Harvesting honey the easy way…

I’ve been a fan of polystyrene hives for some time, especially those sold by John Laidlaw at Modern Beekeeping. Unfortunately, these hives don’t have clearer boards as standard and being a cheapskate, I could not be bothered to buy some or even make them out of spare plywood.

Normally you would place the clearer board under the supers to be harvested and leave them in place for around 24 hours. The boards usually contain a one way “valve” that allow the bees to pass down from the super into the rest of the hive, but prevent them from returning back to the super.

The alternative would be to take each frame out of the super and brush off the bees individually before placing them into a spare super for removal. This not unsurprisingly makes the bees very aggressive and prone to sting as the follow you and the harvested supers into the car.

The Cavill Clearer Board...

Having tried both methods before, I decided to try something new this time around. So instead, my wife “donated” an old cotton pillow case which she fitted over a spare Queen Excluder and then trimmed it to size before creating a neat velco covered flap to close the remaining open end of cover around the excluder like a sealed envelope. As you can see in the picture, you end up with a sealed bag that fits tightly around the excluder but can be removed, cleaned and reused later for the next harvest.

We took this to the hives and sprayed the cover liberally on both sides with some “Bee Gone” that I had bought some time previously. This is a harmless bee repellant based largely on almond oil. It smells a bit like strong marzipan but is completely harmless to the bees even though they hate the fumes.

When I had visited the hives previously I checked the supers and worked out which ones were ready for harvesting. Both Mark and his kids along with my two came along to see their first honey harvest, and then Lisa the orchard owners son and his friend turned up, so it became quite an event, with two adults and six kids all involved or observing at some point.

Look no Bees!

So now, all I have to do, is take off the hive roof and place the sprayed board on top of the hive where it is left for five minutes. After this time, open up one end of the cover to let out any trapped bees that for whatever reason have not gone down into the rest of the hive and leave the cover on for a couple of minutes more. The repellant also seems to keep bees away from around the top of the hive which is an added bonus given how many children were around at the time.

It is amazing just how few bees remain as you can see from the picture. When I lifted the board off the hive, there was not a bee to be seen anywhere in the super. I took the super down to the car with the board on top and then place the super on its side to look up each frame to check for any “lurkers”. I counted four bees who quickly left and flew off back to the hive. This process was repeated for each super being harvested and when I got back to the car, there were a couple of stragglers left who soon departed once the car door was opened.

This was my smoothest harvest ever, the bees did not seen unduly disturbed once the board was removed from the hive and were very calm without a single sting on anyone which was quite amazing given the excitement level amongst all concerned!

The whole process took under an hour and we then proceeded to prepare the hives for varroa treatment by sliding in the varroa boards under the floors of each hive prior to adding the first container of Apiguard.

Once I got the supers back home, I placed them on two piles on top of a clean waterproof cover. I then placed an empty sealed feeder on top of each pile of supers to seal them from the top to prevent the smell of the honey within attracting any unwelcome attention from wasps and other bees. The feeder also enables any bees left in the super to come up to the feeder where I can release them by removing the clear cover. After two days, there was one solitary bee who flew off when the cover was removed. The smell from the “Cavill clearer” board placed by the entrance to the garage also helped keep away any unwanted intruders.

Next stage is to wait for the Association extractor and cappings tray to become available so we can get the honey extracted filtered and bottled!

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