We have to be prepared for anything as beekeepers, and this summer proved to be an unusual and hard summer for beekeeping in Alberta. In Edmonton, we experienced a late start to the main flow, but when it came -it was fast.
August has created conditions for unusual swarming. Although not typical, the weather fluctuations and rain caused many hives to swarm late in the season. Social media was flooded with calls to catch swarms daily.
Although there were many ups and downs, most people have harvested honey or are doing so right now.
One of the most common questions we get is, when should I take my honey?
Everyone’s hives are at different points, and the answer to the question depends on what you are seeing. The main flow in Edmonton starred July 11, north and west of the City it started in late June. In our area the honey flow is coming to an end. See our video on harvesting honey.
Tips on when to take honey:
Is it nearing the end of the main flow in your area? Are most of the blooms done? If so, it’s time to take the honey. In the summer we get a nectar flow--Canola, alfalfa and sweet clover. For the fall, we are heading into pollen bearing flowers such as borage, golden rod and sunflowers. Check out our auto flow hive and honey comb video.
If your frame is 2/3 capped, you can harvest the honey. Why? Because in Alberta honey dehydrates faster than the bees can cap the honey. And, the bees use a lot of honey to cap the honey, so you can take it at this point.
Auto flow hive: If you see the honey is capped in the side windows and honey filling the back window, you can start turning your key to open the flow of honey.
Tip: Having spills? Don’t worry about it too much. The bees will come and clean it up for you.
How much honey can you take?
This depends on your setup and how you plan to overwinter.
Typically you leave the bottom two boxes for the winter and take honey from the third box and up.
You need to leave enough honey for the bees to overwinter outside. Your hive needs a minimum weight of 140-150 lbs (approximately 2 boxes). This includes all of the material, bees and honey. The bees need these honey stores to survive the winter months.
Tip: Make sure your queen is in the bottom box and place your excluder on after you take your honey.
So we are now quickly coming to fall prep. We did our supers, most of you have already harvested honey, and now it’s prepping for the fall. Make sure your queen is in the bottom box when you are finished with harvesting honey. Now we have to move along and think about things like checking our mite levels and being prepared for fall critters that can wreak havoc on our hives too. See our video with tips on reducing entrances for robbing wasps. If you have been doing varroa mite checks, good for you! If you haven’t yet, you should plan to check your mite level this fall. Stay tuned for fall prep tips!
Have questions? We love hearing from you! Visit our Edmonton store for advice and the supplies you need this fall or shop online www.hiveworld.ca. Are you ready with entrance reducers and mouse guards?
Many new beekeepers don’t want more bees, but people need to understand that your honey bees go under a huge population explosion unlike anywhere else in the world in July. You need to ensure that you have a strategy in place so that they don’t swarm. If you don’t do something to manage your hive, they will swarm, and you will lose out on your honey crop.
It’s May now, and it’s very important you look at your hive and do a mite test. The Alberta apiculturist encourages you to test two to three times during spring and early summer. If you even find one mite in a test of 100 bees, you need to do a treatment.
If you have honey bees in your yard, think of what type of honey you want to have, as your bees will be sure to visit your garden for pollen and nectar supply. There are many ideas to choose from including flowers, herbs, shrubs and trees! The aster family is a very pollinator-friendly group of plants that do well across Canada. Also choosing a number of native plants to your area can attract more pollinators as they grow well in your region and are pollinator-friendly.