June 2004

George Imirie’s PINK PAGES

Harvesting Honey

Just because the weather is warm from April to October over much of the U.S. has NOTHING to do with WHAT plants make a nectar yield in your part of the country. In central Maryland, basically there is zero nectar yield after June 15th, whereas the Illinois clover nectar yield is strong in June and July, and beekeepers get a great goldenrod nectar yield in September in Eastern Pennsylvania. Hence, YOUR harvest time has NOTHING to do with harvests in other places, but is dependent on just what nectar crops provide you with surplus honey, because the bloom time is SO DIFFERENT.

For years, many beekeepers have put supers on in the spring and waited until September or even October to remove them, of course, hoping that they would get a larger yield of honey by leaving supers in place longer. They made FOOLS of themselves due to lack of knowledge about beekeeping.


In late summer or very early fall, the bees, knowing winter is coming, stopped feeding the queen so she wouldn’t lay eggs for more brood. This left EMPTY space in the brood chamber; and the bees, desirous of having honey close to their CLUSTER area, moved honey OUT OF THE SUPERS down into the brood area, hence leaving supers diminished of honey that might have been sold. Not only that, but the wax white cappings were all darkened by the bees dirty feet walking over them for a month or so; and further, in the cooler weather, the honey was MUCH MORE difficult to extract, and maybe the combs BROKE when being extracted. DON’T WAIT UNTIL LATE SUMMER OR EARLY FALL TO HARVEST THE HONEY?

By asking local beekeepers, or weighing a scale hive EVERY night (my favorite method), you can determine the END of your prime nectar flow, and start harvesting your honey just 2-3 weeks later. Sure, it might be HOT and humid, or interfere with your vacation, but if you want a great crop of honey, with nice white wax cappings (great for candle making), and easy extraction, because the honey is quite warm, THEN, HARVEST WITHOUT DELAY!

HOW to harvest?

This seems to puzzle most hobbyists, and they do all kinds of foolish things that causes STINGING.

First principle is “harvest when MOST bees are AWAY from the hive OUT FORAGING, which would be a nice sunny warm day between 9:00 AM and 4:00 PM, NOT AFTER YOU GET HOME FROM WORK!

Second, no matter what system you use, NEVER leave honey EXPOSED that will probably cause ROBBING, meaning keep all honey somehow COVERED up as much as possible.

Third, you WANT essentially NO bees on your frames to “take home”. This REMOVAL of bees from frames of honey can be done in 4 ways; of which #1 rarely works, #2 causes stinging, #3 is expensive, and #4 is easy, simple, no stings, no loss of bees, and fast. Let me explain:

  1. Using a Porter Bee Escape in the inner cover hole under the supers is a total JOKE, unless you are in some state where the night time temperatures are quite chilly. Bees are not going to leave honey unless they need the warmth of the cluster. Hence, FORGET a Porter Bee Escape!
  2. Using a Bee Brush is definitely the most popular method of cleaning bees from frames of honey by beginners and hobbyists; and EQUALLY the system that causes the most stings to the beekeeper, and ALL THE NEIGHBORS ON THE BLOCK which just INVITES a legal confrontation.Using a bee brush, as our ancestors did, is like trying to remove a splinter in your finger with a dinner knife. Unless you don’t mind being stung and have no love of other people, use the BEE BRUSH. Probably you will quit beekeeping in a year or so (GOOD RIDDANCE), or the police will curtail your stupid practice because your MAD bees stung innocent neighbors. The BEE BRUSH was fine 100 years ago when most beekeepers lived out in the farming area, but today, most hobbyists have bees on some small propeiy like an acre, anti nia ny neighbors just a hundred yards away.THINK ABOUT BEE BEHAVIOR, and if you know anything about it, you will know that bees become VERY DEFENSIVE at anything “swatting” at them or “knocking” them around. And don’t be become ANTHROPOMORPHIC and believe that bees sting because you are STEALING their honey, because they have no concept of stealing.They DEFEND their hive. because they look upon the brush as a foreign object in their home, and the movement of it as an AGGRESSIVE movement against their colony (home).
  3. There is little question that BLOWING bees out of a super is the LEAST disturbing and FASTEST means of removing bees from a super, but are you willing to pay about $400 for a Gasoline powered BEE BLOWER or $200 for an electric powered BEE BLOWER plus many, many feet of electric cable? Since bees do NOT object to strong wind and do not consider BLOWING wind an AGGRESSIVE thing, the BEE BLOWER is the safest,fastest, easiest, and most thorough means of removing bees from a super, but it is an EXPENSIVE piece of equipment normally used only by professional honey producers.
  4. In my opinion and shared by the majority of MASTER BEEKEEPERS and side-liners who have many colonies, like 20-100, the absolute best method of removing bees from your supers is the use of a bee repellent applied to a fume board. A fume board is like an abbreviated telescoping cover, in that it has outside dimensions identical to the outside dimensions of a super body; and it, has a “felt” inside “ceiling” made of burlap, old flannel pajamas, thin sponge, or even Kotex napkins. This absorbent material will hold the liquid bee repellent that you apply on it. The repellents, available at any bee equipment supply company have names like BEE-GO, HONEY ROBBER, BEE QUICK; or BENZALDEHYDE.My personal favorite is BENZALDEHYDE, the Oil of Almonds, a PRETTY smell; but it is now very hard to find because overly-cautious EPA thinks it might “burn” your fingers. SHUCKS, so will vinegar! EPA gives me a pain in my butt!BEE QUICK is new, I do not know all of the ingredients, but I suspect benzaldehyde is present because of the pleasant odor. The other two, and most popular, are Bee-Go and Honey Robber, which is butyric anhydride, a chemical that smells like rotten eggs and vomit mixed together; and if you spill it in your car, in your honey house, or on your clothes: buy a new car, rebuild your house, or burn your clothes. That smell is TOUGH to remove – no wonder bees don’t like it!

HOW do you use a fume board?

Select a WARM day (the hotter, the better) apply about 20-25 cc’s (one ounce or less) to the fume board absorbent remove the inner cover with a small amount of smoke, apply the fume board, WAIT about 5-15 minutes (depending on colony strength, temperature, amount of repellent, etc.), remove the top super which should be totally empty of bees, replace the fume board on the next super and repeat. I use two fume boards on different colonies at the same time, and I can remove about 20 full supers in an hour. The bees are NOT UNHAPPY, but just crowded down into the brood chambers or hanging outside on the hive front to get away from that odor. The use of the FUME BOARD and BEE REPELLENT CHEMICAL is surely the best honey harvesting technique for beginners, novices, and those with under 100-200 colonies.

This is 2004, and we have cell phones, computers, microwave ovens, fuel injected cars, and kidney transplants. DADDY did not have these modern things, so he used a Bee Brush., or waited until September to harvest “so he could use a Porter Bee Escape, and a Bee Blower had not been yet invented, so he got stung trying to brush bees off of frames. Harvest the EASY, safe way by using a fume board, and preferably a repellent of BENZALDEHYDE (if you can find it) or Bee Quick rather than that FOUL smelling BEE-GO or HONEY ROBBER.

I want to mention the MISTAKES that all hobbyists seem to make, because they have just been too lazy or careless to LEARN correctness:

  1. Bees DON’T put a capping on a cell until that honey RIPENED. Hence, you should never extract a frame of honey unless it is about 95% CAPPED. If you are careless or greedy and extract frames with lots of UNcapped cells, your entire crop might FERMENT by having NON-ripened honey in it. Even if you luck out, and your honey does not ferment, who wants thin, watery honey that is supposed to be thick and heavy?
  2. Honey is very HYGROSCOPIC, meaning that ABSORBS moisture out of the air. SO WHAT, some might say? Bees, instructed genetically by GOD, evaporate the water from the nectar they have collected until they get the percentage water down to 160/0-18% before they CAP the cell. UNCAPPED honey with a water content exceeding “about” 19% tends to ferment and spoil. Since honey is hygroscopic and likes to absorb moisture from our humid summer air, when extracting and, before bottling, KEEP YOUR HONEY COVERED as much as possible to protect it from humid air. Put a top on an open pail of honey, put a raincoat or a plastic tablecloth over your extractor that has honey left in it, put a cap on a bottle of honey immediately after filling the bottle rather than letting the bottle stand open for several hours, and, if possible, do your extraction, settling, and bottling in a room with a DE-humidifier.
  3. Would you like a gift of some delicate, beautiful thing if it came wrapped in DIRTY paper or old newspaper? What would be your impression of the GIVER? Man has never been able to synthesize honey (thank God), and honey perhaps is the purest product on earth. Don’t defile it, or identify your cheapness in gift giving, by putting YOUR special, locally produced, high-grade honey in some old washed out peanut butter jar,a Mason jar better known for bootleg “white lightning”, or some old ketchup bottle that honey pours from BADLY.. And, in your conceit, don’t you want the gifted party to know exactly who was the “giver”? Put a fancy LABEL on your jar, giving the net weight of honey, but more important YOUR NAME and TELEPHONE NUMBER so they might call for more and tell neighbors. DON’T HIDE UNDER A BUSHEL, I was told as a child. 1 am PROUD of my honey, and my prize ribbons from FAIRS prove it; and that makes me very happy to be part of mankind. WHY DON’T YOU TRY IT TOO?
  4. Let me talk about a VERY CONTROVERSIAL subject – The PRICE that you charge for your honey when you sell it. I have seen so many beekeepers literally “give their honey away” by selling it CHEAPER than the grocery store price. That is RIDICULOUS! Grocery store honey, no matter what name is on the jar, is usually a FOREIGN imported honey from China or South America. YOURS is better because it is AMERICAN! YOURS is better, because it is LOCAL and perhaps made from the nectar of your neighbor’s flowers, trees, bushes and plants. YOURS is better because it is FRESHER. YOURS is better because YOU can tell the customer ALL ABOUT BEES, how honey is MADE, why some is light color and other is dark, why the tastes differ, recipes for cooking with honey, and tales (or lies) about handling bees without being stung. CAN A GROCERY STORE CLERK DO THIS ABOUT THE STORE HONEY?I have never sold a jar of honey in my life – but I sell MY KNOWLEDGE about honey and bees; and honey is ALWAYS priced at least $1 per pound HIGHER than the grocery store; and my daily sales at my county FAIR average about $1000/day, and I sometimes run out of some items. I no longer do any selling because of my stroke disabled voice, so my sons do the selling and they take the profits home as my gift to them.DON’T SELL HONEY – SELL YOURSELF and YOUR KNOWLEDGE ABOUT HONEY AND BEES!
  5. LACK of ADVERTISING is a major mistake of most beekeepers. How do people know anything about bees or honey unless YOU tell them? Get an OBSERVATION HIVE, load it with frames of brood, bees, and honey and take it to schools and give talks about bees and watch the FASCINATION of the kids and the APPRECIATION of the teacher. It won’t be long before you are known and respected “all over town”Next is the County Fair. Buy a space, have lots of honey in various jars and sizes on display, featuring honey STIR right out FRONT to ATTRACT the kids, and you MUST have an OBSERVATION HIVE. What happens? it is hot, you wish you were home, the FAIR opens, . y people come in and ignore you, but some kids see the honey STIX and the OBSERVATION HIVE and YOU are about to “score”. The kids dash over to their parents asking for money to buy honey STIX and SEE the observation hive, and reluctantly the parents come to YOUR table, and YOU SHOW YOUR KNOWLEDGE ABOUT BEES AND HONEY. When finished, they buy several items, never object to the price, and and tell their neighbors about the honey, the OBSERVATION HIVE, and YOU. If you had your telephone number on your honey jar label, several months later you will have a call for more of YOUR honey and they will drive by your home to pick it up, and MAYBE look at your bees.ADVERTISING is just a way of identifying a person, a thing, or a product to get the attention of a potential customer. Coca-Cola had an odd shaped bottle: Viagra pills are colored BLUE, Cadillac hood ornament is a coat-of-arms surrounded by a crescent:everybody recognizes the silver wrapped chocolate dollop as a Hershey’s kiss: Who doesn’t know that WONDER-BRA gives a woman a “lift”?: John Deere tractor runs a deer: and thousands of others that make you REMEMBER a good product.ADVERTISE – LET PEOPLE KNOW YOU AND YOUR ABILITY WITH BEES AND HONEY!


