1 Here are my four beehives in the process of being prepared for the winter months ahead. You may recall last May when the gray hive on the left was created by splitting the white hive next to it.
2 D.J. Haverkamp removed two honey supers from the white hives. Here is a frame from one of those supers, all nicely capped with this season's pure farm honey.
3 The two honey supers, now free of bees, were brought inside, awaiting the honey extractor.
4 To keep any errant honey bees away, Carlos covered the supers over with a baking sheet.
5 Back to the hives - These are the hives that the two honey supers were removed from. The wire frame is called a queen excluder, which prevented the queen from passing from the lower brood super, up into the honey super.
6 D.J. wanted to point something out on this queen excluder. The excluder works as a fence, since the queen's body is too large to pass through the openings. It keeps her exclusively in the brood chambers, rather than allowing her to create brood in the upper honey super.
7 This hexagonal grid is made of beeswax, which the bees build for creating new brood and for storing honey.
8 This substance around the edges of the frame is called propolis, a sticky, resinous mixture that the bees gather from tree buds, sap flows, and other botanical sources.
9 Propolis is used as a sealant to close up unwanted spaces in the hive.
10 Propolis is believed to be a natural antibiotic and its use can be traced back to the time of Hippocrates, who used it to treat sores and ulcers, both externally and internally.
11 The next step with the hives was to put these hive top feeders in place, which are used to offer sugar syrup to the bees when the nectar flow is minimal or nonexistent.
12 Before adding the hive top feeders, D.J. began by building a fire in the bee smoker. Here he added some pine shavings to create that smoke.
13 The smoker has a bellows system to issue the smoke. It was discovered in ancient times that smoke works to calm the bees, making it easier for the beekeeper to enter the hive. Smoke masks alarm pheromones released by guard bees when the hive is opened.
14 In addition to the hive top feeders, D.J. first wanted to add a special medication to help combat devastating tracheal mites, which have been wreaking havoc in beehives by affecting the bees' breathing tubes.
15 The medication is a mixture of thymol, an aromatic menthol, and vegetable shortening. The shortening is picked up by the bees and helps to keep mites from sticking to them.
16 A little smoke....
17 And D.J. places some of that medicine into the hive.
18 The thymol mixture is placed onto pieces of waxed paper and will be consumed by the bees.
19 Next, the top feeder is put into position and will soon be filled with sugar syrup. At this time of year, it's a strong solution of 5-parts sugar to 4-parts water. The syrup will be consumed by the bees and converted into honey for their winter energy supply.
20 Next, the hive closed with an inner and top cover.
21 Moving to the next hive....
22 And the process is repeated
23 Another top feeder
24 Followed by the inner cover and then the top cover
25 This bee hive appears very healthy, but it's always a good idea for a beekeeper to make thorough examinations to see if any problems are lurking.
26 D.J. removed several frames for inspection.
27 This bothers him - This bee has no real wings and is moving about very slowly, caused by a condition known as deformed wing virus. The virus is carried by the varroa mite and requires a different medication.
28 So far, the deformed wing virus is fairly isolated and D.J. will do his best to keep it in check.
29 All we can hope for is that the hives fare well over the winter and emerge strong in the springtime.
30 And speaking of spring - Carlos and D.J. took all the extra beehive parts and painted them Bedford gray so that hopefully, we can split one or two hives again in the spring, increasing our bee population and honey yield.