day. A good day was had by all while extracting honey, but we each only had one box of honey, finally netting only 15 pounds of honey each. This was a very poor annual yield, worst ever for me. While doing the extraction we consulted with our bee Guru who felt certain that our earlier loss of queens was due primarily to mites. He told us that he too, after 10 years to the contrary, decided he had to treat his bees with a miticide (formic acid). He advised us to do the standard powdered sugar test for mites treating any colony with 3 or more mites.

Wes’s colony had one mite, KB’s had 9 and 13, mine had 20. KB and I treated our hives. I felt emotionally sick afterwards since I have held out for the last 8 years or so not using miticides. I’m not sure I could do it again next year if I have high mite counts. I just hate the idea of it. I’d rather continue to support colonies naturally resistant to mites. Now I won’t know if the miticide is the reason for my hive surviving this next winter since I already treated it. I checked my one remaining hive three weeks after using the miticide. The queen was still alive and making babies.

Well…that’s about it for October. The bees are packing their colonies with pollen from the rabbit brush and any remaining nectar they can find. Generally, we don’t open the hives during the cold months of November and December. We will peek in on a warm day in January or February to be sure there is still adequate food stores, supplementing with sugar, a candy board, or sugar syrup if needed.

Thank you all again for your gardens. Please consider planting bee friendly flowers again next spring. Stay tuned….