Spring Beehive Tidy And Preparation 2016

Spring has arrived in Whatcom County Washington (the northwest corner of Washington state). It has arrived two weeks earlier than last year, which was early as well. The sun and flowers emerge fast on the heels of a very web February, which is good: lots of water then sun equals lots of nectar (in concept).

Big Leaf Maple Buds

Big Leaf Maple Almost Ready To Bloom











But before the bees can easily work these coming flowers, their hives must be tidied from their post-winter configurations.


Brookfield Farm Beehives In The Spring

All my hives are in western (mediums). I over winter in a stack of four boxes. When winter starts there is pollen in the bottom box (the bees keep it there); brood in the next box; brood and honey in the third box up; and honey in the fourth box. I leave 70 pounds of honey on each hive.

The images here are from a small, 4 hive, beeyard near the farm.  A small beeyard gives me time to take pictures.  And, well, it’s a lovely view, isn’t it?  The same yard after manipulation appears at the end of this post.

Spring Beehives, Maple Falls, Wa

Before the work begins


By spring:

The bees have moved up into the upper boxes.

The bottom screen has dead bees on it.

dead honeybees on a bottom screen in spring

Bring Out Your Dead – The Bottom Screen











The bottom box is empty. The bees have consumed their pollen. Sometimes a hive will have some pollen the bees didn’t eat, which has molded – this isn’t harmful to the bees, they a long way from that box by spring.

beehive bottom box in spring

Bottom Hive Box Spring









The second box is usually empty. Sometime with an especially strong hive there will be a touch of brood in the very top of it.

The third box usually has bees and brood, eggs, larva, and sealed. Often there is honey on the outer frames (1, 2, 8, 9)

Bee Box : in the spring

3rd Hive Box in the Spring









The fourth box usually has some honey with the center frames empty or with brood. Sometimes this box is full of bees and brood and they are rapidly running out of stores.   Sometimes this box is filled with honey, and the bees are honey-bound going into spring.

honeybees on top bars in the spring

4th Hive Box in the spring









If I were to leave the boxes as they are in the spring, a few things could happen: 1) the bees would swarm – they think they’ve filled all their space, 2) they would be living on top of all those decomposing bees on the bottom screen, and 3) I would run out of equipment with all those empty boxes below them.


Spring Manipulation of the Beehives

Spring work in a Brookfield Farm apiary, Maple Falls, WA,

Work In Progress :
Boxes are from the empty spot










I kind of “flipped” the boxes. When one works with 2 deeps, this is literally: put top box on bottom, put bottom on top. It’s more complicated with four boxes – but lighter.


Every hive is different, so I’ll explain the average:

The bottom screen is cleaned: dead bees knocked off. I use bottom screens all year long, no solid bottoms ever. The screens are dry as are the dead bees. I love bottom screens.

The bottom box and second box from the bottom are set aside – again, these are usually empty.

Now the manipulation begins, and it all depends on open brood, sealed brood, and honey stores.

The third and fourth boxes will become the first and second boxes, but each hive is different.

As I work, I clear the burr comb that has accumulated during winter.  In the spring, this can have drone larva on it.

honeybee burr comb, bees, and larvae

Bees, Burr Comb, and Larvae



In my hives it is unusual to have much drone comb in March, but this year I have emerged drones, many of which are sexually mature already.  These are queen right hives.  There’s just a lot of drones in the strong ones.

Drone and Worker Honeybees on a frame

Lots of Drones

What I’m Trying To Achieve,
bottom to top of the hive:

Clean bottom screen.

First (Bottom) Box:
Brood – preferably with eggs, open brood, some sealed and pollen. This can usually be found in the old third or fourth box. The box stays as the bees laid it out. I move no frames unless there is something dire (like a “wall” of honey blocking the brood area)

Honeybees on a frame of spring pollen

Bees On Spring Pollen









Second Box:
Sealed brood. I like to put this here because they’re going to emerge soon and leave all that nice space for the queen to use for eggs. Again, the box stays as the bees laid it out. The brood nest remains intact.


Honeybees on a frame of sealed brood

Bees On Brood






If the cluster is small, but viable, honey is put in the second box and the stack ends here.


Third Box:
If there has been a bit of brood in the old second box, they go here. The formation keeps the brood nest intact.

Now I move frames. I make sure that there are newer, empty frames for the queen to use. If the honey frames are out on the edges, I move them closer to the center – around places 2or 3 and 7 or 8, it’s a judgment call. I figure they’ll consume the honey before they need the space.

If all the honey is in the old fourth box, then I’ll use that honey, while leaving some in the new fourth box.

Sometimes the hive looks like it will take a while to fill this, and the stack ends at the third box.

Fourth Box:
This is only for hives that are really strong: lots of eggs and brood (open and sealed). In effect, I’m “supering” the hive.

If there is wall to wall honey, this is broken up – usually into the box below, while leaving some in the fourth box, usually around frames 3 and 8 – the maybe checker-boarded, maybe in a group, it really depends on the hive. I always leave spaces 5 and 6 open.

My hives have a “collar” – a 2 inch tall box where insulation lays over a piece of burlap in the winter. The insulation is removed, unless it’s a 2-story box – I figure the little ones need a bit more warmth, even in the spring.

Top entrance of beehive being used by honeybees

Upper Entrance in the Collar


Feeding, Again:

Some of the hives were fed during the February check. Some of these have now pulled in new stores (did I mention that spring has come very early here?); some still need feed. My feed of choice is “honey patties”: crystallized, or semi crystallized, honey laid between two pieces of newspaper and laid across the top bars under the burlap. The honey comes from my hives, set aside last fall.

Time, time, time

It all takes time. I’m the slowest beekeeper in the west, I think. But it seems to work in general. The girls kick off the spring with clean boxes, an intact brood nest, room to move up (really, mine never read the book that say bees move down), and a supply of honey.

The yard looks tidy when it’s all done.  You can see that one hive came through winter quite small (2-stories); one hive did fine (3-stories); and two needed to be supered already (4-stories).  Same queen stock, same bees, same treatments, different results – each hive is an individual.

Beehives in the Spring

After the work.










Meanwhile, Back At the Farm

The pallet where I off-load bee boxes from hives that didn’t need four (or even three) boxes, and the dead-outs is a tower. These are all walked up into the “hayloft” and stacked for cleaning, the creation of this year’s supers and nucs, and the elimination of frames over 5 years old. Happily my partner has jumped in on this and has been moving and stacking boxes as I off load them. The hay from the hayloft? It’s on the ground floor of the barn – we once had 80 head of livestock, I now have nine goats, pack goats and pets. In fact to celebrate the finish of the spring tidy, I tossed packs on the lead pack goat and me and took off for a 4-hour lowland hike in the local hills…


Spring Sprang Soon

I’m glad the spring tidy is done. I once had a few weeks to do this, but this year when the February rains stopped there were two weeks before the big leaf maples bloomed. This is the first big honey flow here, and all hives must be done before that hits – or else the bees will swarm – in March or early April – it used to snow up river at this time of year. Things change, eh? We all know that as beekeepers: nothing ever stays the same.

