Honey Beekeeping Part 5

This guest post by  Petticoat Prepper and entry in our non-fiction writing contest.

You can read part one here, part two here, part three here and part four here.

It’s now the end of your season and the bees have been hard at work laying in their winter provisions. Depending on your area they may need more than other warmer locations. My understanding for MY area is that the girls need 80 lbs of honey to make it to spring. Remember they visit about 5 million flowers to make one pint of honey. One pint of honey is about one pound; 80 pounds is a #$%@ load of flowers! I tried to be very grateful and respectful when I harvested my honey.

There are lots of different types of equipment for extracting honey. But given that I’m cheap or more nicely said ‘frugal’ and given the expense of startup (and two dead queens) I refused to buy any harvesting equipment. I will add to my supplies this season.

The girls will be very, very defensive of their honey and who can blame them? I did use a ‘fume board’ but found it didn’t do anything for me. It’s supposed to with the addition of some smelly stuff, drive the girls out but that didn’t happen for me. I ended up just gently brushing the girls off each honey frame. I then quickly removed that frame from the area. This year I’m going to get a plastic file box to hang the frames in so I only have to make one trip.

Honey is dried and ready to harvest when it’s capped. The girls will have a white wax cap over the openings. Again, there’s a piece of equipment you can buy to test the moisture content but cheap me…I figured the girls wouldn’t cap if it wasn’t ready. Robbing can be a problem and if you see strange bees fighting with your girls you should probably add the entrance reducer now. This will help them keep the thieves a bay.

I decided not to buy/rent an extractor as people have been harvesting honey for centuries without this little helper. I used one of my 5 gallon food grade plastic buckets to collect the honey in. A cap scrapper would be helpful or a hot knife better. I’m hoping for the hot knife. I of course had neither, so I used my freshly washed and dried fingers to break open the honey comb. I left each frame in the bucket at a slight angle and let the warm honey drip slowly into said bucket. Yes, this took way more time than a machine that spins the frames really fast to fling the honey out. Once both sides of a frame were done dripping I took it out to the girls and let them clean up the messy honey that remained. They made short work of it.

Once I had harvested all the honey I strained it through a fine sieve although you could use a paint strainer. Save the wax as there are many things to be done with it. I poured it into clean, dry pint canning jars with lids. This is the best honey I’ve ever had. No processing, no heating just pure honey from my girls.

In preparation for winter I gave the girls an extra half of a pollen patty. The deep supers were so very heavy that I stopped checking the bottom deep. The last check on the bottom one I realized I was in trouble when lifting the top deep super. It was extremely heavy for me. I did take it to the inner cover on the ground but thought it was a mistake as I did so. (See, listen to your gut!) When I went to replace it I KNEW it was a mistake as I couldn’t lift it up more than knee high. Of course, the bottom super on its stand is about waist high.

So, what’s a girl to do? Well, if you’re going to work with honeybees you’re going to get stung. I figured I just had to take the stings. I lifted the deep super weighing in at close to 80 pounds and gently slid my leg from the outside corner along the super’s edge to help me lift it the remaining distance. Imagine my surprise when the girls all moved out of the way and I didn’t get even one sting! I will not be lifting them filled again.

To help with mite control I gave the girls a heavy dusting of powdered sugar. Yes, I powdered the bees. This makes them groom each other and that helps to knock off the mites. If you’ve a screened bottom board the mites will fall to the ground and not be able to get back to the bees. If we were bees with mites it’d be like having rats on us that we couldn’t get rid of. I treated for foulbrood with terramycin following the package directions. I covered the hive with an insulating wrap, removed the entrance reducer and placed the mouse guard over the entrance. I also ran a tie-down strap (like for a boat cover) over the entire hive to help keep the top on incase of winds.

My girls were buttoned up for winter and on their own. Great now I can worry till spring…..

During winter bees stay inside and do not use the ‘rest room’ so on nice days when the sun is shining, there’s little wind and temps are close to 60 degrees F. they will do a ‘cleansing flight’. This means they fly outside to poop, try not to be in their line of fire.

