Monday, July 30, 2012

Summertime and the living is ... slow ...

No denying it, I've been a very lazy blogger as of late.  Although, to be fair, I was on a vacation for a week.  I know, tough right?

For the most part, the bees have been doing well and are going about their bee business with ease.  Hive beetles have still been an annoyance, but they seem mainly to be on the bottom board and in the first brood super.  For the most part, my bees seem to be keeping the beetle population in check, and they don't seem to be ruining any honey.  Still, they are annoying ... probably more to me than to the bees, but I'm still researching other methods of dealing with them.  The beetle jail I had previously purchased is working, and to my surprise, has also been good for controlling any ants that sneak into the hive.

The bees starting to chase a small hive beetle.

The same beetle a little further down the bottom board.  Many more bees have come to help take care of the intruder.

The weather has been hot.  Really hot (100-104 degrees) and at times, has lasted for several days in a row.  Making sure that the bees have water has been imperative.  Luckily I have a two-tier bird bath/fountain and am less than a mile from the Ohio River.  The hot weather has also made hive activity slow waaaaaay down.  It has been very interesting to see how sensitive honeybees are to the weather.  Earlier in the year it was too cold, now it is too hot, however I suppose that if I was flying several miles a day, I'd also be picky about the weather.  Hot weather also means more bees in the hive which inevitably means there are more bored bees on guard duty (thus more stings).  I did get stung once when I was breaking down the hive before vacation, but I haven't had a problem since.

The hive about 10:30 pm on July 17th. The bees hang on the outside to stay cooler.

Although I still think that my hive is somewhat under populated, my queen bee, Catherine the Great, has continued to lay in a relatively regular pattern and steady rate.  I'm sure that as we go into August and September her laying rate and pattern will be heavily dependent on, what else, the weather.

Brood frame.
Finally, many bee keepers harvest a bulk of honey in July.  This is because the honey is still fairly light in color and taste, and (if you've done good hive management) Varroa mite population hasn't peaked.  Over the past weekend I took a single honey frame by using a bee brush to sweep off the bees, but if I were to take any more honey this year, I'd certainly use a fume board with a natural bee repellent spray.  I personally like the spray offered from Brushy Mountain Bee Farm.  The frame of honey that I took contained early nectar flow and is relatively light in color and flavor.  It also has the slightest taste of lavender, which is really cool since we've got several lavender bushes in our yard, and you just can't get any more local than that.  Some of the frames have honey from two different nectar flows, which is also really interesting to see.

Inspecting a honey frame.
Light honey in the middle, with darker honey on either side.

Capped honey in the harvested frame.
No fancy bottling or extracting for this frame.  I simply cut the comb out into a pan with a lid and have been smashing/spooning out the honey as I want.  I gave about half of the frame away, but even with keeping the other half, there is still plenty of beautiful honey.  Now if I could only catch up on my bee reading!