Beekeepers Friend

Peaches' Beekeeping Blog

November 10, 2010

High School Students

The FFA teacher/adviser, Perry, called me last month to go up to Northview High School in the northern part of the county to show the FFA students how to decap and extract honey. I do this every year (six or seven years now), but usually one or two months earlier. He said that he hoped to have around 6 supers of honey, but as it turned out, he only had 3 partially capped supers. I said that I could bring some honey supers (6) that I had not gotten around to pulling and that would last all day for the students. I was kinda disappointed myself. I only had four supers.

The students usually do all the work with me guiding them along. I had 2 classes that were brand new and no one knew me. So I had to start at the beginning explaining the importance of pollination over honey. As well as explaining that the honeybees put up more honey than they can use. That is why we can collect some of their honey for ourselves.

The equipment they have at the school is a electric decapping knife, scratcher, decapping bin, and  an electric six frame extractor. Since there was not a wax melter this year, and no place to set the hot knife, we used only the scratcher to decap with. Don’t laugh. I had 50 hives with 100 supers and a two frame extractor that I had to turn by hand before I got wise and purchased a 20 frame electric extractor.

Sorry, didn’t mean to chase rabbits. Anyway, after showing the student how to work the scratcher and he or she decapped the frame, he or she had to place it into the extractor. This is not a very efficient way to work, but it gives all the students a go at the process. Over the years, I have guided 10-15 students into keeping a hive for their own use. Maybe some will actually grow bigger and join the ranks of what we call the sideliner beekeepers. We are trying to get away from the terms hobby and sideliner beekeepers and call them small backyard beekeepers.

The honey the FFA has is light amber and very attractive as well as tasting good. Mine on the other hand is very dark, thick, and has a strong taste. I have some customers that think if the honey is not black as the ace of spades, then it is not honey.  I am thinking that for the  customers that really don’t want something they cannot see through, I will pour up and label the honey as a specialty honey that is hard to come by and up the price in the specialty range. They will then buy because it is a special honey.

The reason it is a specialty honey is that the bees have kept it long enough to really dry it out and it is a thicker honey than normal. The reason the bees kept it so long is that I just didn’t get to pull it in a timely manner. You understand that the honey will get darker as it ages. And also the more you heat it, the darker it becomes.

All in all, the frames lasted all day and all the classes had their turn decapping, extracting,  and tasting the honey. They got about 2 1/2 gallons of honey from their bees, while I ended up with about seven gallons from mine. The reason was that the FFA supers has 10 frames in each box and I only have 9 and all mine were completely full. The less frames in a super, the more honey the bees store because of the deeper cells.

I have gone to 9 frame supers but I still have 10 frame brood boxes. There are pros and cons for each of the frame counts. The bees have to have the same depth cells for the brood and if you take one of the frames out of the brood box then the bees will pull the combs out further for the honey. Between the honey parts of the frame the bee will have a 3/8″ bee space, but the brood will have a 5/8″ or wider space and it really tears them up.

You see, if the space is smaller than 3/8″, the bees will fill it in. If the space is greater than 5/8″, the bees will try to put more comb in that space. But with babies there, putting in more comb wax will hamper the babies being born. It make a hard decision for the bees and I try to help them not to have to change their ways.

That is enough for now. At this time, your bees should have one super of honey with one empty super on top so they can put up more nectar that is presenting itself from now till they cannot fly because of the cold temperature. Be sure to check the weight of the hives periodically to make sure they have enough honey. Also have some sugar on hand so you can feed sugar syrup if you need to. Now is a good time to clean boxes, paint, build frames, wax frames (plastic), or put new foundation in the wooden frames. Don’t forget to read. Until next time have a wonderful Thanksgiving.

Post a Comment