Many hives die as they approach spring due to lack of food. If you have a nice day and the girls are out you can do a quick peek to see how their stock pile is holding up. If you fear they are getting low you can give them sugar cakes and pollen patties. Do Not give sugar syrup.

If you’re going to give them sugar cakes you’ll need a taller inner cover which you can get from your local supplier.

Sugar cake

5 pounds of granulated sugar

7 ½ ounces water

3 tablespoon of lemon grass and spearmint essential oil mix (see below)

Pour everything over the sugar and stir to mix well. Pour into a wax paper lined 9 x 13 pan. Cut into 4 sections, pushing the sugar mix to give about ½ inch between each section. Place in oven with the oven light on. Leave with the light on for 24 hours to dry out the cakes. Do not turn on the oven….

Place on the top of the frames to give emergency food to the bees.

Essential oil mix

100% pure food grade spearmint and lemon grass essential oils

1/8th teaspoon Lecithin granules (local health food store)

2 ½ pounds sugar

5 cups water

Bring water to a boil add sugar, stir until dissolved. Remove from heat and add lecithin stir well. Once this is cooled add 15 drops each of the essential oils.

To help combat tracheal mites you can give grease patties

Grease Patties

Grease Patties

1 pounds of granulated sugar

1 ½ tablespoon corn oil

1/4 pound Crisco (not lard)

1/4 pound honey

2 ounces pink salt (can use rabbit wheel salt ground up)
3 teaspoons lemon grass essential oil

Mix all together with gloved hands. Scoop into about 2 ounce portions and form into ‘hamburger patties’. Extra patties can be frozen until needed. Place two around the frames tops.

A few weeks before the first blossoms appear you’ll want to treat for Nosema and Foulbrood. Follow the package directions. Keep an eye on their general health. Again, the Beekeeping for Dummies is a great book and will give more detail than I’m going to.

The final topic for this series is reversing hive bodies. Again, spring time only and there is some discussion as to the importance of this. Your apiary, you decide.

On a nice sunny fairly warm spring day of not less than 50 degrees F. smoke the bees. Remove the outer lid and lay upside down on the ground. Then without removing the inner lid, lift the top deep super and move it to the upturned outer lid.

Look inside the lower super, it will probably be close to if not empty. Lift if off the bottom board and set it crosswise on the upper super. Scrape and clean the bottom board. Then lift the super that was the lower super and set it on one end on the ground. Take the original upper super and set it on the bottom board. Smoke the bees and then remove the inner cover. Place the old lower super on top of the new lower super; replace the inner cover and outer lid.

This is supposed to help with distribution of brood, honey, pollen etc. Plus bees like to move up so it gives them that too. In about three or four weeks you do this again, returning the hive to its original super positions. When you do, you can add your honey supers, assuming of course the bees are bring nectar and you’re not medicating any longer.

Remember, this is a very, very short tutorial on beekeeping. The book “The ABC and XYZ of bee culture” is considered to be the bible of beekeeping. You can find free downloads of it here: http://archive.org/details/abcxyzofbeecultu00root it’s very detailed and for the beginner the ‘Dummies’ book is much easier; at least in my humble opinion.

How do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time. Hopefully, I manage to give you bites on this elephant of a subject. Honey bees are very important to our food crops, 2/3’s of them need the bee for pollination without which they can’t produce the food. Colony Collapse Disorder, not disused here is a huge issue. There are several thoughts about what’s causing this problem and the EPA doesn’t want to hear that corn and soybean farmers, GMO’s, insecticide usage etc, could be the issue. One thing is pretty certain. If something isn’t done to help the little honeybee…by 2035 North America will not have any. So with that thought, I want to encourage everyone to practice backyard bee keeping. If you can’t do that, how about landscaping with the girls in mind? Thanks for hanging in there with me on this how to raise honey bees series.