That’s the news from Brookfield Farm Bees and Honey in Maple Falls, Washington. Next “exciting” step is to start cleaning bee boxes and frames, while putting together this year’s supers and nucs. What’s happening in your bee yards? I know Emily over at HER BLOG said seasons are moving fast in the UK (if you’ve not read her blog, check it out. It’s really, really good).   Are you all seeing the seasons moving “forward” again this year?

As usual you can find Brookfield Farm Bees And Honey every Sunday at two Seattle markets: The Ballard Farmers Market and the Sunday Fremont Market. I’m over at Ballard – stop by and say hi if you’re in the area.

Brookfield Farm Bees And Honey Market Booth

Brookfield Farm Market Booth





Posted in 1 Beekeeping, 4 Hive Components, 9 Brookfield Farm Bee Yards | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Post-Winter Hive Check 2016

We had some clear weather at the end of February, and I took advantage of it to check the hives.

Bees at the Top Entrance to hive

Busy Bees in February

For the record, Brookfield Farm Bees And Honey had a 13% loss of beehives from September to March. I’m often asked this question, but let me say that I think the number has little real meaning. I don’t like treating beekeeping like a contest, or a simple problem in mathematics. I also think percentages tend to incite competition with false feelings of triumph and failure.

What Does The Hive Loss Number Mean?

On the surface it’s the percentage of the number of hives that died over the number of hives that went into winter. But which hives died, which lived? Where were they? Why did they die or survive? What might have been done or not done? These are more important questions.

The Bee Yards’ Numbers

Back to the numbers:

In one agricultural bee yard I saw 28% loss. That was depressing. In another it was 17%.

In two forest-area bee yards I saw zero% loss.   Other bee yards ranged from 9% to 14%.

So if one wanted to “play” who-did-better I could trot out the zero loss yards – I’m brilliant, my bees are great. But I could equally point to the 28% loss – I’m a fool, my bees are horrid. Neither statement is true.

The lesson of numbers: Don’t compare yourself to others. Learn. Don’t compare.

What interests me is that I have many of the same lines of bees in both agricultural and mountain areas.  But over the last few years, I’ve seen greater losses in agricultural areas.  Before we jump up and down and say field pesticides, which it could be, I’d also like to point out that in agricultural areas there are more beekeepers.  More beekeepers mean more drone mothers who may not be 1) adapted to this climate and 2) may be living the “chemical” life of antibiotics and in-hive pesticides….In other words, not the moms of the boys I want my girls to mate with…

Before I go on about what I found, first, a bit of background:

The Area:

I keep bees in Whatcom County, Washington (state). We are the most northwest corner of Washington, west of the Cascade mountain range. Rain and snow are the weather forecast here from October to March, and often beyond (it’s pouring as I write this).   The north fork of the Nooksack River runs through the area where I have bees.

The hives are “down river” and “up river”. Down river is agricultural: blackberry, blueberry, raspberry, kale and corn (some organic, some conventional).

Colorful hives before honey harvest

Agricultural Whatcom










Up river is forest: fireweed, snowberry, salmonberry, thimbleberry, blackberry, and tons of wildflowers. The areas are divided by a north/south running ridge called “Van Zandt’s Dike.”

Bee hives at Brookfield Farm Bees and Honey, WA

Farm Hives


What I Found in Brookfield Farms Hives:

The Dead Outs:  These are always more interesting.

Post Winter Hive - Dead Out

They’re all there, just dead


I saw no signs of nosema.   This has been pretty standard since I moved to using an oil based patty to delivery essential oils in the fall. When I used ½ to 1 gallon of syrup, I saw nosema. For me: best not to add liquid to a hive in the fall (remember: it’s rain and snow here for 6 months)


Varroa is a bit harder to judge on a dead out. But no living bees had varroa. And, yes, the living bees were using the dead outs as handy feeders. I assume they started raiding before the dead outs were totally dead.

Weakness and Queen Failure:

  1. a) Some hives that had been large dwindled to nothing and then starved a few inches from food. This could have been varroa. It could also be a failing queen.
  2. b) Attempts at supersedure were noted in a few hives – failed queen cells.
  3. c) Dead queens were seen in two of the hives.

The Living:

Tons of nice bees in some hives. Good sized clusters in others.

Honeybees on frames between boxes

A nice little cluster of bees

A good amount of stores in most.

Frame of "winter feed" honey and hive in spring

Still working on their fall honey

No varroa visible. No drone brood to open.

Bees bringing in pollen.

Pollen on the legs of honeybees at hive entrance

Spring Pollen



A bit of sealed worker brood in some, none in others.

Sealed and open brood with honeybees

Honeybees on sealed and open brood


A native visitor

Honeybee and Bumblebee on Hive top

We are all bees together

The Most Amusing:

These were hives that had no bees flying. I knock on the side of the hive, put my ear to it, nothing is heard. “Dead out” I mutter. I finish the bee yard, then go back to check what killed the dead outs, only to find a nice cluster of bees in the center of the hive, happily surrounded by honey. I swear I hear them shout “close the hive, lady, it’s cold out there”.

Spring Bee Feeding:

About 10% of my hives needed to be fed. The bees in these hives had plowed though their 70 pounds of winter stores. These hives were noted so I would not pull larva from them for queen breeding.

I feed with honey from my hives, kept back from last year’s harvest.  It’s wrapped in newspaper, to keep the bees from being stuck.

Crystalized Honey for honey bee feed

First Step In Making the Honey “Patty”

Yes, diseases can be spread this way. But I’m willing to take that chance over feeding cane sugar. If I run out of my own honey, I do feed cane sugar – never the honey from someone else’s hives, even if I think they have great honey (for me) and great beekeeping practices.

Future Queen Potential:

Hives that had survived with a nice looking cluster or a great deal of bees without consuming all their stores were marked for potential future-queen-larva. I like to pull the larva from a number of hives, to get as much genetic diversity as I can in my smallholding.

Honeybees at top entrances of hives

Happy Bees

What The Future Holds:

That’s the news from Brookfield Farm Bees And Honey in Maple Falls, Washington.  Winter is not over here in the second week of March. It was pouring rain outside as I wrote this, and we had gale force winds the other night (note to self – clean gutters). Snow is falling on the lower mountains that surround us and on the high peaks 40 minutes up river. It’s wet and cold – not the optimum condition for bees. There’s a rumor that we’ll see sun in 2 weeks time. We’re 3 weeks away from the start of the first potential honey flow (Big Leaf Maples), if it doesn’t rain straight though the bloom.

As usual, you can find us at two Seattle Sunday Markets, the Sunday Fremont Market and The Ballard Farmers Market.  Come on down and visit if you’re in the area.

How are things going in your part of the world?  Any surprises, hopefully good ones, from your hives heading into spring, or into the fall?




