Bradford Beekeepers Association Certificate of Competence as a Beekeeper Hive Products

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1 Certificate of Competence as a Beekeeper Hive Products This learning guide will help you meet the requirements of the activity: BfDGP1 Remove a honey crop from a hive In this unit, you will learn about: When honey is ripe enough to remove from the hive A simple method used to remove honey supers safely Assessing Risk and taking action to avoid risk Why this task is important Bees are kept for many reasons however one of the rewards of successful beekeeping is to be able to crop honey that is in excess to the bees needs. Removing a honey crop can also be a means of providing more space for the colony (replacing full combs with empty combs) to expand and as a way of making swarming less likely. All beekeepers look forward to removing a honey crop as it is the main reason most beekeepers keep bees. To be able to get combs full of honey, much prior hive management must have taken place. You will need to use your understanding of flora (and, possibly, to be able migrate your hives to the best floral conditions) for honey production. Pollen production is also important as the pollen collected by the bees builds up the colony strength so the colony has sufficient worker bees. Their task is to collect the nectar from the nectaries of blossoms and convert it into honey by adding an enzyme to the nectar that changes the sugars and reduces the moisture content of the original nectar.. Resources you will need for this Activity PPE and equipment for hive inspection Risk Assessment document Tray, board or plastic to place honey supers on A means of covering honey supers removed from the hive Important safety notes An awareness of the nature of the honeybee colony and of individual bees will allow you to work with the bees in a safe manner avoiding aggressive bee behaviour towards yourself and others. Bees can become aggressive when honey supers are being removed so make sure that all of your PPE is used correctly. It is important to ensure that honey does not become contaminated during the process of removing honey supers from the hive and delivering them to the extraction site. Key Control Points should be identified in this process so that action can be taken to avoid contamination.

2 Thinking about Bees collecting Nectar to make Honey How to tell if your bees are collecting nectar Looking at the Bees If bees are flying actively it is an indication nectar is available. Bees landing short of the entrance with enlarge abdomens. When full, the honey sac in the abdomen of the worker enlarges. Bees that are collecting nectar are heavy so they can have trouble landing. You can catch and squeeze the bee s abdomen then she will regurgitate the nectar through her mouth and you can taste the sweet nectar. Remove some combs and shake them sideways over the frames in the box. If the nectar is fresh and unripened it will easily shake out. You will also see fresh wax being produced to cap the ripened nectar in the cells. Bees fanning At night the bees fan so much to ripen the nectar that they make a strong noise. You also will observe bees fanning at the hive entrances. Robbing - If you open a hive or expose honey and bees rob it is a sign the nectar flow is finishing. Looking at the Forage Plants If bees on blossoms spend time with their tongues sucking up nectar, the flow is still on. If they fly quickly from flower to flower, it is not a good sign. Look at how many unopened flowers remain to judge how long the species providing the nectar is likely to keep flowering. Get some of the blossoms and hit them onto a hard glass surface. If the flow is still on, you should be able to see nectar on the glass. This also will tell you if other insects are in the blossoms competing with the bees for the nectar and pollen. Think about the weather Climatic conditions can suddenly stop flora from yielding nectar. If rain occurs when most species are flowering, a nectar flow will stop. Some flora prefers humid weather. BfdBKA / Bill Cadmore Certificate of Competence as a Beekeeper 2

3 Before removing a honey crop Check that you have the correct tools and equipment PPE A biosecure method of transferring honey from the hive to the extraction site You should also be aware of factors affecting the ripeness of the honey in the cells the honey quality how much honey you can remove when you should remove honey. Deciding when to remove honey The decision about when to remove honey is not an easy one for the beekeeper, whether the hives are kept in one place or moved from bee site to bee site. One thing to take into consideration is what future honey production prospects are likely to be:- Even in spring and summer a forecast of several days (or weeks) of poor weather will warn you not to remove all honey stores from the hive The needs of the bees come first. Your bees will need at least 40lb (18Kg) of honey stores to survive the winter and so it is important to remove your main honey crop when enough weeks of good weather remain in the year for the bees to build-up stores again or to leave a good level of stores in the hive. Whether you can migrate your colonies to another potential honey flow. Honey from OSR can be removed as soon as it is ready as the bees can move on to forage other crops indeed OSR honey will set in the comb if left on the hive. Similarly summer honey can be removed before colonies are moved to the heather moors. Are other species about to flower that have the potential to yield nectar and pollen. Placing empty combs on hives stimulates the bees to collect more, if the flora is still producing. As a general rule:- Hives going into winter should have one full depth super of capped honey. Strong hives will need more honey than weaker ones to survive the winter. BfdBKA / Bill Cadmore Certificate of Competence as a Beekeeper 3