This contest will end on February 16 2013  – prizes include:

Well what are you waiting for – email your entries today. But please read the rules that are listed below first… Yes

About M.D. Creekmore

M.D. Creekmore is the owner and editor of TheSurvivalistBlog.net. He is the author of four prepper related books and is regarded as one of the nations top survival and emergency preparedness experts. Read more about him here.


  1. HomeINsteader says:

    PP, you have clearly worked very hard to share this knowledge with us; thank you!

  2. Alittle2late says:

    Thanks for this look into bee keeping, as I said before I’ve wanted to do it but had no idea where to start. I’ll bee ordering the dummy book pronto!

  3. Petticoat Prepper says:

    Uh Oh…I see in the grease patties recipe is messed up!

    Grease patties
    1.1 lbs granulated sugar
    1 1/2 Tablespoons corn oil
    1/4 lbs crisco
    1/4 lbs honey
    2 ounces pink salt or plain rabbit wheel salt
    3 teaspoons essential (oil wintergreen or tree tea oil)

  4. More..more!

  5. Tactical G-Ma says:

    Job well done. Bees are not on my list. But, after your excellent articles I might reconsider. Thank you so much.

  6. Petticoat Prepper says:

    Thanks everyone! Again if there’s a question let me know and I’ll try to answer it. I wasn’t sure beekeeping was something I could do but last year was really easy; aside from the swarm and queen thing. Herding cats…. I believe I’ll do better this season and am looking forward to building a new business that will allow my move to my land.

  7. MountainSurvivor says:

    Petticoat Prepper,
    That was one good read about honeybees! I’ve been trying to help our populations for nearly three years by allowing clover to die off naturally and having herbs and plants for them to visit. I noticed there were more of them here last summer but I want to entice even more of them to show up so what herbs and plants for northwestern ‘girls’ would you suggest? Or, are there specific plants, like red or white clover, that they generally prefer and would provide them with a lot of food that can be easily grown in a normally wetter northwestern environment?

    • Petticoat Prepper says:


      I can only speak for my area, Oregon’s Willamette Valley. Below are the plants that produce either nectar (n) or pollen(p) thanks to Bee Outside LLC for information;

      Jan, Feb and March: Alder, Hazelnut (p) Pussywillow (np)

      April: Maples(np)

      May, June, July: Scotchbroom (p) Casara (np) Maples (np) Crimson Clover (np) Vetch (np) Raspberry (np) Snowerry (n) Blackberry (np) Woody Herbs, ie~ rosemary, thyme, oregano, lavender, germander etc., White Clover (np) Alfalfa (np) Fireweed (np) Buckwheat (np)

      August, Setpember, October, November and December: Weeds and Wildflowers, Red Clover (np)

      This list of course doesn’t include the obvious fruit trees, berry bushes and veggie garden stuff.

      I’m sure they’ll take anything with nectar or pollen. The trick is to have a long run through out the growing season. I sometimes see the girls working my grass. I’ve no idea what they’re getting (p?) but towards the end of summer they really work my yard. No barefoot garden runs then!

      When planting flowers use the old forms as in single petal not the double ones. Purple Coneflower, Bee Balm, Asters, Daisy and the like.

      • Petticoat Prepper,
        It’s also a good reason to not treat your yard with chemicals, and gives a whole new perspective on dandelions, other than using them for greens, LOL.

  8. Catnip. It grows really well around here (Southeast). I’ve seen bees working the blooms. There’s a lot of catnip because it takes over, but I don’t mind. Mouser likes the catnip, I like Mouser. Bees like the catnip, I like the bees. I try to let them be to enjoy their flowers. Have thought about bees off and on for many years, even more recently. Yep, we need more bees. Might have to move from thinking to action. Thanks for your effort, PP. Enjoy the lovely Wilamette Valley, you live in a wonderful corner of Heaven.

    Stay well.

  9. Thank you PP. I’m so excited now to help a friend with his bees & maybe next year (’14) get my own. I think I can do this now. Thanks for all your hard work on these articles.