Posted in 1 Beekeeping, 4 Feeding Bees, 5 Queens and Queen Rearing, 8 Brookfield Farm & Bees, 9 Brookfield Farm Bee Yards | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | 13 Comments

Beeswax Chews (or the Big Bits Floating On Top Of Honey)

I started selling “beeswax chews” at Seattle’s Ballard Farmers’ Market.   After explaining what they were to customers, I thought – “hey, a new blog topic”. Now “Beeswax Chews” are what I’ve always called the big bits of wax that float on top of the honey after extraction. These bits have a fair amount of Bee Bread (bee adapted pollen) and propolis and some raw honey clinging to them.

How I Use Beeswax Chews at Brookfield Farm:

Bits of Beeswax, Bee Bread, Propolis

Beeswax Chews













They have always served two purposes for me:

1) I chew them like gum. You can swallow them, but I just spit them out (in a delicate lady-like manner of course). They taste good and I figure the bee bread and propolis should be good for me.

2) I feed them back to the bees. Before anyone cries out, let me say that when bees share bees wax or honey there’s a good chance diseases will be passed around. I would not let my bees pick through any other beekeeper’s beeswax bits, but my girls get to share with each other.

Where the Beeswax Bits Come From:

There are 2 sources for beeswax bits in any honey operation:

1) Cappings wax – the wax that is cut off from frames of honey during extraction. At Brookfield Farm, these fall into a vat with a screen at the bottom so dripping honey collects below the cappings wax.

An uncapped frame of honey

Uncapped Honey Frame – Capping Tank Below











2) From extracted frames. When the uncapped honey frames go into the extractor, bits of wax can and do fly off. The extractor is a centrifuge and if wax it loose, it flies off the frames along with honey.

Honey frames spin in a honey extractor

Extractor Spinning (don’t open spinning extractors, it’s dangerous)











When the extractor’s honey gate is opened to let the honey flow from the tank’s bottom, the bits of wax come right along with it.  (They are the white blobs in the honey in the image below.)

Raw honey flows from honey extractor to bucket at Brookfield Farm, Maple Falls, Washington

Brookfield Farm’s very basic set up











In my operation, I just scoop them up with a large spoon and hand held sieve and pop them into their own container. Other beekeepers catch them by having the honey flow through a wire sieve that sits between the extractor and the honey bucket.

In large operations, there is a baffle tank.  Think of a long open trough with three “dams” or baffles in it.  The honey flows from the extractor and into a tank with three baffles – little dams (at least the one I was privileged to use for a while had three – oh, the good old days – baffle tanks are great).

At each step, the beeswax bits float to the surface as the honey drifts under a slot at the bottom. By the third baffle, the honey’s pretty darn free of big bits. It still has bee bread (bee adapted pollen) and propolis, just not big floating bits.

Customers Do Ask….We try to supply

I never really thought about selling them. We just chewed them – especially in winter during the “cold and flu” season – and let the bees have them. Then a customer asked for them. So I thought, hey, I’ll put them out there… My great marketing strategy – ask me for something, if I have it I’ll put it out, if I don’t have it, I’ll try to find out where you can get it. So now you can find them at Seattle’s Ballard Farmers’ Market every Sunday.

Beeswax bits after extraction

The Chew – Up Close








What’s Happening Right Now

It’s raining. This is not earth shattering news in winter around here. I’m happy to say it’s snowing where it should: 15 to 25 miles up river. That gives good snowshoeing in the forest and good skiing/snowboarding at the Mt. Baker Ski Area (I don’t ski/snowboard, but it’s ski slopes in the midst of a National Forest – beautiful, and I hear world-class runs).

The bees popped out for the two nice days we had. Of course, I had appointments in town (an hour away) both days. I took some quick peeks at the farm bee yard and most look good. Two (this is a blog of 2’s) look like dead outs, but I’ve been fooled before. I start pulling apart a “dead out” and the cluster of bees looks up and say “close the darned box lady, it’s cold out there….” So we shall see

I also got my vacation rental in Glacier onto Air BnB – it was a bit more complicated than I thought it was going to be.  The good photos seem to be still making their way though the system (go figure).  I’ve been trying to sell the house, but with the economy as it is, renting it seems to be the best way, or now.

Oh, and I learned how to use my new Square Register, kind of. I’m getting better at it. But I have had lots of help from the wonderful vendors around me at the Ballard Market. I’m quite pleased it’s working – technology is not my forte.

That’s the news from Brookfield Farm Bees And Honey, in Maple Falls, Washington, how are your bees as we head into spring here in the northern latitudes, and you all head for fall down south?

Posted in 92 Honey | Tagged , , , , , | 3 Comments

The Honey Paw Uncapper – I like it

Last year I finally purchased and used a Honey Paw Uncapper.  It works quite well, but it was a pain to buy.  Nothing like sending 200 EUROS (about $215 at this time, I think the exchange made it higher when I bought it) to Narva, Finland based on their video and a few comments in on beekeeping web forums.  It all worked out.  Buying it was the hardest part.

Honey Paw Slit Uncapper at Brookfield Farm Bees And Honey, Maple Falls, WA

Honey Paw Uncapper

The Background:
a short history of uncapping honey at Brookfield Farm

When I had a few hives I had a friend with a huge extraction set up.  60-frame extractor, baffle tanks, pumps, and of course a Cowen Uncapper.

Honey Uncapper, Cowen Manufacturing

Cowen Honey Uncapper – They are wonderful










Easy?  It was a breeze.

Then I got more hives and my friend left the business.  I got a 20-frame extractor and a hot knife.  It was efficient, but hard on my wrists.

Also, as much as I explained to the bees that I needed flat surfaces on the comb, I got lumpy surfaces.  Bees, they just don’t listen.

So I kept poking around on the web, looking at options that 1) I could afford 2) could work in my very small extraction room and 3) could deal with the rolling surfaces of my drawn honey frames.   That’s where I found the Honey Paw.


Honey Paw Slit Uncapper at Brookfield Farm Bees And Honey, Maple Falls, WA

Honey Paw Uncapper













The Honey Paw:

Basically, the Honey Paw is a smooth “scratcher” that is warmed by steam.  I thought that was pretty cool, and still do.

The unit is small and handheld.

The warmed unit is passed lightly across the drawn honeycomb, rolling over, and dipping down into all the little hills and valleys of the comb’s surface.

Honey Paw Uncapper on Frame of Honey at Brookfield Farm Bees And Honey, Maple Falls, WA

Sliding Over A Frame of Honey










Furrows are left behind where the honey will emerge in the extractor.


Uncapped Honey Frame After Honey Paw Uncapper

After the Honey Paw










I thought it did a lovely job.  The honey came out in about 15 minutes (pretty standard time).  The best part was that the wax was not completely disassembled on the drawn comb.  It looks good, and leaves more intact cells so the bees will need to do less work to rebuild before they reseal.

HoneyPaw Frame After Extraction

Honey Frame After Extraction











It’s hard to photograph, but the parts that look like they are still uncapped have no honey under them.  Surprised me too.

Ian took a break from woodworking and did some of the extraction this year.

