Harvesting Honey, Treating Hives

I have been pulling honey and putting thymol on the hives this last week. This blog’s been silent for quite a few weeks. July and August simply got out of control.

Busy Times: July to August

In general I was:

Doing a festival a week. These were usually 2-3 day events, often preceded by a day of set up.

Some of the honeys sold by Brookfield Farm at their Market Booth

The honey table at our market booth







Introducing some late season queens from Northwest Queens. I like to have some nucs to over winter. This gives a fast replacement for any queenless spring hive or a quick start to hives in the new year.

Making frames, wiring frames, hanging foundation, making supers, and supering hives.

Putting in a new water system at the farm – an on-going project to be completed before snow flies. (Which will be followed by the new solar panel system, which can be done in the snow if need be).

In the upcoming weeks I’ll post a retrospective of what I was doing at the hives.

Harvesting Honey

I run about 80 hives in Whatcom County, Washington (state) – the most northwest corner of Washington.

Bee hives at Brookfield Farm Bees and Honey, WA

Farm Hives before Harvest








I used to pull honey in September, but I’ve upped the date to the third week of August. Two reasons: 1) more time for the bees to harvest late season blooms and set themselves up before the rains come in mid-October and 2) September has better hiking weather here. It’s win-win for me and the bees.

I leave about 70 pounds of honey on each strong hive after pulling the honey. They add more and eat a bit as time progresses towards winter. I don’t weigh the hives.

All my hives are mediums (westerns). I figure an average frame of honey in my hives weighs 4 pounds (I weighed a lot frames, then averaged). If the bees in a strong have 18 frames of honey I figure they’ll be ok.

How The Hives Are Set for Winter

The line up this year (a slightly crazed year) is basically:

  • Top box: Full Box of honey
  • Next box down: 6 frames of honey (positions 1-3 and 7-10) Center: Brood
  • Next box down : 2, or more, frames of honey, depending on the brood count (positions 1, 10)
  • Next box down (bottom box) : Whatever the bees have put there. Usually it’s filled with pollen.

If the hive has a huge load of brood there’s usually a fifth box that is the 2nd or 3rd box up.

Even if there’s no honey for me, I leave this amount of honey on the hives. I need the girls alive for next year. I have not figured the harvest yet, but I think I’ve averaged about 6-7 frames per hive (some gave little to none; some gave nearly 20 frames).

Before And After In A Few Bee Yards






Tall beehives at a Brookfield Farm (WA) bee yard



Colorful bee hives in Washington state

After The Harvest


Colorful hives before honey harvest

Brookfield Farm Hives at Spring Frog Farm before Harvest

Brookfield Farm Bee Hives, Washington

After the harvest: Spring Frog Farm

My Farm Helpers

I run dark bees. These are “known” to be not very nice. I disagree, as do my “hive grounds maintenance crew” who work at the farm.

Goats eating clover by bee hives

Brookfield Farm ground maintenance crew









Rudy Goat seemed to wish to emphasize the gentle nature of my dark bees.

Happy Goat and Open Bee Hives

Rudy Goat And the Bees During Honey Harvest








Or perhaps the bushes at the front just looked particularly nice.

Goat eats amid Bee hives

Bees? What bees?








Naturally Treated Hives

I treat every year with either thymol (Apiguard) or formic acid (Mite Away Quick Strips). Both occur naturally in hives. Neither seems to have a negative affect on the bees (no clustering at front, and fast removal).

The two treatments are alternated each year. This comes from my years of raising goats. You never used the same wormer twice in a row. You want to avoid having the pests become resistant to the treatment.

This year is an Apiguard year.

Apiguard, scale, and hives

2014: an Apiguard Year








I hate Apiguard years. The treatment is fine. The cost is reasonable. The effect is good. So what’s my problem? You have to give a first treatment, and then repeat with a second treatment, and then remove the card the gel was on (if the bees haven’t done so). It’s one extra trip around the bee yards. One more time lifting all those boxes.

