Honeybees

Bad Bee-havior: The Nectar Robbers

Posted by on Oct 4, 2013 in Farm Blog, Honeybees | 25 comments

Bad Bee-havior: The Nectar Robbers

As mentioned in this post, during late summer and fall in this area there is a relative dearth of nectar available for our honeybees, as they depend heavily on native forage. One of the best native nectar sources this time of year for honey bees is Coyote Brush (Baccharis pilularis), but our plants seemed to bloom much earlier than normal this season, perhaps due to our drought, and are now simply a mass of seeds. That has left the honey bees with few foraging options while they prepare their colonies for winter, and we’ve been squarely in the midst of a nectar dearth since June! As...

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Of Drought, Dearth, & Drones

Posted by on Aug 20, 2013 in Farm Blog, Honeybees | 24 comments

Of Drought, Dearth, & Drones

Last fall, and early winter, we experienced some significant rainfall events. One large storm after another sent water racing down our slopes, and off into the creeks. By December we were genuinely concerned that if that pattern persisted we’d slide into the creeks by February. However, when the New Year arrived, it was as if someone flipped a switch. The clouds parted, and a cold, dry weather pattern set in. It was only January though, and we still had plenty of opportunity to accumulate more rain before the end of our rainy season. What we didn’t realize was that the...

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Beeswax: Solar Wax Melter

Posted by on Sep 7, 2012 in Farm Blog, Honeybees | 28 comments

Beeswax: Solar Wax Melter

One of the byproducts of harvesting honey is beeswax.  A couple of weeks ago we took the last of our honey for the season from our hives. Although most of the frames will be reused for another year, a couple of frames were damaged during the extraction, and we also finished the honey harvest with a large bowl full of capping wax. There’s not a lot of wax in the cappings, but the wax does add up over the course of a sizable honey harvest. The question was, what to do with the wax? Obviously at some point we’d like to make candles, lotions, or soaps, but first the wax has to be...

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A Late Summer Honey Harvest

Posted by on Aug 24, 2012 in Farm Blog, Honeybees | 24 comments

A Late Summer Honey Harvest

Although we primarily keep bees for pollination, we’d be lying if we didn’t admit that at some point we also hoped to harvest at least some honey.  Last year, as the colonies were building up, we left the honey stores with the bees. We’ve had a smackeral or two of honey along the way, but not nearly enough to keep your average bear happy. In early spring we thought we might be able to harvest quite a bit of honey, but swarm season set off with a roar, and due to poor timing on our part, we lost most of our spring honey to the swarms. Finally though, this last weekend we...

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Hive Management: Salvaging a Hive with a Failed Queen

Posted by on Aug 22, 2012 in Farm Blog, Honeybees | 22 comments

Hive Management: Salvaging a Hive with a Failed Queen

Last year our Salvia hive, sourced from a feral swarm that landed in a neighbor’s plum tree, was the most populous, and robust hive in our apiary. This colony was doing so well that we split the hive in February to replace one of the colonies we’d lost over winter when the hive collapsed, and the Queen flew off. By dividing the hive we would be selecting for the Salvia Queen’s strong genetics, and hoped to build up another equivalently strong colony. Salvia’s daughter colony from that split is this year’s Rosemary colony, and I’m happy to say that this...

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Inside the Hives After the Swarm

Posted by on Apr 24, 2012 in Farm Blog, Honeybees | 31 comments

Inside the Hives After the Swarm

Last week two of the hives in our apiary swarmed.  The Lavender colony swarmed on Sunday afternoon, followed 24 hours later by the Salvia colony.  Both hives had been split this spring prior to the swarms, Lavender was split as recently as two weeks ago, but after inspecting the hives this weekend, it’s clear we should have split much more aggressively. As both hives cast substantially large initial swarms we wanted to see what the situation was inside the hives post-swarm.  Robust colonies will frequently throw multiple swarms during a season if they remain crowded. To decrease the...

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Can You Hear That Buzzing Sound?

Posted by on Apr 16, 2012 in Farm Blog, Honeybees | 40 comments

Can You Hear That Buzzing Sound?

I said that twice this weekend.  Saturday morning we started working on the new native garden in front of the house.  A little after noon, as we were struggling to wrestle the fountain rock into position, I suddenly heard a distinctly loud buzzing sound.  Then I realized the buzz was bees, thousands, and thousands of bees. Proof that swarm season is in full swing. The question was, were they feral bees from the surrounding woodland, or our bees!?  We’d heard bees above the chicken coop last summer, but never could find the source of the buzzing.  I ran down to the farm road and looked...

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Splitting the Lavender Hive, and Rechecking Rosemary

Posted by on Apr 3, 2012 in Farm Blog, Honeybees | 29 comments

Splitting the Lavender Hive, and Rechecking Rosemary

Last Friday we spent the afternoon working in the apiary.  At the end of February we had split the Salvia colony into our (then empty) Rosemary hive.  As a month had since passed, we expected we should see evidence of a new Queen by now, so we needed to see how this colony was progressing.  There was also rain forecast over the weekend, and as yet we had not managed to split our Lavender hive this season.  As it seems bees prefer to swarm on the first warm sunny day after a rain, we decided we really should split before the weather changed again. Things got off to a bumpy start in the apiary...

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