Ian Using the Honey Paw Uncapper

Ian Uncapping Honey










To see what he thought of the Honey Paw, I had him use my hot knife for a bit, then the Honey Paw.  He too felt that the Honey Paw was easier to use, easier on the comb, and was more efficient in uncapping portion the frames.


How The Honey Paw Uncapper Works:

Two hoses attach to the unit: one is steam coming into the unit; the other is the steam (water) leaving the unit. The water goes into and out of the unit itself. The honey doesn’t get wet.  The Honey Paw is just warm enough to melt the wax as you pass over the frame – you don’t linger, which is nice.


Steam Driven

A wallpaper steamer provides the steam.

Steam Connection For HoneyPaw Uncapper

Steam Connection for Wall Paper Steamer Unit










If one had to buy this it would be pricy, but one can rent them at any DIY place in towns.  You get all these amazing tools for removing wallpaper with the rental, but they just sit in the truck.  It’s the steamer unit that’s important.

It’s also the part that worried me (me being worried is a natural state, like the sun shinning).  Would the tubes fit? Would it blow up?  Yes to the first, no to the second.

It’s pretty simple: attach a tube to the steamer and run it to the tool.  Run another tube away from the honey paw and, for me, out the door.

The Tubes For The Honey Paw

The tubes that run from the wallpaper steamer are ¼” clear, flexible tubing.  We have this amazing hardware store in Bellingham Washington, Hardware Sales.  Wallpaper steamer rental: no problem. Small flexible tubing: no problem.  Amazing advice on plumbing: no problem (but that’s another story).

The critical part on the Honey Paw set up is that the tubes should not touch.  Each tube on its own if fine, but the company says you should not let them lay against each other.


Hot tube rigging for the honey paw uncapper - the rustic version

the non-fancy, but functional tube rig





















The Honey Paw Video shows a beautiful rig with ceiling rigging and spiraling wires that keep the tubes separated.

Brookfield Farm is a bit more basic.  The room’s ceiling is low and has beams.  Two C-Clamps did the trick: one C-Clamp for each line.

Put the Steamer for the Honey Paw Outside

At first I ran the out-flow hose into a bucket in the room, but that was putting water in the room. The line was then run outside though a small opening in the door jam (the benefits of doors not fitting properly) and into a bucket outside.

HoneyPaw Outflow Tube to Bucket

no problem finding buckets at Brookfield Farm











The Honey Paw Uncapper: I’m Glad I bought it.

In all I’m glad I bought it.  But I think they need a US and/or Canadian distributor.  It is just way too worrisome to send money to a small, unknown (at least here) company overseas.  They are totally legit, have a lovely selection of equipment, but Finland’s a long way away.  If you are inspired to get one, I’d say go for it (the bank does the hard part: the exchange rate, figuring out the routing numbers, at least mine did for me, I like my bank).  I think I’ll be using the Honey Paw for a long, long time.

Honey Paw Uncaps Frame of Honey

Looking forward to years of use

What’s Happening Now At Brookfield Farm

I’m struggling to learn to use a square reader and the new, used, tablet that I had to get to use the square.  So in 2016 I’ll be able to take credit cards at both our Seattle Markets: Ballard and Fremont.  Really, I’d much rather work bees without a veil than get my head around this technology.  The things we do to make a living, eh?

On the positive side, we’re past the last big snow – I was so tired of chaining up my truck to make it up the last half mile to the farm (and that was with snow tires and 4-wheel drive).   One of my guard dogs was somewhat disappointed that he could not find enough dogs and cats to play a proper game of hockey on the drive.

Livestock Guard Dog seeks hockey team

Livestock Guard Dog On Ice









Posted in Honey Extraction | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Honey Foam : the White Stuff on Top

Honey foam may be one of the most surprising things about the appearance of raw honey.   It is often greeted with the words: “What’s that white stuff on top?” Regardless of the raw honey’s form, runny or crystallized, it may be topped with a thin layer of froth, which will solidify in crystallized honey. If you find this honey foam in your jar, consider yourself lucky.

Honey Foam on Raw Buckwheat Honey

Swirls of Foam









Honey foam is delicious. It is light, flavorful, and packed with air bubbles that have trapped some of the wondrous stuff that is in raw honey: pollen, propolis, wax, and, of course, raw honey.


Gravity Fed Honey

I don’t get a lot of honey foam in my raw honey because I’m pretty low-tech: gravity flow from extractor to bucket to jars.

Dark, Rich Brookfield Farm honey pouring from the extractor

A Darker Honey This Year









Pumped Honey

Some friends of mine who have a “few” more hives (I have around 80 to 100, they have around 1,700 to 2,000) use pumps to move the honey from their extractors through baffle tanks and then into the large holding tanks.

Maxant Baffle Tank

Maxant’s Baffle Tank (aka a clarifying tank)












The baffles remove the big chunks of wax that fly free during the centrifuge action of the extractor. They are like little dams that let the runny honey flow through but stop big chunks. The pollen, propolis, and tiny pieces of wax flow on though with the honey.

The holding tank is just what it sounds like. A large tank that holds the honey before it’s bottled.

What Air Adds To Honey

Pumps mean air is being introduced to the system. The air bubbles up through the honey becoming involved with the pollen, propolis and wax that is making its way upward as well. The result is the most delicious, fluffy, frothy foam, full of goodness.

Barrels of Fun, and Honey, and Honey Foam

My friends’ honey often comes to me in barrels. When opened, honey foam is floating on the top.

Honey Foam in Barrel of Raw Honey

Honey Foam in Barrel of Raw Honey













As I pump the raw honey and honey foam from the barrels, more air bubbles form and again creates even more honey foam at the top of the honey jars.

Raw Buckwheat Honey with honey foam

Honey Foam at Top of Jar

Foam Forever

Even though the final bottling of raw honeys is done using the incredibly fascinating, but deceptively simple force of gravity, the honey foam stays in the honey and will rise to the top over time.

The pumped air’s effect on the honey foam is further enhanced by the proteins in the honey, according to Wikipedia. “The presence of proteins causes honey to have a lower surface tension than it would have otherwise, which produces a marked tendency to foam…and encourages formation of fine air bubbles,”

I have noticed that lighter honeys produce less foam than the black honeys; in our case the Buckwheat and Chamisa raw honeys from Stan’s hives (aka K Brothers Pollination and Honey). I would guess the higher quantity of foam in the black honeys is due to the higher ratio of proteins in the honey – but that’s just a guess.

Since we carry a wide array of raw honeys from our own hives and those of our friends, when you open a jar of honey from Brookfield Farm Bees And Honey, you just might find a delicious treat on top of the raw honey: Honey Foam

What’s Happening Now

It’s been snowing, then freezing, and the icy road home has been a pain.  I went and bought new chains for my truck to make it up the hill.  Bee wise, just trying to do some paper work that I’ve not caught up on yet.  Exciting, eh?  But I did take some time out to head up river and go walking – have I mentioned that, in my humble opinion, I live in one of the most beautiful places on earth?

