Wednesday, July 06, 2005

Capping scratcher...

This is one of the best tools for the hobbiest, and even the guy that has a few hundred colonies. Until you graduate up to an automatic uncapper, this is the best tool to use to release that treasure the bees have buried under those wax cappings. No sense in using one of those hot knives or planes that leave behind a smoking trail of burned slime. They never finish the whole frame in one swipe anyway, you have to drop the plane, and pick up the capping scratcher only to finish off the low spots, not real time efficient when you have to constantly switch tools to get the job done. With the scratcher alone, all you have to do is drag the tines across the cappings of the cells and it pierces them. Three passes on each side of a medium frame, and your done. Then throw the frames in your spinner and sling out the liquid gold.

You don't have to have one of those fancy heated knifes or uncapping planes, and don't bother with trying to slice off the top layer of wax capped cells with a cerrated knife. This is the best 5 dollar tool you will find to make your harvesting a pleasure.

Tuesday, July 05, 2005

Don't feed old honey to the bees...

I have dug up some information pertaining to old honey and heating of honey, and have posted it on both and in response to questions by other beekeepers in the past. These questions come up on a regular basis, so I thought I'd post part of my response here, to make it easier to access and I don't have to compose it all over again.

Don't feed old honey to the bees...

Old honey contains high levels of HMF(hydroxy-methyl-furfural) which for humans, is harmless, but for bees is a poisonous drug.

New honey contains 1 to 5 mg/kg HMF. In some parts of the world it is forbidden to sell honey for human consumption with more than 40 mg/kg HMF, even though it's harmless to us.

Honey deteriorates with aging and/or heating and with this the HMF increases. Only fructose will become HMF, so depending on the variatal of honey and it's fructose content, some deteriorate faster than others.

Heating the honey will raise it's HMF contents rapidly. The longer and/or hotter it is heated, the higher the HMF levels will become. Even when honey is stored at 68 degrees it's HMF content raises 1 mg/kg per month. Heating honey to 160 degrees will raise the HMF levels to more than 30 ppm in 5 to 10 hours depending on the fructose content.

Sunday, July 03, 2005

Cell measurements of foundationless frame.

Here is a photo of the frame adjoining the primary comb in the other picture. Out of curiosity, I gathered three center frames out of a hive that had housed a swarm from late fall of 2004. The hive had cold starved over winter, and these frames were clear of most brood, allowing me to get good measurements of the majority of empty comb. I started laying the ruler on the comb to measure whether or not the size of these cells were close to that of natural sized or small cell bees, of which the comb is suppose to measure 49 centimeters across 10 cells in order to average out the cells at 4.9mm each. As I have done this often, I line up the left edge of the scale on the outside of a cell wall and look at the mark at 49 centimeters to see how close this mark comes to the nearest cell wall. The cell wall just happened to fall right on the mark, so I just chalked it up to another small cell colony, and didn't think too much about it. It wasn't until I had sent this pic off to another beekeeper and got his response, that it was brought to my attention there were actually 11 cells that fit in that span of 49 centimeters. As you see these cells average 4.4mm, which is smaller than the acclaimed size of 4.9mm for natural size bees. I immediately inserted these frames into the core of a nuc, to utilise this very small comb. I took measurements of the rest of the comb and the cells were fairly uniform as you can see in the surrounding cells in the photo, all of which were between 4.4 and 4.9mm, the frame on the other side of the primary comb measured between 4.6 and 5.1mm.

Some beekeepers say cells of this size are only drawn in the spring to early summer. The evidence says otherwise.

Too bad we had such a cold winter here in Michigan, and these girls got locked down and couldn't move over another frame or so to get the honey they needed to keep warm.

Saturday, July 02, 2005

Primary comb close up.

A local hobbiest and I had a discussion recently about my decals I have been selling, to label the tops of the frames with the "Housel" position. I am posting this pic and info for him to see what I have documented from my own observations. Maybe the rest of you will find this interesting as well... This is a close up of the primary comb, notice the tops of the cells are flat. This is not the typical construction of the comb structure, but rather what some people have documented as the first comb to be drawn in the center of the brood nest, and labeled as the primary comb. There are two very distinct characteristics of the primary comb, the first being one of the flat sides of the hex shape of the cell being at the top, typical cells have a corner of the cell at the top of the cell structure to give it more structural integrity. The second very distinct characteristic of the primary comb, is the position of the "Y" that you can see shining through the bottom of the cells in the center of this pic. In a typical honeycomb cell the "Y" looks like just that, a "Y", but by viewing this frame from the opposite side, the "Y"s will then be inverted. Some people claim that on the primary comb this "Y" is turned 90 degrees, but I believe it is a much simpler adjustment that the bees make. To acquire this sideways "Y" that appears in the photo, the bees can simply adjust their building of this cell structure by a mere 30 degrees, either clockwise or counter-clockwise and the "Y" will appear to have been tilted 90 degrees.