Hive report: 17 June 2018

This turned out to be a very quick peek into Hive A–the heat got to me.  I’m such a wuss when it comes to heat and humidity.  I’ve been trying so hard not to degenerate into complaining (no, actually make that bitching) about the weather but I give up.  When I went out to do this inspection the local weather conditions were reported as 90°F with a heat index of 102 °F: however, my thermometer read 94.9°F.  Inside my bee jacket (the common white one)–well, I don’t even want to think about that.  (More about the cool blue one later).

What I found when I opened the hive was brood all over the place–yes, I forgot to put on the queen excluder–so now I have brood right up to the topmost medium super.  Some of the foundationless frames that I had inserted are being drawn nicely though.

One frame on plasticell foundation had been drawn into space where the foundationless one was–the girls seemed to be ignoring that one so I had very deep comb on one side. You can see how I disrupted a lot of the comb, so I just pulled that frame out for harvest.  I replaced it with an undrawn frame . This one is going to get harvested in some variation of crush/strain method and I’ll hope that some of the foundationless ones can be harvested for cut comb.

Unfortunately, the heat got to me in a big way so I couldn’t stay out long enough to do a full, meticulous find-the-queen inspection–at least I know the queen is doing well.  I need to make some sort of plan to deal with what these girls are doing–probably going back in and consolidating brood, and putting on a queen excluder would be a good start. But to do that I have to find the queen and that’s not easy because the hive population is SO heavy. At least I know that the girls do have space to store more honey, but…

But I need to see what’s in the “brood box”–though the girls and I don’t seem to agree on where that right now. I also need to inspect the other three hives–but not today. My thermometer is now reading 95.8°F and I’m totally wilted. (Yes, I did start hydrating a couple hours before I got into the bee jacket, but that wasn’t enough.  More water, sooner next time–and start earlier.

I guess maybe the girls will get me appropriately trained sooner or later, maybe….

 

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Comb honey vs. extracted honey

From one of my very favorite (and useful) beekeeping blogs (HoneyBeeSuite) I wanted to share a post that so well describes the grocery-store honey and the wonders of honey in the comb: How to make value-subtracted honey.  I couldn’t agree more, nor could I say it better so I’ll just pass on this link.

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More ways to use honey.

Now that the bees are here, thoughts turn to honey–even though it’s unlikely that I’ll be able to harvest from the hive started from the package of bees that I got on 14 April 2017–the bees must have a winter supply so that has priority over satisfying my desire for honey.

I found an interesting series of articles from Kitchn on honey and its use in cooking or just eating:

 

There are additional links within these articles to recipes using honey, and to a series on migratory beekeeping and production of varietal honey.

Varietals are so much fun. Even the seasonal variations on wildflower honey are special. Raw honey is much like wine–its goût de terroir–a reflection of the total environment where the bees forage.

A son gôut!

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The honey bee calendar: seasonal honey.

The bees’ calendar and the beekeeper’s calendar are not the same as the one in Outlook or Google that displays all the holidays for you and the “year” by which we proceed through our daily routines. They are more responsive to temperatures, and hours of daylight–what’s really going on in nature.  They are awaiting the spring nectar flow to increase the population of the hive and to store honey.  Or the fall nectar flow to store food for the winter months.

In summer when we are enjoying a surfeit of fruits and vegetables (because of the bees’ pollen and nectar gathering in the spring) we have to realize that about that time there is a declining flow of nectar–fewer things are blooming. Life can be hard for bees in July. A nectar dearth means less food for them, so depending on forage region, we may be feeding bees while enjoying plenty of fruits and vegetables.  The bees will be waiting for the fall nectar flow–in my forage region (Appalachian-Ozark Upland) that’s primarily asters and goldenrod.

This seasonal variation is one of the delights of honey and beekeeping. The photograph at the top of the page shows the difference between spring/summer honey (left) and autumn honey (right). It’s seasonal flavor when honey is not blended. In this forage region, as an urban beekeeper, I have “wildflower” honey since my bees don’t have access to a large monofloral flow. I can’t produce varietal honey such as sourwood or alfalfa honey, or even clover honey, but I do have seasonal honey.

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What “raw” honey means…

…or doesn’t mean.