North Fork Nooksack River, Whatcom County WA - winter

North Fork Nooksack River – 1/2 hour from home

That’s the news from Brookfield Farm Bees and Honey, Maple Falls, Washington.  You can find me each week at Seattle’s Ballard Farmer’s Market.  No Fremont Market for a bit, Ian, my partner, slipped on the ice and broke his arm.  The “joys” of winter…… Stay safe where ever you are….



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Storing Bee Hive Frames in Winter

I search continuously for easy, efficient, nontoxic ways to deal with bee equipment. Storing frames for winter has been an evolving technique. I am pretty happy with my new set up: stacking frames in boxes set on their sides.

Winter Storage of Bee Hive Frames At Broookfield Farm

I do so like tidy









When I had fewer hives, I used to hang my frames in the hayloft.

How foundation is stored at Brookfield Farm, Maple Falls, WA

the line on the right is 40 feet long.









Stacking is even easier, and equally efficient at keeping wax moths from settling on the the comb.


I pull honey in August or September (that’s evolving too). We don’t see spring here until March at the earliest. So that means 5 or more months during which the supers’ frames are stored in my hayloft.

Mice and wax moths are my two main problems during this time.

Mice I’ve got covered

William Kitten checks out the bee box assembly line

one of our quality control experts









The cats live in the barn. Before anyone becomes worried about them, it’s a 24 by 40 foot barn with a hayloft, hay, stored furniture and bee gear. Goats and livestock guard dogs on the ground floor provide “warming elements’. Along with fresh mice, the cats have their own giant kibble feeder, which probably brings mice, but, hey, even cats deserve an easy break in hunting. Mice? What mice? Haven’t seen one in the barn in years.

I don’t get wax moths either – due to hanging and stacking and our cold winters.

Wax moth Damage from Jennie Stitzinge's beeinformed.org blog

wax moth damage (courtesy of Jennie Stitzinger, beeinformed.org)










One thing that wax months don’t like is cold, freezing weather. Last year we didn’t have much of that, but it’s already begun this year. This is good for the local economy (we have some of the best skiing and snowboarding in the US) and good for wax frames in storage.

But wax moths can still be an issue if one creates nice, sealed, dark places for them to breed.


I stopped hanging frames as my hive numbers increased.  The technique worked really well, but it was time consuming.

In a long-lost article,  I read about stacking hives on their edges. I gave it a try and it works.

Winter Storage of Bee Hive Frames At Broookfield Farm

I do so like tidy









The article said you could go three boxes deep. The author further suggested that one put a screen at either end. I think the screen was for mice…believe me cats are easier, effective and prettier (plus, some cuddle).

I go two boxes deep.

Winter Bee Hive Frames Storage showing Space Between Storage

Two rows fit nicely










My barn has gussets – pieces of wood that stick out to allow more weight to fall on the roof without collapsing (did I mention it can snow here, a lot). Two supers on edge fit nicely between each gusset.

The boxes that face to camera are also two boxes deep – I was just running out of room, so I turned them 90 degrees.

Stacking boxes and frames in this way, also makes it easy to pull frames I want in the spring: I stack them with the top bars out, so it’s kind of like going to a frame “library”. I look at the dates of the frames, and page though to get an idea of what condition the frame is in.

Winter Bee Hive Frame Storage - along the row

Rows Of Frames







I like stacking the frames. They are neat, tidy, and easily accessible.   All ready for me when spring finally rolls around.

That’s the news from Brookfield Farm Bees And Honey in Maple Falls. What’s happening right now at the farm? Inverter trauma. We are an off-grid farm. I installed a new piece of equipment only to find that it really, really did not like my 20-year-old inverter. After a number of false starts, thinking that it was an issue of voltage (105 versus 110 – no other equipment cared), then maybe an imperfect ground, I discovered that the new equipment wanted pure sine wave, something that was created over the last two decades. So I’m buying a tiny inverter just for that piece of equipment. (A wonderful company, Backwoods Solar helped me sort this out.  They’re great, they don’t mind answering questions at length.)  OK, the world of inverters is not as gripping as beekeeping, but around here inverters are vital to our operation.

How’s your winter shaping up? Or in warmer climates – how are your bees doing?




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New Honey Pump at Brookfield Farm

I love my new honey pump from Kelley Beekeeping. But like all love affairs, there are ups and downs, issues to deal with, questions to ask before everything works smoothly.

Kelley Honey Pump In - Out Connections

Pump with inflow and outflow

She (all wondrous machines are she, yes?) is a straightforward pump with a ¾ horsepower motor, a large wheel, small wheel, and a fan belt. I added on a series of plumbing connections, a 1-½ inch food grade hose and a small metal hose insert from another pump I own.

The Honey Pump’s Job at Brookfield Farm

I sell raw honey from naturally treated, antibiotic-free Washington hives; both my own honey and that of friends of mine. Most of my friend’s honey is in food-quality 55-gallon barrels. These can contain anywhere from 600-650 pounds of honey.   If you’re working with raw honey, get the 3/4 horsepower pump – because your honey is going to be thick and hard for the pump and motor to move.

Pumping Honey at Brookfield Farm

the basic set up (pump behind motor).







Because I deal in raw honey, the barrels are placed in a 100F warm room and often wrapped with a PowerBlanket, also set at 100F. This allows the honey to stay raw (at a little above optimum hive temperature) but make it flow. It flows, but it remains very, very thick. In the case of Buckwheat honey, incredibly thick. Thus the need for a ¾ horsepower pump.

The Honey Pump’s Issues

Actually, the pump has few issues itself. The troubles all are in a lack of communication – love can be like that.

The pump arrives from Kelly Beekeeping somewhat disassembled on a flat metal sheet which is bolted to a piece of wood. All the bits, wheels, belt and belt guard, are laying flat on the metal sheet. The motor arrives separately.

Kelley Beekeeping Heavy Duty Gear Pump

The Pump As It Comes










The big thing the set-up lacks is directions.

The Wonderment of “How To” put my honey pump together

The lack of directions would be fine if I knew anything about pumps and motors. But I know nothing about them. A pamphlet that came with the pump explained the flow of the honey would depend on if the pump was rotating clock-wise or counter clock-wise. That was all.

It might seem logical. One wheel had a key slot in it. The motor had a key slot. They should work together, right? Wrong. The round gear wheel goes on the motor, which has a key on its shaft – remove that key.

Kelley Honey Pump small gear wheel

Round, so confusing







Honey Pump Motor with Key

The Deceptive Motor Shaft Key (the tiny piece in the groove)- remove it








When In Doubt Call Kelleys

One of the things I like about Kelley Beekeeping is that their people actually talk to you, and listen to you.   I rang Kelleys and they put me over the people in the shop who do know about pumps and motors. They talked me though putting the set-up together, from wiring to assembly.

Perhaps the oddest moment was when I was told “oh, didn’t anyone tell you to take that off the motor?” This was in reference to the key, which I thought was part of the shaft.

My New Honey Pump:

This is what my pump looks like now.

