• Matt

Backyard Bees, Outyard Bees


They keep filling them up.

This Memorial Day weekend gave us some warm sunny weather; the bees were definitely enjoying it. The flowers need heat and sun to produce abundant quantities of nectar for the bees, and I had been worrying that the frequent rain and occasional cold would affect the spring honey crop. I don't want to jinx anything, because we're at least a few weeks out from being able to harvest spring honey, but so far, so good. There are quite a few hives with the boxes stacked up high, and a few more were added this weekend so the bees don't run out of room.


For those that haven't tried spring honey, the color is very light and the taste is mild and floral. Our main source for this amazing honey is black locust trees, which started blooming last week and still seem to be producing. Pure black locust honey is crystal clear, has a very subtle buttery

Crystal-clear black locust nectar.

flavor, and does not crystallize. Very seldom are the bees able to bring in enough nectar on the black locust to actually produce single floral source honey, and they'll fill the combs with whatever other nectar sources are available in spring: a few hives are strong enough in early spring to store dandelion honey, and by mid-June most have made some harvestable honey on honeysuckle, multiflora rose, and perhaps even some clover, which just started blooming this week. I'd like to say I knew for sure where the bees went, but the reality of beekeeping is that a lot of it is largely composed of educated guesses.


The bees will continue bringing nectar into the hive as long as it is available. As they do this, they move the fresh nectar up into the honey supers, and using their wings to circulate air through the hive, dehydrate it until the moisture content is eighteen percent or less. Along with the addition of enzymes that convert the sucrose in nectar into glucose and fructose, this process produces honey. When the honey is ready to be harvested, or "ripe" the bees will cover it with a protective covering of wax, a convenient visual indicator for the beekeeper.


Capped honey ready to be harvested.

While were making honey in the outyards, we have a few hives in the backyard that need a little more babysitting: a couple of swarms establishing themselves and a hive that got weak this spring due to the cold. With all this heat and all this nectar coming in, the hives are shaping up nicely and may even make a little honey before being moved to other yards this summer. I checked them all before dinner, and this time I was lucky enough to have a helper.


Audrey found herself a nice brood frame.

Audrey was a champ with the bees, she held some frames, we found some eggs and larvae, and added some extra frames and boxes to the growing swarms. While swarms can be sort of a mixed bag with regard to long term success, they make wax like crazy; this swarm has nearly filled a box with brand new combs in just over a week. Swarms are also pretty docile (most of the time) and since there aren't a huge number of bees or heavy, honey-filled frames to handle, or problems to deal with, they make a good opportunity to get the kids involved. Audrey seemed to be having a genuinely good time. She later offered to sweep the floor in the shed, so she may just be angling for something.


Audrey and I also found some brand new bees emerging from their cells when we checked the established hive in the backyard and shot a quick video. Newly hatched honey bees are extra fuzzy.

Enjoy the spring, and enjoy the honey,

Matt

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