The Honey Super
Last week, after my second hive opening, I added a honey super for my girls. This is not as dificult as it sounds....as long as you have an interest in projects, don't mind some hammer and fire & you have at least two days to spare to get the super ready from scratch.
I began by visiting my now favorite shop, Bee Sustainable, http://www.beesustainable.com.au/ to gather the supplies that I needed.... hive box, frames, foundation and beeswax. I also got some more reading material... but more about that later.
Firstly I put together the super box and painted with undercoat and house paint. These two coats take a day each to dry in Melbourne summer weather.
I also had to construct the frames, taking together with nails.
The trickiest part of constructing honey frames seems to be securing the foundation. I decided, when I chose the second super, to go with "ideal" size frames. These are smaller frames that are designed, when the delectable harvest time arrives, to be used to harvest honeycomb.
As such, I did not add any wire to the frames, so the whole operation is quite delicate as the foundation needs to be secured to the top bar of the frame using beeswax. Once the frames are given to the bees, they will use propolis to secure the foundation in spots that require extra support, as well as joining the first cells to the actual frame. After reading up on the best technique for joining on the foundation... most of them quite labour intensive, fiddly and requiring such man tools as pieces of copper wire, blowtorches or industrial pipettes (*sigh*.... not that hard, really??) I decided that since I do not have access to my Lab-tech at school nor our prep area fully equipped with such goodies, to go with my own method. A lighter and a piece of wax cut to a sliver.
I may find, on opening my hive again in a week or so that this technique was crap and the foundation has come adrift of the frames. If this is so I will gladly eat my words and revert to a different method.
My choice of hive opening day was a little fraught the third time around. I woke up to perfect weather... sunny, 25 degrees and no wind. Being holiday time, I was ready to go after breakfast ( about 12 noon) so most of my girls were out foraging, leaving me to inspect with house bees in the hive. All was good and ready to go... then I spotted our lovely 94 yr old Ukranian neighbour pottering around the side of his house. No matter.... he's never done this before (ever) since we move in, but I waited.
Ah! The coast is clear... until I hear a shout from my wife "there's a man doing some mowing on the nature-strip!". Dang!! Should I desuit? Undeterred I wait again (sweating a little by this stage) thinking that if a third event occurs then this is not my day to inspect the hive. In true Aussie style he whipper-snippers, he mows, he uses his petrol fired leaf blower (are these not the most insanely outrageous fossil fuel guzzlers EVER? What's wrong with a broom?? Arrgh!!) and then he sprays pesticide on all of the weeds growing on the driveway!!
A little aside on the use of pesticides to control weeds that have the nerve to grow on our nature-strips in suburbia. Despite the fact that the stuff is blue, smells bad and requires photo id to purchase in bulk amounts... I don't understand the obsession with neat and tidy nature-strips, garden edges and weed free lawns!! Disregard the fact that given the first decent rainfall, all of those chemicals will be washed into the fresh water drainage system, flow through creeks and streams to be deposited in Port Phillip Bay... being ingested into many living creatures along the way. Hello food web, here is your free entry ticket! Disregard the cumulative effect that pesticides have on bees and other natural pollinators. Its a Bogan puzzle alright. Probably along the lines of nature control in homes, RAID surface spray, anti ant dust, antibacterial surface swipes and rat-sack traps. Shudder.
Eventually the hired exterminator of plant life leaves... thank goodness! I get the smoker fired up and
add on the second story. Life is sweet again.
Since this super has gone on the bee colony has increased in numbers, hopefully in strength as well. The scent of the hive on a warm summers night is incredible. I also rediscovered Sylvia Plath's beautiful bee poems. Worth a read in your apiary if you get the chance.