Kelley Honey Pump In - Out Connections

Pump with in-flow and out-flow







You might note it does not have a belt guard. The guard did not work at all. It rubbed the fan belt. If you remove the guard be really careful. Fingers and clothes can get caught and injuries can occur (your hair is pulled back and under a cap, so that’s secure, right?).

Kelley Honey Pump With Guard

Safety Guard On







The motor comes in a different box.

The “How To” on the Kelley Honey Pump

So in aid of anyone else who purchases this pump. What follows is how I put the pump together.

The Honey Pump & Motor Wheels:

The big wheel goes onto the pump. Ignore the fact that the wheel has a key slot. It means nothing.

Big Gear Wheel On Kelley Honey Pump

The Big Geared Wheel








The little wheel goes onto the motor

Lock on Gear Wheel On Keyed Piece

The little geared wheel and lock down








You will need a hex key to set these in place.

Important: Do not tighten them down until everything is in place.


The Honey Pump Motor:

As I mentioned, if the motor you have has a key on it. Lift it out. You don’t need it. It will be in the way and is confusing because its gear is the round one.

I went with the 3/4 horse power motor from Kelley’s. They told me that if you’re dealing in raw honey you’ll need that to be able to pump the semi-fluid honey.  They were absolutely right.  (I could not find a link to their page for the motors – perhaps I simply called them and said “I’ll take one of those too.” I can’t remember).


The Base:

The pump arrives on a metal plate with predrilled holes for the motor.  There are holes drilled in the metal where the motor would be mounted.

Try placing the motor where the pre-drilled holes are. Hopefully it will fit.

In fact, before you order the pump and motor I would suggest calling and asking them to make sure the holes are correct for the motor you’re buying (assuming you’re getting the entire set-up from Kelleys)

If the motor does not fit in the pre-drilled holes: (Now why do I know this part, eh?)

You will need a metal drill bit, 3-in-1 oil, and a drill.

My husband drilled the holes with a regular drill, but he makes furniture and is good at using a handheld power drill.  I would have used my drill press.

Assembly of Honey Pump:

The pump arrived locked down in place by Kelleys

Attach the motor to the plate

Put the wheels on the motor and the pump.

Put the fan belt on the wheels.

If you have to set the motor into new holes you’ve drilled: Move the motor around until:

The fan belt is stretched snug between the wheels

The fan belt looks like it would run straight between the wheels

Mark and drill your holes. The 3-in-1 oil is to put on the drill bit. Drilling metal gets hot.

Align the guide wheels for the fan belt – Important advice from Kelleys:

Tighten the wheel on the motor but NOT to tighten the wheel down hard on the pump    shaft until I let it run a bit – without pumping, just turning the motor on.

That helps to align the wheels as the fan belt pulls it to its logical place.

Then tighten the wheel on the pump shaft.

Wiring the Motor:

My motor may be different from the motor now being used – so please call Kelleys and have them explain the wiring to you. Mine had 8 wires in multiple colors. None of these were the ground wire. It was not logical as to which wire would be neutral and which would be hot, and I worked in electrical for a long time.

Honey Pump Motor Wires

Honey Pump Motor Wires










Honey Pump Wires Marked for Powerd CU

Still didn’t make sense, but it worked








The Foot Switch

I added a foot switch as well.

Honey Pump Motor Foot Switch

The Foot Switch







There is no on/off switch on the motor, and unplugging the unit in a hurry was not going to be pretty, if I needed to do it.

The Belt Guard

I just could not make it work. It rubbed against the belt no matter where we put it. In the end I just took it off. Remember, if you do this just be really careful – the guard is there to protect you.

The Plumbing Bits:

The Honey Hose:

I went with 1 ½ inch hose because that’s what I had on my other pump.

I’m glad I did. When I got to pumping my barrel of 100F buckwheat it was a challenge. Buckwheat honey is really thick. The hose nearly collapsed on itself trying to suck up the honey. But it did it. It worked.

Inflow/ Outflow Bits

Photos will explain it best, but here’s the break down as well:

You’ll need 1” to 1 ½ “ reducers, elbows and bits that the hose will fit over (bet there’s a formal name for that), and hose clamps.

To pump from barrel (incoming): 1” to 1 ½ “ adapter, 1 1/2” female thread to male thread, 1 ½ inch female thread to male hose adapter, hose, with a clip to hold the hose onto the male hose adapter

Kelley Honey Pump Inflow Close Up

The Inflow

From pump outflow 1” to 1 ½” adapter, 1 1/2 “ female to male thread, 1 ½ “ elbow (the pump is in the way), 1 ½ inch female thread to male hose adaptor, hose, with a clip to hold the hose onto the male hose

Honey Pump Outflow Plumbing Bits Close Up

The Honey Pump Outflow

I wound up buying more than I needed.

Metal Cap For Honey Barrel

This metal insert came from a pump that I got from Mann Lake. The pump was nice, but not strong enough to pump raw honey.

Honey Line Metal End

So the hose does not stick to the barrel










The end cap is magic. It keeps the hose from connecting to the barrel’s side or bottom and stopping the flow.

Partners In Honey

So far the pump has plowed though nine barrels of honey, with two to go. What used to take me all day now takes about two hours. It is faster with more fluid honey, and slower with thicker honey.

As I said I love my honey pump. It is  the beginning of a beautiful friendship (you’ll have to watch the entire clip on the link – but Casablanca, and Bogart are well worth watching over, and over, and over again.)

Kelley Honey Pump In - Out Connections

Pump with in-flow and out-flow


That’s the news from Brookfield Farm Bees And Honey in very rainy Maple Falls, Washington.  Creeks are running like rivers. Rivers are nearing road level.  In other words, back to normal for November around here.  This is good. The drought was bad.  So it’s pretty quiet in the apiary these days.

I’m doing a presentation tomorrow on Bees and Beekeeping – in naturally treated hives.  Should be fun, and a challenge to see if I can do the whole thing in an hour and half….

What’s happening in your part of the bee world?






Posted in 1 Beekeeping, Honey Extraction | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Bee Year 2015 Overview – Brookfield Farm

The Brookfield Farm Bees And Honey blog went quiet for a while – ok, for quite a while. But it’s back.   Bee work, honey work, festivals, Farmers Markets, a bit of fun in the backcountry and some rather massive family issues that had to be resolved absorbed my time. This posting is an overview of the bee, honey work and a bit of the backcountry.

Pack Goats train in the High Cascades

Pack Goats In Training above Tomyhoi Lake

SUMMER ACTIVITIES at Brookfield Farm Bees And Honey

In general, the summer carried on with the usual activities, but at a faster pace – some of this can be found in previous posts :

Make frames

Assembling bee hive frames

Frames being made in my open air “shop”










Wire frames

Wiring bee hives frames at Brookfield Farm Bees And Honey, Maple Falls, Washington

Wiring Frames








Hang wax

One wired frame and one waxed bee hive foundation frame at at Brookfield Farm Bees And Honey, Maple Falls, Washington

Before and After hanging wax










Make bottom screens

Bottom Screens for Bee Hives at Brookfield Farm, Maple Falls, WA

Waiting For Sun and Paint










Split and Super Hives

Queen Excluders on a Bee Hive Split

2 Queen Excluders In Place







Raise queens

Add purchased queens

Worker honeybees examine a caged Russian Queen : out their new queen (in a cage) at Brookfield Farm Bees And Honey, Maple Falls, WA

Caged Queen and Workers








Realize there’s not enough equipment and back to wire frames, hang wax….

