A wild swarm of bees being offered a new home.
I have mentioned it quite a bit in the comment section of Beau's blog at Fox Haven Journal and I think even a time or two a couple years back on this one that my parents used to raise around 130 hives of honey bees once upon a time. Being a youth living under their roof, that meant that I spent lots of quality time helping them run the bee business. Mostly that meant that I spent lots of time in winter building hive bodies and frames for the upcoming season and spending the spring and fall extracting all the honey, filtering it, bottling it and helping my mom stock shelves with it on her bi-weekly route that covered a good 100 mile diameter centered about our farm. Among some of my parent's slides, I found these slides pertaining to their bee business and thought I would blog about them.
This picture is of an automatic decapping machine which removed the wax plugs that the bees used to seal their honey into the combs. Most of the years my parents owned the business we did all the decapping manually with a heated knife but towards the latter years when we were at the largest business wise, we did invest in this machine. For the most part it worked okay though we still had to go back and touch up most of the frames since the bees never used rulers to keep everything the same height.
This is our large extractor that held 30 or so frames. Like the decapper, this was obtained later on in the business when things got bigger. For most of the years, we used either a hand crank two frame extractor or a hand crank four frame extractor. My job was to supply the muscle to turn the crank.
This was our bottling station. The honey ran from the extractor down into a pit where it was pumped up through cheesecloth filters into these two tanks set on top of the platform. Then one could comfortably sit on a chair and fill lots of hand labeled glass bottles and plastic bears for resale. Since we raised more honey than we could sale via a delivery route on a part time basis, we also sold in bulk. This steel barrel would hold 50 gallons of honey and I think we often times had six or eight of these full of honey.
This picture is of a wild swarm that while catchable, was more difficult to deal with due to the fence and high weeds in the vicinity.
This is also a wild swarm but much easier to catch. We would set an empty hive body usually with a little honey to help feed them until they gathered their own set on top of a white sheet. The sheet helped them crawl to the hive without getting lost in the grass and white is a soothing color that doesn't irritate the bees as much as bright colors.
Here the bees can be seen in their new homes. The lower two boxes were called brood boxes where the queen lived, laid eggs, and honey for overwintering was stored. Then there was a narrow filter of sorts put in-between those bottom two boxes and the top ones to allow the worker bees to pass through but prevent the larger queen from doing so. This allowed the top boxes to be filled with honey without the added protein of bee larvae and made for a more attractive product to sell.