    • Petticoat Prepper says:

      Thank you Kate, I’m grateful everyone’s been so positive about this series. It was kinda intimidating to put together.

  10. Excellent read! I am a total advocate of honey. The stuff is amazing. An interesting thing about honey vs. sugar. Sugar enters the blood stream at 10 calories per minute, whereas honey enters at only 2 calories a minute. This is the reason for the sugar spike and why there is so much diabetes. There is also a similar problem with most refined carbs. They enter the blood stream much faster than complex carbs.

    I’m going to take up bee keeping in spite of my allergy, but I will be suited up in an environment suit. I like reading things like this from someone who actually has experience. Thanks.

    • Petticoat Prepper says:

      Oh wow…all I can say is…Ah Crap! Please, be careful with your allergy….I’d hate to hear you had some big problems do to hissy girls! Remember smoke is good. I do agree that honey is amazing stuff.

  11. PP,
    This was an amazing series! I finally was able to sit down with a cup of coffee and enjoyed reading it.
    Out of all the farming experience I have, I have not kept bees but plan on it as soon as I can secure them from bears.
    I have friend who bought an old school bus to put her hives in. Parked in the shade. The windows are removed and tacker strips below the windows to keep the bears from climbing in.
    Great idea. I do not want an old school bus on my property, but we will be building a cage for them with an open top.
    We have so many pollinating plants on our property the local bees are everywhere. The especially love the food crops like corn, sunflowers and brocolli that has flowered. Almost all the garden crops that I let go to seed. Artichoke plants will be covered in all kinds of pollinating insects.
    I can not stress enough how dangerous it is to use chemicals on plants or the soil. I urge everyone to think twice before buying and using these toxic products.Then tell everyone you know not to also. We can not survive without our bees.
    I have printed your articles for my notebook!
    Thanks again.

    • Petticoat Prepper says:

      Thanks MamaJ,

      I wouldn’t want an old school bus either but that is a really good idea. I’ve seen apairys in bear country with solar powered electric fences around them. My understanding (just from reading and videos) is that a powerful electric fence is about the only true deterent for bears. They too know how great honey is!

      I agree with you regarding the toxic stuff on food crops. Sometimes all a person really needs is soapy water to get rid of the pests.

      • HomeINsteader says:

        OH, rats! You just reminded me, PP. Bears are an issue on our BOL. Guess I better think more about those hives, huh?!!

  12. Thanks for the effort and time you put into this great article, PP! Have copied all for my files.

  13. Thank you so much, it’s obvious you have worked very hard to put all this information together and I appreciate the effort!

  14. Petticoat Prepper,

    Finally getting the time to get caught up on my reading, and all I can say to you is, Great Job.

    When you mentioned putting the drained frame back out for the girls it reminded me of one of my first times working with bees at age 14, back in PA. I’d been working with bees and learning about them from an older cousin, and in the fall, when we took frame to the centrifugal extractors, there was still a think gooey layer of honey in the large stainless steel pot that collected it. When I asked him how we would clean off the honey, he said that the bees would take care of it. Even though this large stainless cauldron like pot was more than 100 yards from the apiary, the next morning the pot had been licked absolutely clean. Amazing creatures.

    There have been shortages of packaged bees the last few years as more and more folks are taking up the hobby. I’m not sure if its preppers, people who want more control over their food, or those who want to help out the bees; but, in any case it’s a really good trend.

    On a final note, just an opinion from a long time beekeeper who was teaching a class I took a few years back of his opinion on CCD. He didn’t doubt that it existed, but hadn’t seen it himself or amongst the local beekeeping community, and thought that a lot of what is being called CCD was actually PPB (Piss Poor Beekeeping), especially in those commercial keepers who drag thousands of hives around the country and are paid to pollinate orchards, etc. When a hive dies off or disappears, it’s simply easier to call it CCD and replace the hive, than to admit you have issues and take the time and effort to deal with them.

    Again, good articles

  15. What a great set of articles. I don’t think I have enough space for bees but your articles were easy to read and entertaining. Thank you.

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