Sounds simple, but it all takes time doesn’t it?  I just realized I’ve never done a post on making frames and hanging wax – another winter post to come.  Raising Queens solo is a hard one to document: I’m doing the work and can’t really step back while I’m doing it.

AN EARLY YEAR for bees and honey in Whatcom County, Washington

The reason everything moved so quickly is that it was an odd summer here in Washington state. Everything bloomed three weeks early, even in the agricultural areas. At first the unusual sun was interspersed with nice periods of rain here in the northwest of the state – everything grew and flourished

Goats browse in front of bee hives

The Brookfield Farm Bee Yard Grounds Crew

Hives were putting on lots of honey, so much that is was hard to keep up.

Tall Bee Hive at Brookfield Farm Maple Falls Washington

Some hives got very tall










Then the drought really set in, nectar became scarce.  Happily the bees had those stores laid up in the hives, but little more came in.


August was set for the harvest date this year. September is my usual time, and I may go back to it. There is little difference in the harvest; it simply fit better with time constraints and family issues.

This year Ian volunteered to step in and help with the extraction. He’s calm, patient and methodical, so he’s a natural for working in the very small extraction room.

Extracting honey at Brookfield Farm, Maple Falls

Ian Balsillie Extracts Honey at Brookfield Farm



We did use a new uncapper this year: The Honey Paw  from Finland. I’ll write more about it in a later post, but in essence it is a steam driven tool that quickly runs furrows across the honey frames. Rather like a steam punk gentle scratcher.

Steam Driven Honey Paw Uncapper

The Honey Paw Uncapper

I’ve always used a knife, and this was so much easier. I had Ian do a few frames with a knife and he agreed – the new tool is faster, simpler and more efficient for us.


We sell raw honey from naturally treated, antibiotic-free hives: our own honey and that of our friends. Our booths can be found at both the Ballard Farmers Market and Fremont Sunday Market in Seattle, nearly every Sunday.

Brookfield Farm Bees And Honey Market Booth

Brookfield Farm Market Booth

Which means we pick up honey from our friends about the same time as we’re pulling and extracting honey.

Beekeeper Stan Kolesnikov and Ian Balsillie (Brookfield's Honey Transport Chief)

Beekeeper Stan Kolesnikov and Ian Balsillie (Brookfield’s Honey Transport Chief)

The majority of these honeys come in 650 pound barrels. Which means I need a honey pump. This year I got a new one.


Again, I’ll go into detail in an upcoming blog, but I’m just really pleased with my new honey pump from Kelley Beekeeping.

Kelley Beekeeping Geared Honey Pump

The New Honey Pump



I sell raw honey, so the honey never goes beyond 100F. This makes pumping honey difficult. But my new pump has a ¾ horsepower motor. It sailed though the more fluid honeys. The buckwheat gave it a challenge, but it pumped that as well (buckwheat – crystallizes faster than any honey I’ve ever seen).



The year had been pretty good for the bees until the drought. Which means that the mites did very well too. I alternate Mite Away Quick Strips and Apiguard  on alternate years in my hives.

(Note: The above links are to Randy Oliver’s site – you’ll have to scroll down for the Apiguard.  This is for 2 reasons: 1) he does very nice reviews, tests, pros and cons and 2) I use his method of application on the Apiguard years.)

This was a Quick Strip year. Some hives showed no drop. Others showed a different tale.

Mite Away Quick Strips with varroa mites

A very “mitey” hive










The treatment is followed by essential oil patties. I’m still trying to perfect the recipe. Mine are lumpy, which beats runny. The bees don’t seem to mind, but I’d like to make it better for them, all suggestions welcome.


This year marks the passing of a good friend and brilliant beekeeper: Ron Babcock. Many people have enjoyed his Raspberry/Wildflower Raw Honey that we were privileged to carry. Ron was a great guy who was always willing to share his decades of experience and knowledge with other beekeepers, while being aware of how touchy we beekeepers can be. He will be missed.

Ron Babcock, Beekeeper

Ron Babcock

NOVEMBER ARRIVES – It’s Internet Time at Brookfield Farm

All my hives are now tucked in for winter. The family issues are nearly resolved.  The days are too short and weather too wet for much hiking in the mountains. There’s the websites to update: the honey site  PacificNorthwestHoney.com, the everything we do at the farm including honey site Walking-Wild.com and a photography site, WalkingWildPhotography.com which I started then let it drift due to lack of time. And, of course, the blog returns.

I know I’ve glossed over a lot of things, but that will give me something to write about in the long, dark, wet (hopefully snowy) days of winter.

How was your bee year? Or in the southern hemisphere and in warmer climates, how is your year shaping up? Love to hear you tales.

Oh, I used some larger images in this post – better? worse?  do let me know.  It must have some meaning in the world of up-load time and possibly don’t work on some systems.  This internet – it’s all a mystery to me.


Posted in 1 Beekeeping, 8 Brookfield Farm & Bees, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Making Bottom Screens 2015

I keep mentioning that I’m “making equipment like crazy” this year, due to good weather and bee hive expansion.  One of the things that we make here at Brookfield Farm are our own bottom screens.  I don’t use bottom boards – just screens.  This is a pictorial blog: I took a bunch of photos of the process, and here they are:

The ever so tidy work area for building beehive bottom screens:

Beehive bottom screens

The Exterior Work Area












The wood is cut up by my husband whose normal occupation is making handcrafted furniture.

Ian Balsillie, Woodworker, and pieces of bee hive bottom board

Ian volunteers to cut wood

The beehive bottom screen base:

The base of the bottom screen is two inches tall.  Years back I read that if a mite falls 2 inches or more  it has a hard time crawling back up into the hive.  Will it fall between 1/8″ wire?  I doubt it, but I still do a two-inch base.

First the wood is clamped

 Clamped BeeHive Bottom Screen

Clamped before Nailing









Then nailed – yes, nailed.

Bee Hive Bottom Screen Bottom Being Nailed

Nails! Yes, very retro









Wire for Beehive Bottom Screens

Then the wire is prepared.  I use 1/8″ hardware cloth.  It’s too small for bees and wasps to pass through, big enough for a mite and a lot of bee debris to fall though.

Future base for beehive bottom screen: 1/8inch wire

1/8″ inch hardware cloth












Unrolled Wire and tools for beehive bottom screen

On the Cutting Board with tools












You can see why I do this outside – it takes a lot of space

The long ruler is to  mark the cut lines
The right angle is to keep those line straight
That wire snip was an anniversary gift from me to my husband – romantic, eh?

After a lot of cutting, I’m ready to attach the wire to the base.


