This is a video to illustrate why I always wear protective clothing when working my bee hives. I was robbing these four colonies in the Cabin 3 Apiary last Sunday and all was well... until I bumped a box accidently. These four also happen to be my most defensive colonies in all my apiaries. Well, after only one sting that made it through my suit, I collected a weekend total of 300 pounds of honey. Other beekeepers have told me to requeen these colonies to try to relieve some of their defensiveness, but they sure do make a lot of honey just as they are. So I figure a few stings is well worth the reward of a great crop.
Yesterday was my son's birthday and I asked him what he wanted to do for his birthday evening. He said he wanted to extract the box of honey we had earlier discovered to be ready. So, armed with a can of Root Beer and a thermos of coffee, we robbed the hive and headed to the extraction room. With sticky hands and sugary smiles we harvested about 35 pounds from that box and sampled a little during the process.
This picture is what one of the 25 colonies I successfully overwintered, looks like today. At this point, they are reaching the maximum amount of bees a double deep hive will handle before swarming, which is around 60,000 bees. So far, they are showing no imminent signs of swarming and I have added 2 honey supers in order to, hopefully, hold the swarm instinct at bay while the nectar flow begins.
I had to take this picture as I couldn't believe the striking colors of the pollen packed in as bee bread. If you look close, you can see the C shaped larvae which have hatched from eggs on their way to becoming workers for the colony.
This picture shows my two hive buddies helping to set up empty hive bodies for the new package bees to come yet this month. I am adding an additional 30 colonies to our operation which should bring our total colony count up to 60 for this year. At the peak of the season, that translates into somewhere in the vicinity of 3.5 million bees living and working our 300 acre woods. We are ready and hopeful for another great year of learning from the bees.
I posted this video to show my good hive buddy Tex helping his old dad. He has been coming with me quite frequently to rob supers and has even been learning how to manipulate the frames full of bees without upsetting them too much. He's such a good helper and this dad is awful proud of him.
This picture is of my good hive buddy Zachary, aka Tex, standing beside colony 1 in the "bend in the crick" apiary. He spent the day helping me rob and extract honey. At the top of the picture, setting on top of the hive is a wooden box referred to as a fume board. It consists of a piece of dark corrugated plastic with a felt underside in a wooden frame. The bottle Tex is holding is what is called Honey Bandit. We spray this chemical on the felt side of the box and then place it on the super. As the plastic top is warmed, the Honey Bandit vaporizes and settles down through the hive thus pushing the bees out of the box we want to take. Usually takes about 5 minutes or so. The Honey Bandit is an all natural mixture of liquid scents which bees don't really want to smell and smells alot like REALLY strong cherries and cinnamon to us yet doesn't flavor the honey inside the box at all. It is always nice when things just work and always wonderful to have a day with my hive buddy, Wonder Dog and the bees.
Last evening after supper, the kids (my hive buddies) and I went on our daily trip to the Russian apiary to fill their feeder jars. While we were up on that ridge feeding the girls, I noticed the bees weren't clinging all over me as usual, and then I felt the cool breeze being chased by a distant roll of thunder. The rain still being miles away, we didn't cut our beetour short and descended through the lush valleys speckled with shadowy blooms. The thunderhead glowed as we stopped to marvel at its outstretched fingers kissed with the sun's last rays.
This past weekend, after checking on the crick bend apiary and feeding the Russian colonies, the kids and I took a little beetour through the timber to check on the various large patches of Goldenrod in bloom. Of course, our honeybees had found it and didn't seem to mind sharing it with some other pollinators and nectar lovers. There is so much diversity in the insect world and so many shockingly gorgeous colors. Before our little beetour ended, I'm pretty sure they were as lost in discovery, questions and guesses as I was. It was a great afternoon in our patch of pollinator paradise.
The kids and I set out for a day of adventure and imagination in our 300 acre woods. The crisp, cool quiet that surrounded us as we walked was only silenced by the occasional snap of alarm rising from a broken twig underfoot along with the alerting call of the Blue Jay serving as sentinel of the forest. The old growth Burr Oak trees bowed their branch tips in the breeze, as if to nod a salute in our passing underneath. The quiet, precious conversations of questions and dreams between us three were only paused in the valleys where the white flowers hummed. Time stood still as we gazed in wonder at the tiny baskets of our little bees filling with white pollen and all too soon, the day had to end. I couldn't have wished for anything better than this past Labor Day with the bees and my two little hive buddies on a walk through the trees.