Sunday, October 13, 2013

Start of the harvest

    As a bee keeper I have been moderately successful.  Success can be measured in pounds of honey at harvest.  Or you could measure it by how many years you are able to keep a colony alive.  Or perhaps your measure is just the fact that you chose to do this crazy beekeeping thing at all.  I measure success in all of those ways.
    This year in the Northeast where I live, the weather was spectacular for apples, and wild flowers, and thus, honey.  I just harvested the first of my hives today.  Wed. I will get the second one (I have Wed. off due to a college break) and start the extraction process. It is going to be a huge harvest.
   Backing up a bit - last year, both of my hives absconded.  We found a mouse nest in one, which explains a lot.  If the colony was weak to start with, they would not have been able to drive out the mice.  The other looked fine, but alas, they all left, not died, just went away, which was really a certain death, since by the time of year they absconded did not leave them enough days to make winter stores.  Sad, but part of the cycle sometimes.  So this past Spring I bought two nucs from my local beekeeping guru and started again.  (A nuc is a small section of an already active hive, with a queen - usually four frames of drawn honey comb and some honey, if you are lucky. Nucs start off more quickly since they do not need to spend as much time making wax for their brood and for their honey stores.  They are, however, more expensive than starting with "package bees" which is a box of many thousand bees and a queen they have yet to know.)
     As I stated - this year, with our cool, wet Spring and our summer of moderate temps (except for two really nasty hot weeks in July) and occasional rain, it was perfect for flowers, so the bees had everything they could wish for.  Additionally, we have had a pretty mild Autumn thus far, so the goldenrod and fall flowers have stuck around for much longer than last year.  Today, when I opened the hive, it was crazy with bees.  This is a great sign - you want a strong colony going into the winter.  They will kick out all the drones, if they have not done so already, and cluster together through the cold winter.
     When I lifted the super off, I was gobsmacked by the weight of it.  There must be 30 pounds of honey in that thing! (A super is a box of frames with the honey for harvest, as opposed to the lower boxes, which are the bees' stores for the winter.) I know many beekeepers who will put a second super on top of the first, in order to give the girls room to make more honey - but I have never done this.  Not for any reason other than I have never had the need.  I have always had moderate honey harvests, not massive ones.  Quite frankly, this year with the  beginning of our farming career and all the time spent learning and making mistakes, I didn't pay much attention to the girls.  I just left them to their own devices. Adding a second super was the last thing on my mind. A shame, because this would have been the year to do it! Each one of the ten frames is completely filled with honey.  I am interested to see how the second hive has done.  It has never been as strong, and I think it may be a less ideal location.
   So lucky as we are, we will be incredibly busy extracting the honey and the wax.  If I look a little sticky at week's end, blame it on the bees. 

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