All those boxes: I use Randy Oliver’s idea: I use half the amount, but put it between brood boxes. So each time I go I need to lift at least 2 boxes. I’m not as young as I used to be (we can all say that).   That’s what the scale is for: to measure the dose.

September: Hiking Season in northwest Washington

It takes a week for me to pull all the honey, prepare the hives for winter (all that organizing of brood and honey), and treating the hives. Plus it rains every so often here. But when I can, I head for the local mountains. I live near the second most glaciated volcano in Washington. It is absolutely beautiful here.

Pack goat at Cascade Mountain pass Washington

Pack goat at rest on High Pass









pack goats in Training

        Two pack goats in Training –          Mount Baker in background










That’s the news from Brookfield Farm Bees And Honey, in Maple Falls, Washington. How are your honey harvests going in the northern lands? How is your honey year shaping up south of the equator?

About brookfieldfarmhoney

Brookfield Farm, a small off-grid apiary in Maple Falls, WA focuses on the beauty and bounties of Washington’s wilderness. I sell honey from our bees, whose naturally-treated, antibiotic-free hives are home to bees who fly Washington’s mountains and farmlands. Herbal salves and lip balms from Brookfield beeswax. Delicately infused honeys and vinegars. Varietal honeys from independent Washington beekeepers. Karen Edmundson Bean: beekeeper, photographer. Her love of the wilderness inspires her to discover new ways of bringing the wonders of nature to others. Brookfield Farm : the tastes, textures, sounds, and images of nature.
This entry was posted in 1 Beekeeping, 2 Diseases/Pests/Treatments, 8 Brookfield Farm & Bees, 9 Brookfield Farm Bee Yards and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

4 Responses to Harvesting Honey, Treating Hives

  1. Wow Karen, 80 hives??!! I started the year with 18 and finished (thanks to splits) with 30…my neglected house and garden attest to how busy that kept me! Hats off to you. This was a killer year, gorgeous weather but almost no rain since March = very low nectar in the blooms. Blackberry bloomed early, fast and dry. I was lucky to get 50 lb. total, never mind any for the bees, off even my strongest hives. And in two of my three beeyards, 50-60 hives moved in within a mile, some for just the blueberry pollination (which alas was at the same time as the blackberries) or just by chance. Competition for nectar was extreme. I wish I could have left 70 lb. on any hive, the best I could do was 30 and the new splits finished the year with almost nothing. I am feeding heavily now, following MAQS (which had to wait till cooler weather, in this unseasonably hot year that meant September). Is Hopguard approved in WA? Might be an alternative to the Apiguard, although neither address mites under cappings. This year I will do oxalic acid vapour in December. Mites were terrible this summer. Next year I will put grease patties on all season, plus leave a bead of mineral oil on all frame tops after inspections. I think they help a lot between mite treatments. I will leave sugar bricks on all colonies all winter…this can make the difference getting light, young colonies through. Good luck all with the wintering. Looking forward to the 2015 season!

    • I know, I’m slightly crazed. My goal is 100-ish, but sometimes there’s setbacks, as you well know. What made it hard this year was the crazy festival schedule I did (because we were forced out of Bellingham Market, I had to quickly find new venues to sell honey) so instead of one day a week selling, it was 3 days a week at a festival, 4 days for bees. Needless to say, I’ve got a lot of unpainted boxes out there working. Getting other bees set on you is a drag – but you’re doing the right thing: feeding. I was lucky that I had enough honey to give my late season nucs a few frames each to fluff them up. Hopguard – I don’t like it that much – it is approved here – it only wacks the mites that are outside the cells, so it’s a weekly – or every two week application, depending on the age of the brood. I like MAQS, but I need something to use on alternate year. Oxalic acid scares me, I don’t know why – but I’m reticent to do anything to my hives in December. Have you tried using Mark’s queens? Northwest Queens, in Arlington – I find them very mite resistant. Let’s hope for a cold dry winter

  2. I LOVE your blog! Thank You for all the information that you share.

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