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Posts Tagged ‘harvest’

Image by Björn Appel (honey bees fanning their wings to circulate and cool the air in the hive)

We have had the busiest “bee” year that we have ever had since we got our first hives in 2007. If you’ll recall, we came out of winter this year with these two hives, both of them super strong and healthy.

This is what we have now…

I couldn’t fit them all into one photo so I had to splice two photos together. We are up to 6 hives, well above our goal for this year!

I’ve mentioned before that our main goal is to get all of our hives converted over to Warre’ hives which allow the bees to make their own comb and is a less intrusive/controlling method of beekeeping. We’ve currently got all but one hive moved over to Warre’ hives, we’ll probably move the last standard German hive over next year.

So how did we get so many hives? Well, it’s a long busy story, but I’ll try and condense :O)

This year P volunteered with the local Swarm Hotline. When people find swarms in their garden, they can call and the nearest beekeeper is contacted and goes to access the situation, either catching the swarm or counselling on how best to deal with the bees.

"The Bee-Mobile"

Over the past month our tiny Renault Twingo has been converted into “The Bee-Mobile” loaded with swarm boxes and containers, veils, bee suit, smoker, branch cutter, a swarm catching bag-on-a-stick, even a special bee vacuum-cleaner attachment for those pesky hard-to-get-at swarms! Anything that he might need is in there. So far P has responded to a dozen or more calls, many of the swarms flew away before he could get there, some were way too high to catch, and one unfortunate swarm apparently had been poisoned and died. Out of all of those phone calls, P managed to bring home 3 healthy swarms…but then the swarming season isn’t quite over yet so there is a chance, if we’re lucky, we’ll get one or two more.

Strange Incident of a Queen in the Morning

The strangest occurrence, which led to one of our new hives, happened about a month ago. P went out to check on the bees early one morning and sitting there all by herself on the side of one of the hives was a virgin queen bee. It was strange because it was still too cool outside and none of the bees were flying yet so what was this queen doing out on the hive-box all alone? Possibly she had been out on a mating flight the previous day and for some reason didn’t re-enter the hive, or possibly she was one of a group of just hatched queens and she left the hive, or was kicked out? Or maybe she wasn’t even one of our bees at all! Who can say… it remains a mystery but P caught her and commenced to making a hive for her.

He put her into this queen cage and then went out to our strongest hive and collected enough bees to give her a decent start.

He put everyone into this Warre’ hive then put them into the cellar where they stayed for 3 days. This gives them time to become acquainted with the new queen and hopefully accept her, they spend a day or 2 eating a plug of honey or candy away from the cage opening which then frees the queen, at which point they are ready to go outside and begin building their new hive. So far this hive is doing really well, it went smoothly with none of the numerous complications that we had last time we tried this.

So that unusual incident gave us our first Warre’ hive of the year!

Honey!

(Sorry about the recycled photo, forgot the camera this year, this image is from our 2008 harvest.)

Yes, we harvested this year, last time we harvested was in 2008. We don’t harvest every year as a rule, we don’t sell honey and there is only so much honey that two people can eat in a year! We do give it away quite often and still one harvest typically lasts us for 2-3 years. We got a record harvest this year with a total of 100lbs of honey! That was from just 2 hives.

During the honey harvest P shook all of the bees from one of our standard German hives into one of the Warre’ hives which leaves us with just the one standard German hive.


Kenya Top Bar Hives

In addition to all the other bee activities, we also built 2 Kenya Top Bar Hives, which are my official first hives. I will write about these in a separate post.

So to sum up…

1st new hive this year came from our Mysterious Queen Incident

2nd new hive was a captured swarm we learned about from our neighbour who is also a beekeeper.

3rd new Warre’ hive was a transfer of one of our established hives during the honey harvest.

4th and 5th new Warre’ hives came from swarms located through the Hotline.

Oh yeah, I nearly forgot. On the same day that P caught the first swarm, one of our original German standard hives threw a very large swarm which of course flew to the very top of the tallest tree on our property and were way too high to catch, so we lost 1 swarm of our own, but gained 3.

Whew! Did I mention it has been a VERY BUSY SUMMER?

I haven’t even mentioned all the work going on in the garden. I think I’ll save that for another post!

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Last night’s harvest…a basket full of spinach and radishes. I’m going to make a creamy spinach gorgonzola sauce and serve it over gnocchi….mmmmm….low in calories? No way, but…mmmmm!

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This actually took place a few weeks ago on May 24th. I’m a bit late writing it up.

In the early spring our bees begin their busy season by collecting pollen from nearby willow trees. Next comes blackthorn and soon after comes dandelions, with several other early blooming things added to the mix.

If we had neighbors, I’m sure they would probably hate us because we never cut down our dandelions until they have gone to seed. In early spring, our yard is a blanket of golden yellow filled with happy buzzing bees. They need the pollen and we just happen to like dandelions :O)

Here in our village we are literally surrounded by fields which is common in Germany, crops are planted on nearly every patch of ground that isn’t used for housing, or forest land, or grazing land, that’s the only way to support such a huge population in such a relatively small country. Here in our village the main crops are wheat, oats, rye, barley, corn, rapeseed, potatoes and sugar beets. Rapeseed is the earliest flowering crop and it makes up a large percentage of what our honey is made of.

This is a shot of the fields just on the other side of our fence, just behind our berry patch. Just one of many rapeseed fields in full flower.

I did a post last year which shows more of the actual honey extracting process, you can find it in my old blog, here (scroll down to the May 22nd entry). This year I was out of town when Peer harvested the honey but a friend took a few pictures for me.

Many of the beekeepers in our area do 2 harvests a year, they harvest in the spring and then again in the summer. We did that last year but we ended up having to feed our bees with commercial “sugar water” so that they could survive over the winter. That didn’t make a whole lotta sense to us, for one thing it’s expensive to buy, it’s not sustainable, not to mention that we don’t need all that honey so why not let the bees keep it? From now on, we’ll only harvest once a year, in the spring.

Anyway, here is the honey after it has been extracted from the comb and filtered. Peer is pouring it into a large bucket which has a spigot at the bottom designed for filling small jars.

Peer’s assembly line :o)

Since we don’t sell our honey, we don’t need a special room for this, our honey is only for us and our friends and family, so we do it the old fashioned way and just use our kitchen..

Mmmm, honey….

We ended up with 80 jars from 3 hives which is not necessarily a big harvest, but it’s more than plenty for us!

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