Finally the harvests of summer are beginning to arrive. Warmer days are here and with that an abundance and blessings of eggs, honey, flowers, fruits, and vegetables begin to find their way into our home and onto the dinner plate.
This past weekend a friend and I got together to harvest honey from the summer. Despite keeping bees for three years this was the first harvest that was large enough to need an extractor. Many factors come into honey production by the bees including weather, hive health, hive size, breed of bee, supply of blooms, and honey bee pests. This year we were lucky after three seasons of keeping bees!
|Activity in front of Willow but none in front of Briar.|
I had a bad feeling going into winter with the Briar hive. The hive should have been re-queened as they had many issues last season. But sadly, there were no queens available due to the unexpected large death of so many bee hives across the United States. Last year, the US lost about 30 percent of all the existing hives. So I crossed my fingers that they would survive until spring, when I could requeen.
Last week, I caught the bees outside on a warmer fall day. They were sipping water from the decorative cabbages on the front porch. I sat and watched them. Each dipped their proboscis into the water. They seemed to enjoy the warmth of the sun. Their movements were sluggish. These were not summer bees but winter bees, that the queen had laid for the sheer purpose of surviving the upcoming season. The summer bees were all gone. Their lifespan was only around six weeks. Unlike their sisters, these winter bees could survive for a few months.
As the seasons change, it is time to begin feeding the bees. This helps to ensure their survival over the upcoming winter months. In the fall, bees take a 2:1 sugar syrup.Yesterday, I planned to place the sugar syrup feeders on the hives. Here on Cape Cod, our club suggests feeding them for the first two weeks in October. Since I was already suited up, I also decided to do this year’s final hive inspections. These would be the last full inspections before spring next year. Little did I know that it would unexpectedly be my first honey harvest.
Honeybees are in trouble. Each year they continue to die off at an alarming rate. One in three bites of food you consume is due to a honeybee. Only recently have scientist started studying bees, when they soon realized that they are headed toward possible extinction. There are many potential reasons why the bees are dying. Some believe that it is a class of pesticides called neonictinoids, other believe that exposure to environmental chemicals weakens their immune systems and causes neurological damage. Some blame the varroa mites and small hive beetles. The hypotheses are numerous.
I took a moment this week to head over to my third hive. I had not visited it in a couple of weeks. When I arrived I could not believe my eyes. I opened the hive and discovered that the population had boomed!!! The hive was crowded. At 1 pm in the afternoon, most of the bees were still foraging away from the hive. This was when those bees were not home. I could only imagine the lack of space when they returned for the evening. I needed to intervene. I did a thorough inspection. and was surprised to find multiple queen cups