Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Sweet Honey

Well, there hasn’t been a whole lot of new news with the bees lately. We did inspect the bees last week but there was virtually no progression in either hive, which left very little to blog about. We did peek in the hives yesterday, though and there is a little more to discuss.

To start with, we have been mildly concerned about the Virginia hive. A couple of weeks ago, since she had dawn comb on 8 of the 10 frames, we added a super and removed the top hive feeder. During last week’s inspection we found that there were some eggs and larvae, but the brood pattern was kind of spotty and there was not any new comb that was not there the previous week. In retrospect we can see that we were just a little too excited with Virginia and jumped the gun a little. We should have waited one more week before adding the second deep hive body and should have continued to feed them 1 more week before adding the super. I read somewhere (and any of you who might know better can feel free to correct me if I am wrong) that it takes a pound of honey to make 1 ounce of wax. I think that when the super was added there was no nectar flow going on. With no nectar flow the bees can’t make honey. If the bees are not making honey they can’t build much comb either.

During this past week the bees from both hives have been very active. All day long the bees have been taking off for and returning from parts unknown. The way the hives are situated in the back yard they either have to fly up and over hedge about 10 feet tall across the yard to the east, up and over a hedge about 8 feet tall to the north, or up and over the house to the south west. Consequently they all fly up immediately after leaving the hive. Anyway, when the sun is shining, the bee’s bodies reflect the sunlight. It is a beautiful sight to look toward the hives and see all these little points of light constantly shooting up and coming down.

As we have watched the bees coming in this past week we have noticed that they have been bringing in very little pollen. We assumed that this meant that there must be a good nectar flow going on and they were bringing in nectar instead. This was confirmed when, during yesterdays hive inspection, we discovered that Virginia had very nearly finished drawing out comb in the deep hive bodies and filled them with capped honey. Capped honey, by the way, is the finished honey ready to be eaten. Bees fill the honey comb cells with regurgitated nectar which has been treated with various enzymes used to break down the sugars in the nectar. They then fan the honeycomb to evaporate the water until they have nice ripe honey. They cover the honey with wax caps so they can store it until it is needed. As of yesterday they had just started to draw comb up in the super. I am thinking that if we had just been a little more patient and added boxes and stopped feeding at the right times we might be a week ahead of where we are now.

The nectar flow we are now experiencing must be from the alfalfa fields outside of town. They have all been full of little purplish blue blossoms. It is now time for the first cutting of hay so those fields will be out of commission until just before the second cutting. There are several fields being used for seed rather than hay. I do not know if alfalfa will continue to blossom as long as it is not cut or if the blossoms will dry up as it goes to seed. Does anyone out there know? Please leave a comment and tell me if you do.

Anyway, I did scrape a little burr comb with some capped honey from the top of the frames in Virginia’s top deep hive body. There wasn’t a lot of honey there- just enough to smear on a couple of fingers for Chris and myself. It was a very light mild honey- and quite tasty. Woohoo! Our first taste of Robertson honey!

Georgia, as usual, is lagging just a little behind Virginia. She has drawn comb on 7 of the 10 frames in her upper deep. When I saw this I got excited and just about removed the feeder and added a super. I took a deep breath, remembered Virginia, and decided to feed one more week before adding the super. I am confident that next week there will be a super sitting on top of both hives, and, as long as the alfalfa keeps up, both will be filling up with honey.


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