I have recently been blessed with a wonderful opportunity to keep bees in the Willamette Valley on a small lavender farm. Three hives will be established in mid April and I am excited to get them going. If you are interested in beekeeping this would be an excellent time to follow along, and if you are actually about to embark upon your first season of beekeeping please feel free to ask questions and I will help the best I can. If you are still thinking about whether you want to take up beekeeping you should know that bees can be hard to get after April/May, depending on where you live.
I’m excited about keeping bees in “the valley” as you will hear me refer to it, because the winters are milder and the growing season much longer. Already they have flowers in bloom there whereas I still struggle to see the first swelling of new buds on our trees. In eastern Oregon the season is short and any issue with the hive will certainly result in no honey for the Beek (beekeeper) and could possibly mean the hive will struggle to make it through the winter. I’m sure there will be new issues to learn about keeping bees in the valley, one of which is likely to be the high humidity levels. However, if things go well, we will not only have an opportunity to gather more honey from our hives but lavender honey to boot!!
Spring is one of the busiest times of year for bees and beekeepers alike. This is the time we order bees to establish new hives, older wintered hives are beginning to come alive and we take stock of our equipment needs for the new season. This year my plans include expanding the number of hives I have and that not only includes the bees that will be kept in the valley but a new location just a mile or so from where we live. I’m repairing and building hive boxes and taking stock of any equipment I might need to get through the season. This year I will also be attempting to do more splits – that is where you take frames from a healthy hive and make a new hive out of it. Sounds easy but you must either purchase a new queen for the new hive or properly complete the split so the bees make their new queen. We will likely be doing some of both.
I am anxiously awaiting that first sunny, wind free day above 50 degrees when I can make a full inspection of the hives I have wintered. I’ll will check to see if there are sufficient honey stores, if the queen is laying brood yet (or even if there is a queen) and the overall number of bees in the hive. If stores are low this is the time of year when bees can starve to death and supplemental feeding will be required. If you do begin to supplement feed remember that you cannot stop until the flowers are out and the bees are gathering everything they need. They should quit taking your sugar water when they reach that point.
Lavender honey, more hives and bees to keep and more to experience to be gained from another season of “treatment free” beekeeping. It’s all very exciting. What is treatment free you might ask? Essentially all commercial beekeepers use a “miticide” in the hive to kill mites. While they are approved for use, miticides (a type of insecticide) do leave various levels of residue within the hive. The honey you buy in the store has been exposed to these miticides. It has also been heated, destroying vitamins, minerals and antioxidants contained in honey. Store bought honey is also micro-filtered to remove the pollen, a healthy and natural part of raw honey. Some store bought honey also contains corn syrup and other additives. You cant beat the flavor or the healthy benefits of raw honey and I encourage you to find a local beekeeper to get your honey from. Along with our organic garden I refuse to use any chemicals in my hives. Sometimes it might cost me a few more hives, but my honey is as pure as the bees can make it. Management of the hives is the approach I take to solve the mite problem, but it is more labor intensive and that is why the commercial beeks don’t do it. Creating a brood break, an action that keeps the hive free of new eggs for a couple weeks, will kill most of the mites in a hive because they depend on the new eggs and young bees to complete their own life cycle. This is why we will be doing more in the way of splits this season. More on that later so I hope you will follow along.
I would like to leave you with a link to the web site for the lavender farm where my new hives will be established this year. “The Meadow of Lavender”. The web site is under construction so please check back often. My own honey from “Worker Bee Honey” will be sold this fall at The Meadow of Lavender. http://www.themeadowoflavender.com/
My best to each of you and I hope you will share this blog with others to help in spreading the word about the plight of honey bees, something we will go into a little more next time, and to help in educating folks about the need for honeybees and how GMO crops are having a devastating effect on bee populations.
Also, please visit curlew photo. http://curlewphoto.com/gallery/ They take some of the most amazing wildlife and scenery pictures you have ever seen, an example of which is the bee on the flower shown in this blog.