4 Deciding which frames of honey are ready for removal Be cautious! Only take combs of honey that have two-thirds of the cells capped with a wax seal. Bees place a wax seal over the cell when the nectar has had sufficient moisture removed by the bees so it won t ferment and has been converted to honey. It is best to leave some honey on each hive so it won t starve. This is especially important if you are unsure how much more nectar is likely to be available to the colonies in the coming weeks. Water content Harvest only ripe honey, ensuring that at least two-thirds of each comb is sealed. Moisture content must be low enough to avoid fermentation. Aim for less than 18% moisture. You can use a refractometer to find the water content of your honey. Tools and Equipment Little specialist equipment, in addition to your normal beekeeping tools, is needed to remove the honey crop apart from:- Standard Frame Hive The Clearing Board The simplest and most effective way for new beekeepers to remove a honey crop from a standard frame hive is to use a clearing board. Most crown boards have holes in them so that they can be used as clearing boards. A clearing board has one, or more, one-way device set into the board that is placed below the super or supers of honey to be cleared of bees. Various designs of bee escapes are available for placing on the board the most common being the Porter Bee Escape. You should always check that the Porter escape is clean and that the sprung arms are free to move. Task: Examine a Porter Bee Escape to ensure that you are familiar with its working mechanism. Top-Bar and similar Hives Bee Brush and bee-proof container Clearing boards can be used on some hives but most require that frames are lifted from the hive and bees are shaken or brushed off so that the bee-free frames can be placed in a bee-proof box for removal from the apiary Task: Prepare a bee-proof box suitable for the frames from your hive type. BfdBKA / Bill Cadmore Certificate of Competence as a Beekeeper 4

5 PPE and Hygiene You are aiming to produce a high quality food product and should ensure that you observe good practice when dealing with this foodstuff. Preventing contamination or tainting Use smoke sparingly and don t use smoker fuel that has a strong odour or has been in contact with pesticides. Prevent frames coming into contact with the ground by using inverted lid to sit supers on. Cover supers top and bottom to prevent robbing, contamination of honey from dust, rain and insects while transporting. Remove any physical contamination from frames of comb by brushing and scrapping. Cleaning and sanitising Use clean water for washing hands. Maintain barrow or vehicles that you use for carrying honey supers in a clean condition. If using brushes for brushing bees from the combs, wash the brushes regularly in clean water to prevent contamination. Maintain hive components in a clean condition. Drip trays, the trays must be food-grade and clean at all times. Record your activities. Task: Ensure that all of the equipment you are going to use is clean and contamination free Task: Plan the steps you will be going through to remove the supers/frames from the hive to place them in the place you are going to extract the honey. Identify Key Control Points where you will have to make sure that the honey is not contaminated. BfdBKA / Bill Cadmore Certificate of Competence as a Beekeeper 5

6 Methods to remove bees from combs so that honey can be removed from the hive The frames or super(s) of honey to be removed from the hive must be free of bees. There are many ways to remove bees from the frames of honey so that you can remove them from the hive:- Shaking and brushing individual combs Using a clearing board Using a bee blower Using a drifting technique The method you use is up to you and it is often determined by the number of hives you have and the weather conditions. Using Clearing Boards The bee escape board is basically a one-way device set into a board that is placed below the super or supers of honey to be cleared of bees. Various designs of bee escapes are available for placing on the board the most common is the Porter Bee Escape How to use clearing/escape boards The full super or supers are removed from the hive and placed on the upturned roof (and empty ones placed on the hive if appropriate). Place the escape board, with the escape the right way up, on the top of the brood box empty super. The full super or supers are then placed on top of the escape board. The bees go through the holes in the escape board into the brood box or empty super.. Some escape boards allow the bees to escape quicker from the full supers of honey. Leave the escape boards on the hives overnight so the bees will move out of the super(s) of honey. If some bees remain, you can blow, shake or brush them from the combs. Benefits of clearing/escape boards This method causes minimal disturbance to the hives compared to other methods. It is ideal for removing honey in hobbyist situations as the bees are unlikely to sting. Escape boards can be used as covers for transporting supers of honey; this allows any stray bees that have been left in the supers to escape. Drawbacks of clearing/escape boards Escape boards require two trips to the apiary. You need enough escape boards for all hives in the apiary. In hot weather clearing doesn t always occur Task: Place your clearing boards on the hive(s) BfdBKA / Bill Cadmore Certificate of Competence as a Beekeeper 6

7 Removing Honey from Top-bar Hives (and similar) The frames or super(s) of honey to be removed from the hive must be free of bees. There are many ways to remove bees from the frames of honey so that you can remove them from the hive but the simplest is to use a shake and brush technique. Using shake and brush Place a box, into which your frames will fit without damage to the comb, next to the hive. Ensure that there is a bee-proof cover for the box which can easily be lifted and replaced. Remove individual frames from the hive checking each for the presence of brood. If the frame has brood then return it to the hive. Frames that are more than 2/3rds covered with sealed honey stores should be held above the hive and shaken free of bees with a vertical jerking motion take care not to damage the fragile comb.. Any bees left on the comb can be carefully removed with a feather or brush and the frame placed in the collection box. Remove all suitable frames. Add new top-bars or reduce the space available to the bees using endframes/dummy boards. BfdBKA / Bill Cadmore Certificate of Competence as a Beekeeper 7

8 Transporting Full Honey Supers / Boxes of frames Remove the super(s) and if you have several either stack them together in the apiary to be moved as a batch. Place the stacks of supers full of honey on drip trays or similar. Then place a cover on top to keep the load free from dirt, bees and water; a lid, a drip tray or an escape board placed so that bees can escape from the stack would make a suitable cover. If you are transporting the supers some distance then secure the load with ropes or straps. When the supers arrive at the extraction site they must be kept in hygienic conditions. Task: Move the honey super(s) to the extraction site and make sure that they are hygeinic in a clean and bee-tight situation. Extract the honey quickly, preferably the next day. Biosecurity reminder! Because there is an interchange of material between hives when you remove and replace frames and supers, you must keep records of this movement and be aware of the disease risks. Always check brood nests before removing honey, especially if you have any concerns about the health of a colony. Final activities and assessment Record details of honey removal in your hive records. BfdBKA / Bill Cadmore Certificate of Competence as a Beekeeper 8

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