API Blog of the Month

Mathieu Domecq

Editor-in-chief of the API blog of the month

Harvesting your honey is an art!

We’re asking ourselves a lot of questions… After looking at the role and choice of the extractor for your honey undertaking, I will give you some pointers on harvesting supers. So, let’s talk dates! Harvesting takes place in different regions at the end of the last summer flowering period. In my region of Toulouse the last flower is the sunflower. So we take the honey around 15 August. The last fields will be finished and honey operculation will be complete in the supers. Operculation is the wax plug that the bees make on the alveoli after dehumidifying the honey (the level will be between 15 and 17% water).

There are three methods that are often used when it comes to removing the bees. The choice is yours:

– A brush is the most common method, and you work on the super frames one by one. Shake the bees at the front of the hive, then brush them off with a horsehair or nylon brush, before placing this frame in another closed super (like a crate) that will go to the honey farm.

Use the brush to remove any remaining bees.

– Using a bee escape board is quick and easy. An escape board is a plastic diamond (or circle) that attaches to a thick frame cover and will be positioned between the body and the super approximately 24 hours before harvesting. With a funnelling system, the bee will be able to  go down into the body overnight, but will not be able to get back out again. However, first make sure that there are absolutely no broods in your super. This will not be an issue with the queen excluder. Having put it in place in the afternoon, you will be able to recover the super the next morning, with almost no bees left in it.

– The blower is a pro option! If you have a lot of beehives, this operation is faster and avoids aggression. A simple leaf blower (thermal or electric) will send the bees into the sky before returning to the hive. Simply take off the super without any ado (only if there is a queen excluder) and put it on the roof of the neighbouring hive. Then close the hive. Move between the frames with your blower to make the bees fly away. This method may seem abrupt and a little extreme, but it is very practical when you have 20 hives or more. You can then leave with the super. 

Hornets will start to appear!

Looking for protein, bees are their ideal prey. You’ll see them hovering in front of your hives, catching a bee and then cutting it up a bit further away to get its muscles.

Both European and Asian species attack hives. One piece of advice is to lay traps such as a Red Trap, a selective trap in which you place bait and replace it at least every 10 days. Your beekeeping salesperson will be able to advise you.

On the other hand, you can improve the morale of your bees by placing a shield or muzzle, which will keep hornets away from the flight board. This means that the bees will be less on guard out of fear, and will consume less honey. The Stop-It model, for example, fits all hive formats with a folding set.

Hornet traps: wooden muzzle and plastic shield.

Varroa treatment

Varroa: a fearful mite for bees!

We’ll take a look at this in September to gain a better understanding, but in the meantime, plan to reserve treatment products. It’s best to apply the treatment before September, at the end of August, just after removing the honey supers. The mites’ population grows exponentially and will weaken your colonies for winter.

There are many treatments on the market. Use a product such as APIVAR to make the operation easier. Amitraz comes in plastic strips that have been proven to work well. Place two strips per hive, in the brood, between the frames.

You can easily get these from your pharmacist or vet. If not, contact your beekeeping union or animal health protection group. However, beekeeping shops are not able to offer it.

We hope you have a great summer, and make sure to spare us a thought and send us your photos on social media with the hashtags: #apifonda #apiinvert!


We’ll be back with your API blog next month!

Working bee