This is a busy time of year. The gardens bounty overflows, rewarding our efforts, but also making us hustle to bring it in and store it so we can enjoy its riches throughout the winter. Of course there is nothing better than fresh, organic produce and we enjoy the heck out of the tomatoes, corn, raspberries, onions, cabbage, beans, grapes and more, that grace our table right now.
In the middle of this blessing comes the honey harvest and I took time out this last week to inspect the hives and pull the honey. It’s every bit as tasty as it was last year, if not better and the last of it is still slowly making it way through the screens prior to being bottled. We have given away some of this liquid gold and used a couple quarts canning pears. If you’ve never had pears canned with a syrup made from honey instead of sugar you’ve got to try it. There’s nothing like it.
Did you know that much of the store bought honey is diluted up to 20% with corn syrup? It’s why real honey has such a great taste compared to store bought. Additionally the store bought comes from hives treated with chemicals to kill mites. If you want to get the real thing, without chemicals or corn syrup, find a local beekeeper who advertises his product as “treatment free”, meaning he uses NO chemicals within the hive to kill mites.
Once I have it all bottled I’m thinking my hives will produce around six to seven gallons and its all spoken for. I could easily sell twice that amount at $25 per quart because of the demand for locally grown, treatment free honey.
Now, for those of you who have been following along all year I’ve provided a report below on the condition of each hive. In it you will see that each hive is different and has its own story to tell. At least for me, it is part of the fascination and enjoyment that comes with keeping bees.
Hive 1 – is the hive I got as a split from a friend. Because they have to develop a queen of their own after you take the split, these hives will run a little bit behind hives that wintered or even new hives started from a package. Still, I did get a few frames of honey from these girls and they have plenty of stores laid in for the winter. Very interesting to note that this hive has a huge amount of brood and mountains of drones (male bees). Mites love drone brood so I would assume there is quite a mite load in this hive. Still, its pretty much a carbon copy of the parent hive I took the split from, as that hive always has a huge amount of drones yet it continues to make it through the winter each year.
Hive 2 – This is the first of two Carny (Carniolan) hives. Normally these bees are fast to build up and lay in a big supply of honey, so fast that you can plan on getting honey even from a package installed in a new hive at the beginning of spring. In checking my notes, this hive got off to a great start, so why no honey, at least for the beek? (beekeeper) There is a full box of honey for the bees themselves to use for winter, but they never even tried to use the third box I added. My guess is that they went through a supercedure – a process of replacing their queen – and it set the hive back for awhile. The queen that came with the package was marked and sometimes the bees will interpret that as a fault, raise a new queen and dispatch with the old one. later this fall I will do a hive inspection to see if I can find the queen and if she is not marked it will confirm my suspicion.
Hive 3 – the second Carny hive. This hive performed as expected. It was a new hive I started with a package and they really went to town. Built up a nice box of honey for themselves and about two-thirds of a box of honey for me. I hope they make it through the winter as I’ve had trouble getting this race of bees to make it. I’m trying something different this year and added a pollen supplement to help them prepare for the cold. In our dry climate here in Central Oregon we have few things that bloom late in the season and it makes it more difficult for the bees to lay in the pollen supplies they need. Pollen is full of amino acids the bees need and is just as critical as a good supply of honey. I’ve added the pollen supplement to each hive while the weather is still warm so the bees can store it.
Hive 4 – is the first Italian hive. We took honey from this hive a month ago and it looks as if they are well on their way to making more. They have a good supply laid in for winter though for some reason, the number of bees in this hive seems to be less than the other hives.
Hive 5 – is the second Italian package and it came with a poor laying queen. I ordered a new queen from a breeder that breeds for “survivor” traits to withstand mites and I replaced the queen in May. This put the hive behind but they still produced a nice amount of honey. I hope they winter as I’m very impressed with the how tame these bees are how productive they have been. As with all these hives, they will face the challenge of surviving the mites this fall. Like any predator, the mite numbers peak a little after the prey population peaks. As the bees reduce their numbers in preparation for winter the smaller bee numbers combined with peaking mite numbers can kill off a hive and that is why most beekeepers treat the hive with a miticide (Insecticide). But that’s not how I work and as fall rolls around I will be looking for the mite resistant traits bred into this queen to shine through and allow the hive to survive. There are no guarantees but I am looking to acquire bees that deal with the mites on their own.
Hive 6 – the survivor hive. This is my lone surviving hive from last year. They clearly have traits that allowed them to survive a heavy mite load last year. They seemed to have gotten a little aggressive the last two times I inspected them and I saved them for last. This time they were perfect ladies and were not aggressive at all. As with most hives that winter and don’t have to start from scratch, this hive has produced a massive amount of honey. If they survive the winter again, I will probably attempt to take a split from them next year.
In a few more weeks I will do another hive inspection to check on the condition of the hives. I know I will lose hives this year, as it just part of beekeeping, but this year I have three hives that contain traits give them a better chance of surviving the mites and the winters. I will write another update after the next inspection.
Have a great weekend all and if you have questions please feel free to leave me a note.