1/8th inch wire stacked for beehive bottom screens

Stacked Cut Bottoms









Attaching Wire to the Base of the Beehive Bottom Board

I staple it on with a stapler used for putting tar paper or tyvek onto the sides of houses.

Beehive Bottom Screen Wire Being Stapled

Stapling the Wire









Stapled corners of beehive bottom screen base

Stapled corners of bottom screen base









The staples don’t always go in all the way – that’s why there’s a hammer standing by as well.

Creating the top portion of the beehive bottom screen

At this point I’ve got a 2-inch tall rectangle with screen on it. Now the top of the bottom screen needs to go on.  It’s a one-inch by one-inch wooden rim that goes 3/4 of the way around the bottom screen, leaving a gap at the entrance.

Beehive Bottom Screen Edge top edge

1″ X 1″ wood – bottom screen top edge









Once that’s on,  I cut and put on the front “stoop”.  Metal dry wall corner molds (I think, at least I get them in the dry wall section of the store), which are cut to the width of the front entrance.

Beehive Bottom Screen Front Metal

The front door









These too are nailed in place.


Beehive bottom screen front door metal in place

Metal front in place









Finally it’s done – no, not really….

A nearly finished Beehive bottom screen

Beehive Bottom Screen Nearly Done

Almost Done!









Two uses in one for the beehive bottom screen

When the screen is flipped over, it becomes the base I use when moving single boxes of bees.  The one inch side, in this case pointing down, allows for air circulation.  The two-inch side, now pointing up, keeps the bees from leaving.

Beehive transport base (flipped bottom screen)

Flipped screen: beehive transit base









The final work on the beehive bottom screens

I make a number of these at a time.  They often, like this year, get placed into service before they are really done.


Beehive Bottom Screens Stacked

Stacked Screens and Tops












As you can see from the above caption, we also make our own beehive tops.  Back to screens: what these lack are the “hanger bolts” – these have screw ends on one side and threaded ends on the other.

Mouse guard support on bee hive bottom screen

Hanger Bolt being screwed in place











These will hold the mouse guards in place (I’ve still got to make more of those)

A Brookfield Farm mouse guard on a hive

Mouse Guard on Hive








Then the outside and bottom of the screen is either painted or stained.  I’m trying out an Eco Wood Stain that  this year.  Supposedly friendly to all creatures and the environment while protecting wood from wet weather.  Will it hold up here?  Who knows. But worth a try.

That’s some of what’s going on at Brookfield Farm Bees And Honey right now.  I’ve just finished doing my last group of splits for the year to accommodate queens arriving soon from Northwest Queens.  That meant clearing areas for the new hives and making sure I had all the gear they would need.  In the course I slated a few hives for walk-away splits that have grown way too tall.  The queenless ones of those will be given some of the new queens.

How is the bee season progressing in your part of the world.  We continue to be unusually dry and warm.  Nice, but worrisome – we do need the rain.





Posted in 1 Beekeeping, 4 Hive Components, 8 Brookfield Farm & Bees | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 5 Comments

Walk-Away Beehive Splits

It has been an absolutely busy time in the bee yards. The weather has been lovely, the bees have been out, and it did not pour rain in the middle of the Maple and Cascara flows. Looks like good weather for blackberries too. It’s a very unusual year. A good year…but it has meant I’ve been building equipment like crazy. The nucs are doing great and established beehives growing taller. Too tall.

Beehive nearly 6 feet tall

I need a ladder


Tall Bee Hives – my definition

I figure too tall is when I can no longer see into the top box and when I super a hive I have to reach above my head. I’m 5 foot 7 inches (1.7 meters) – these hives are nearly as tall as I am.

Tall beehives at Brookfield Farm, Maple Falls, Washingotn

Hives approaching too tall

Why The Hives Got Too Tall

1) We had good weather.

2) I pull honey once a year, in the fall. This is for two reasons.

  1. a) Probably the most overwhelming is the traditional : I’ve always done it that way.
  2. b) The second reason is that normally it rains during a significant part of the honey flow, so the bees gather nectar on dry days, then hang out inside make and eat honey on wet days, then it all repeats. In this latter case, the honey stores don’t build up to these towering heights.

 Walk-Away Splits

They are called Walk-Away because you walk-away for three days at the end of the procedure.

You can make two hives, three, or four hives out of your tall hive – it depends on what you want, and what’s in the hive.

I divide each tall hive in half.

How I Do Walk-Away Splits

1) Set out a new “stand” (two concrete blocks) and bottom screen (no solid bottoms on my hives) next to the tall hive

2) Put two tops upside down on the ground – these are to set the boxes on as the hive comes apart

3) Divide the boxes between the two up-turned tops.

  1. a) One box honey for one. One box honey for the other. (this goes on for a few boxes)
  2. b) One box brood for one. One box brood for the other. (this too can carry on for a few boxes)

One of the hives might get one more box of brood or honey than the other – this isn’t a precise division

  1. c) The pollen box (usually my bottom box) I do divide this up between the two hives. I move the pollen frames to the outside positions on either side of brood.

4) Now I stack the now two hives back on to their respective boxes:

pollen/brood; brood, honey, honey (from bottom to top)

5) Collars and tops on the top.

6) Walk away.

In three, sometimes four, days I come back and go though the hives. I’m looking for eggs. The hive that has the eggs has the queen. I don’t look for the queen. A good hive should be getting their queen out of my way as fast as possible.

The queenless hive (that with no eggs) is then either given a queen, or a nuc with a queen (newspaper combine method), or a frame of eggs from a hive whose queen I like. Best is the queen option, but things don’t always work out in beekeeping.

That’s it: just break the hive into two hives. Divide up the honey, brood, and pollen. Leave them for 3 days. Then find the queenless (egg-less hive) and give it a queen or some eggs.

Four beehives from two on a walk-away split

Four hives from two hives

Reduction in Honey Harvest

This does reduce the honey harvest. But I can’t harvest honey if I can’t get the super up there or lift it down. I could pull honey twice a year, this year, but habits die hard. If this weather is going to be the new “normal” I just might do a small honey harvest in June.

That’s what’s happening at Brookfield Farm Bees And Honey these days. Still making new bottom screens, tops, collars, frames, and hanging wax for the bees. Markets are going strong and the festival season’s coming up fast. We’re at the Ballard Farmers Market and Seattle’s Fremont Market every Sunday. A list of the festivals we’re doing can be found at the Brookfield Farm Markets & Events page (which needs more added – oh dear, I’m behind on the web again).

Nothing to do with splits

Molly and her kids were at the hives when I was taking the pictures.  So here’s the most recent additions to Brookfield Farm’s landscape team, and their mom.  That’s Marie Marie, The Bopper, and their mom Good Golly Miss Molly.

Goats and Beehives, Brookfield Farm, Maple Falls, WA

The new additions to the landscape crew

How are things going for you – with bees or goats or life?

Posted in 1 Beekeeping, 4 Hive Components, 8 Brookfield Farm & Bees, 9 Brookfield Farm Bee Yards | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | 8 Comments