Monday, July 6, 2009

The bees and the harvest

We need rain so badly, I hope today's clouds provide a little relief.

The wind shifted and gave us a few hours break from the dog days weather, so I took the opportunity to go into the bee hives this weekend.   Dolly's hive never has picked back up after she swarmed, and I was afraid that the bees that were left could not police the brood chamber and two honey boxes, and that we would end of up a mess full of wax moths and/or hive beetles while waiting for the new queen to build the hive up again.  Sure enough, when that hive was opened we found that the two honey supers were essentially empty, just a few bees, and almost no nectar.  Below the supers, in the brood boxes, we saw a fairly good number of bees still, so I decided not to disturb the brood chamber and just to give them another week to pick up before really going in to look for a queen or eggs.  No hive beetles or moths in sight, so that was a relief.

We took those two honey supers off of Dolly, and sorted out the 8 frames that had no nectar at all.  Those went into a sealed box, and back in the chapel (my shed, with the pitched roof).  The other box we held aside while I opened up Loretta's hive.  There we found one box of capped honey, and one box almost full, but not capped.  We took the capped honey and put it over in the cart, on a bee escape to let the bees out, covered to prevent robbing.  We then added the partial box of nectar from Dolly's hive to the top of Loretta, and closed Loretta up again.  Too many bees there, and I am afraid they may swarm again, but I did not have the equipment or time (or inclination) to break up the brood box and give them more room.  Lazy beekeeping, which leads to less honey, but so far fairly healthy bees.

Now on to Grace.  This is the new swarm hive from this spring. They have been busting out the door, piling up on the front of the hive, and otherwise looking very, very healthy.  I expected a full super of honey.  I was wrong.  They had barely even drawn half of the frames of wax, and there were almost no bees up in the super.  Just below the queen excluder, however, were tens of thousands of bees, jammed into every tiny space.  So I did something I have not done before, I removed the queen excluder.  This means that, if she wants, the queen can go up into the honey super.  This is a bad thing, as it would result in brood mixed in with the honey, a real mess when it comes time to harvest.  But I had to give it a try, and see if, for some reason, that excluder was keeping those bees from using that space, and storing honey for harvest.  Many folks claim the queen won't cross over the honey below to move into the super; we will see.  I hope I don't regret the decision.

Here is a photo of some of the 22 pounds of honey we got from Loretta this weekend.  This new honey is thick and dark, completely different from the pale, pale honey we extracted earlier this season.   You see some of the pale, early honey on the left, this week's honey on the right.   The marsh and parkland here provides great nectar sources for a range of beautiful honey.

Here also is the best lunch in the world:  fresh ciabatta bread, soaked in good olive oil, with thick sliced tomatoes and fresh basil leaves.  Not much but tomatoes in the garden now, and greens.  I have some new squash plants started in a front ornamental bed, along with some pumpkins, just for fun.  I need to pull up all the kale that remains, and freeze it, so I can get a second crop of snap beans planted.  As always, I am behind in the garden, but spent plenty of time in the boat this weekend.