It is a lot of HARD work, time consuming, as well as honey consuming for bees to draw foundation into drawn comb – a beekeeper’s MOST VALUABLE POSSESSION! Yet, year after year I see careless beekeepers let wax moths ruin their drawn comb in the warm months of July, August and September. HOW DO YOU PROTECT YOUR DRAWN COMB?

Immediately after you finish extraction, the frames are still wet and sticky with honey, select a strong hive in your apiary, place a TOTALLY EMPTY hive body on top of the inner cover, then put several supers of wet extracted frames of drawn comb on top of this EMPTY hive body, and put a tight cover on the top super. In one or two days, the hive bees below will travel through the inner cover hole and clean every smidgen of honey out of all those supers and take it down into their brood nest below, leaving your frames very dry and clean. However, the WAX MOTH eggs are hidden there in those frames and just waiting to hatch into wax moth larva who will tunnel through the wax to eat the bee pupae cocoons that are fixed on the wail of any cell that had brood raised in it. If this happens, your frames of DRAWN COMB are nothing more than a “netted MESS”.

After just a very few days of meticulous cleaning by bees, your frames of DRAWN COMB have to be removed and PROTECTED until next spring. Now it is YOUR time to go to work! Purchase some PDB, para-dichloro-benzene. Every bee supply house sells it; or you can often find it in large grocery stores, hardware stores, or Home Depot as a MOTH preventative for protection of wool clothes and furs; but you DON’T dare get the moth crystals made from NAPTHALENE! ONLY buy those that are made of PDB!. Pick a location in your shed, garage, basement, or honey house and stack your supers of DRAWN COMB about 5 high, and sprinkle about a tablespoon of PDB crystals on the top bars of the 10 frames in each super, and put maybe 2 tablespoons on the top bars of the highest super, and seal the stack of supers with a cover. Also, wrap masking tape around the seams between the supers, so this stack of supers of DRAWN COMB is more or less air-tight. Depending upon the month, the heat, and how well you sealed the stack, you may have to redo this every 30 days until cold weather, 50° and below, takes place, and then you are safe from wax moths until they are needed again in April or May. YOU HAVE NOW SAVED YOUR DRAWN COMB! You are becoming a beeKEEPER instead of a beeHAVER.

Will you REQUEEN on Sept. 1st? You SHOULD!

Read what almost every bee scientist or bee researcher has written during the past 20 years. “The YOUNGER the queen, the LESS swarming you have!” This has NOTHING to do with egg laying ability; but is concerned with the LACK of ability to produce queen PHEROMONE that inhibits swarming as the, queen ages from the very day of her breeding

Either a swarm in May or a dead queen in the winter ELIMINATES a honey crop to be extracted on July 4th, and you could have bought a NEW, YOUNG, VIGOROUS, HIGH PHEROMONE PRODUCING Queen in late August for a measly $10-$15. You don’t PLAN AHEAD very well! Queens reared in July or August are ALWAYS better bred than early spring queens, because drones are more abundant for mating and queen breeders have more time to SELECT better larvae for grafting, the maturing larvae is BETTER FED, and you can receive your new queen on an EXACT desired date! LATE SUMMER queens are so much better than early spring queens – just ask the bee scientists.

Now, June is the time for you to order a new queen from your favorite queen BREEDER. You inquire of him whether he believes in HYGIENIC bees, whether you will get a “banked” queen or a fresh queen if paid for in advance, and can you get delivery on “such and such date?” ORDER NOW AND PAY IN ADVANCE to establish integrity.

George Imirie
Certified EAS Master Beekeeper

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