Tuesday, August 17, 2010
Honey, honey, honey....
We've had hives for four years. The first year we obsessed, hovered, dealt with, medicated, and probably drove the bees crazy. They swarmed the second year. I'm sure it was because they remembered the previous year. They wanted out before we started meddling. The second year we tried to be a little less invasive. The third year we thought one hive was dead and the other just holding on, until we opened the hives in August and found two very healthy colonies. This year because of lots of traveling we have hardly touched the hives. There is honey galore. I guess my point is that bees know what they are doing, and have for centuries.
They work so hard. We saved the few frames of honey from the first years anticipating that the hives would need feeding in the spring. This year, realizing that they need little help from us, we took the six frames out of the freezer and extracted for the first time. We will need to extract again before September, because this has been a bumper year for the bees.
Here's what the oldest extraction looked like.
The honey will be fine for cooking, but is a little crystallized for genereal use. I was going to put it back in the hives.... but they just don't need it, so I'll use it and the bees wax. There are about 40 lbs of honey in each box or super.
They need 60 lbs in each hive to get through the winter and next spring.
Three quarts of honey and three candles from six frames.
Laura isn't afraid of bees anymore, after climbing fifteen feet into a tree and helping me recapture a swarm, and Leah is starting hives in Utah in the spring.
The bees that are alive now will not be the bees that emerge in April. The girls will kick all of the boys out of the hive in the fall... they refuse to feed them over the winter.... and they will raise new men in the spring. Most bees live about 42 days, and yes, they are all girls.
Little bees start out cleaning the hive, move up to helping in the nursery, learn to attend the Queen, stock the pantry, provide heat and air conditioning, build honeycomb, and then become guards. That's all in the first 21 days. The last half of their life they gather pollen, nectar, water, and tree resin. They visit 5 million flowers to produce one pint of honey.
I love our girls.
Yeah, Leah and Laura too.