Tag Archives: BCBA

New Beekeeper. What Are the Different Parts of a Hive?

The basic wooden pieces that comprise a honey bee hive. Typically called “wooden ware” we’ll discuss each piece with a goal of helping you to be a successful beekeeper.

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My Bees Want to Swarm, What Can I Do?

Swarms are the normal, natural and healthy reproduction of a honey bee colony.
They are colony-level reproduction vs individual honey bee. It’s an important part
of the colony life cycle and it’s how honey bees procreate.

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Sweet, Sweet Honey. How To Harvest and Extract.

It’s time to harvest and extract your honey. If you are a BCBA member you have the advantage of renting the club honey extraction equipment. The club has everything you need to get the job done: an extractor, a planer to uncap the honey, an uncapping tub, a straining set up, and 5-gallon food grade buckets. First things first, you will need to pull the honey which means getting the supers off the hives and the bees out of the supers = honey harvest. There are several ways to do this.

Honey Harvest Tools

  1. Beekeepers Personal Protection Equipment (PPE) – suit/ jacket/veil/ gloves
  2. Smoker/ Fuel/ Lighter
  3. Supers for transportation
  4. Hive tool
  5. Old Towel


  1. Light the smoker. Use the hive tool, open lid slowly and blow some smoke in the hive.
  2. Have empty supers ready to place capped honey frames in. A cloth cover is recommended to prevent robbing and to keep the frames bee free.
  3. Remove frames with capped honey from the hive and inspect the comb. Uncapped cells with some nectar in it should not be harvested – only capped honey.
  4. Remove bees from the frames by doing a quick snap of the frame similar to getting the bees off the frame when you do a mite check and then use a bee brush to gently remove any bees lingering on the
  5. Place the capped honey frames into the empty super and cover with cloth (old towel works great) and prepare to to transport to your honey extraction location.

Once you have pulled all of your supers you are ready to set up for honey extraction. You will want to select a place that you are able to keep the bees out of. If you decide to extract outside in the open, you will have unwanted visitor bees, and lots of them.

Extraction Tools

  1. Uncapping tools – heated knife / serrated knife/ planer/ uncapping fork, spiked roller
  2. Uncapping Tub for wax/honey
  3. Extractor 
  4. Food-grade bucket for honey
  5. Double screened strainer; catch wax and impurities as honey is poured from extractor
  6. Containers for honey
  7. Bucket of warm water and rags


  • Mount the frame above the tub being used to collect wax cappings and honey.
  • Use the heated knife or tool of choice to unseal the capped honey cells.
  • Lean the heated knife on the edges of the frame and move “fast” – don’t linger too long or the honey may burn.
  • Repeat for both sides of the frame. The heated knife takes off most of the caps. For the honey cells that did not get upcapped, use an uncapping fork and gently shave off the caps.
Using an uncapping plane to extract honey
  • Place the frames with both sides uncapped into the extractor as you uncap them.
  • Once the extractor is full of frames, close the lid and start spinning slowly increasing speed until the honey is spun out of the comb and is stuck to the bottom and sides of the extractor.
  • If using the club extractor you will need to flip the frames and repeat the spinning.
  • Remove the spun frames and return them to the super and spin the remainder of your frames.
  • Place your food grade bucket under the spigot of the extractor.
  • Use a double screened strainer to catch the wax and impurities as the honey pours out of the extractor.
  • Before bottling, letting the extracted honey sit for 48 hours allows air bubbles and sediment to settle out.
Using an extractor similar to the one the club owns and rents out to members

Clean Extractor and Tools

Bees love to help clean up the honey covered frames with the majority of the honey extracted. Take your extracted supers back to the hive, set an empty super on top of the inner cover and place the extracted supers on top of the empty box (thus leaving a space between the inner cover and the extracted frames). This extra space “fools” the bees into thinking they are leaving the hive, finding honey, and they will bring is down into to hive proper. Remove the cleaned up frames after a couple of days. If you leave them on the hive too long, the bees will sometimes start back filling them again.

Leaving the boxes with extracted frames randomly outside the hive can instigate robbing behaviors which should be avoided. Placing them on the hives ensures your bees have “first dibs” of the leftovers and minimizes robbing behaviors.

You will end up with a mix of wax cappings and honey in the uncapping tub when the extracting is completed. You can leave them in the tub for the honey to drain overnight then open the gate on the tub the following day and strain the honey. You’ll be pleasantly surprised at the amount of additional honey you will be able to harvest.

Once you have strained the honey from the uncapping tub and removed your left over
cappings (save them to use later or give to your favorite beekeeper) you can place the tubs and strainers outside FAR from your hives to let the bees clean up. If you decide to try your hand at cleaning the strainer be sure to use COLD water.


Extracted honey should have a moisture content at or below 18%. The club has a refractometer which is used to test moisture content. If the honey has too much moisture – 19% or greater, it may ferment. Often times when there is a high moisture content it comes from extracting frames containing uncapped honey. Some people have success reducing the moisture from the honey using a dehumidifier.

Wash containers the honey will go into and let air dry. Fill containers with honey, label and share with friends. 

Parasites, Diseases, and Viruses, Oh My! Now What?

Tracheal Mites live in the bee’s respiratory system and have become less of a problem with the use formic acid and thymol based treatments for control of Varroa Destructor Mite. These treatments are also effective in treating the tracheal mite, mostly eliminating them. Symptoms include: bees appearing to be disoriented, unable to fly and disjointed wings. Bees are unable to get out to forage, leading to a large number of bees found throughout the day at the hive.

Nosema weakens the immune system of the honeybee leading to increased colony death. It is a problem in winter because bees are not getting out of the hive often to defecate, increasing the risk of spread within the colony. You may see LOTS of bee poop all over your boxes. Don’t confuse normal cleaning flights with Nosema. To prevent Nosema keep your colony strong and healthy, replace old comb and make sure there is good drainage and ventilation in your bee yard. Find more information here.


American Foul Brood (AFB): AFB is extremely contagious. Spores contaminate a hives by drift, robbing, tainted equipment/ tools. They infect and destroy larvae and once the cells are capped larvae turn brown. You will note a rancid smell, spotty brood pattern and sunken perforated cappings; inside the cell you would find melted looking brown remains of the larvae. You can check for suspected AFB by sticking a toothpick into a cell and stir the larva and pull the toothpick out. If it has a ropey appearance, more than 2 cm there is a good chance it is AFB. Because of the infectious nature it is recommended that all equipment be burned or wooden ware be scorched to disinfect before using again. AFB must be reported to the state inspector. More in depth information can be found here.


Sacbrood Virus (SBV) can be seen and easier to identify. Capped brood will have pin sized holes in it. Pupae have underdeveloped heads. The infected larvae will die and become dark and brittle. It will be easy to remove from the cells. SBV is transmitted via contaminated food, feces or during mating. You can try removing infected larvae and re-queening but as of today there are no known treatments to get rid of SBV directly.

Deformed Wing Virus (DWV) can be seen as well and looks as the name describes. Adult bees infected with the virus show no visual signs. It is the most common virus found in a colony and is transmitted by the varroa mite. The bees are unable to perform hive duties or forage and the bees do not survive long. It is transmitted by contaminated food, feces or during mating. The queen can pass the virus to her offspring. Prevention and treatment is mite management.