In many places, the spring nectar flow is over and some beekeepers may be harvesting honey. When you look at the label you may see “raw” honey. Here is a good discussion of that may mean from HoneybeeSuite. 

It’s a lot like the word “natural” used on labels. Your best bet is to ask the beekeeper who is selling the honey. They will be glad to explain the harvesting and extraction process to you so you know exactly what you’re getting.

Hive report: 27 April 2017

It was clear and sunny this morning with only a bit of steady breeze, so I lit the smoker and invaded the girls’ living quarters to see how they are settling in.

The colony seems to be doing well–given that I only installed the package on 14 April in an almost-brand-new hive with no drawn combs in the brood box. Added to that we’ve had a series of chilly, rainy days when there could be no foraging.

When I opened the hive today I was happy to see that four of the eight frames have comb either drawn or being drawn on them, and one side of the fifth frame was being drawn. On inspection, I saw eggs, larvae in various stages, and capped brood–all looking like a good laying pattern from this queen. Two of the frames were quite heavy with brood, pollen, and honey. There was a little capped honey, too.

I found the queen on one frame in from the outside on the right.  Some frames on the left of the brood chamber were completely undrawn, so I shifted everything toward the left, and put two of the empty frames on the right so that the brood is now more central in the chamber–I didn’t change the order of any frames with brood on them though–just shifted them toward the left. I sure hope that was an appropriate thing to do. (I suspect that this right sided distribution of drawn frames and brood has something to do with how I replaced frames after removing the shipping box from the hive–I should have split the empty frames–shifting the frame with the queen more toward the center of the hive. But that’s what keeps beekeeping interesting–always learning.

The colony seems quite calm–even while I was removing burr comb that they had constructed between the frame tops and the inner cover (and had filled with “nectar”–I couldn’t help wondering if that “nectar” was the sugar syrup from the bucket feeder that was on the hive. After inspection, I put the bucket feeder back on but if the weather holds, I’ll not refill it–letting the girls get on with foraging for nectar and pollen–or remove it in a couple days if it looks as if they are no longer taking the syrup.

Because I put these girls onto undrawn (but wax coated) frames, I had an entrance excluder in place so that the queen couldn’t get out of the hive–trying to be sure that the new package and queen didn’t abscond. Now that they have brood, I’ll remove that, but I think I’ll leave the entrance reduced for a bit longer until there are more bees in the colony (which shouldn’t be long given the amount of capped brood that I saw today).

For now, all seems well. Long live the (unnamed) queen in hive 2017A!

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Varietal honey

I’ve always loved honey–even as a child–especially comb (also known as cut-comb) honey. Now that I have bees I have my own honey–but it is wildflower honey. It’s a mix of Honey jars 20160702_140009whatever is currently providing nectar for the ladies to tote back to the hive and process into honey.

Varietal  honeys have flavors that can be quite distinctive. (Note that I’m not referring to “infused honey” which has had flavors added–e.g. chilli pepper, which sounds delightful to me, but rather honey which is made exclusively (or almost) from a single flower.) My honey shelf includes varietals such as leatherwood, tupelo, orange blossom, thyme, lavender, eucalyptus, buckwheat, sourwood–and what was purported to be kudzu honey. I think the Hawaiian white is all gone. Always on the lookout for good varietals. It’s a real treat to have these on biscuits or warm, homemade bread, or used in a sorbet, sherbert, or granita where the individual flavors really stand out–or just on morning oatmeal.

These thoughts on varietal honeys sprang from update from Honey Bee Suite answering the question of whether or not bees made honey from poison ivy/poison oak. Turns out that they do–and the blog post included a link to a source of some really interesting varietals from the Pacific Northwest varietals. I think I really have to have some poison bees on frame of honeyoak honey–especially as I share the experience of having that same kind of reaction to exposure to poison ivy, although mine didn’t involve any horses. Just a lot of poison ivy.

The post on poison ivy/oak honey had a link to a site that has an interesting array of varietal honeys from Old Blue Raw Honey as single season, samplers, and the year-long honey subscription–a serious gift for a honey lover!

To have a varietal honey there has to be enough of the blossoms to let the honey bees do their “monofloral” thing. Even wildflower flavors will vary from season to season as the flora shifts; fall will bring goldenrod and aster nectar for honey. One of the intriguing things about honey in the comb is that you get to variable flavor even within “wildflower” honey.

 

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