The only honey I tasted before learning to become a beekeeper was the usual pasteurized junk sold in grocery stores. Now that I have access to raw honey made by honey bees that I know up close and personal, it’s a whole other world of appreciation. In my household of two, we consume about 4 litres of honey every year. Here’s what it looks like when I stick it in the freezer, with an extra jar thrown in because why not?
My personal stash of honey in the freezer. (Sept. 28, 2016.)
Considering that this was a rebuilding year for me and honey was not a priority, 13 kg is more than enough to make me happy. I’ll easily have enough to keep myself in honey until this time next year.
One more time, but in slow motion!
When I kept my bees in Logy Bay and Portugal Cove, I used to get light honey in the spring and dark honey in the fall. This honey is not dark. Judging from what I’ve seen in bloom in my area of Flatrock, I would guess it’s made mostly from Fireweed and Clover nectar, both of which produce a light honey. It doesn’t have the creamy opaque appearance of Goldenrod honey, nor any of the darkness of Japanese Knotweed honey. I look forward to next year when, hopefully, most of my colonies will come into spring at full strength instead of slowly building up over the summer like they had to do this year.
I plan (that is, I hope) to extract two medium supers full of honey this weekend. But first I need to remove the bees from the honey supers. I do that by placing an escape board beneath the honey supers. Some people call them bee escape boards, but it’s obvious that we’re talking about bees here, so I just call them escape boards. Here’s a video I recorded today that demonstrates how it works:
The bees pass down through a hole in the board (usually at night when they want to be closer to the warmth of the cluster), then through a maze covered by a mesh that leads to the brood chamber. The maze is so massively complicated that the bees are unable to find their way back through it. Within a few days most or all of the bees (in theory) will have “escaped” from the honey super so that humans can easily remove it without bothering anyone.
I see the weed commonly known as Queen Anne’s Lace growing abundantly along the sides of roads and in country fields where I live, and I’ve always wondered if honey bees are attracted to its nectar.
Queen Anne’s Lace (July 04, 2016.)
A little bit of online research tells me nope, they’re not too keen on it. I also read on a couple of beekeeping forums that when the bees do get desperate enough to collect nectar from Queen Anne’s Lace (also known as wild carrot), the resulting honey takes on a distinct aroma of body odour.
In my experience, it’s important to constantly feed the bees during the first year (in Newfoundland), but it’s also important to stop feeding them at a certain point in the spring the following year so they don’t swarm. When I find drone comb gunking up the bottom of the frames in the spring, that’s my cue that the colony could potentially swarm. Queens can’t mate without drones. The first swarms usually coincide with the flight of the first drones.
Destroyed drone comb between the brood boxes after inspection. (May 05, 2012.)
If the bees have two or three solid frames of honey in every box — enough to prevent them from starving — and drone comb is present, then I stop feeding. I don’t feed my bees if they have enough honey on their own anyway, and unless it’s a weak colony, I don’t usually feed past May 31st either because there’s usually enough natural nectar sources available by then (in mylocal climate), especially in the city of St. John’s that is heavily populated by maple trees. I also check my hives at least every two weeks until the end of June to make sure the queen has room to lay. Most beekeeping (beyond feeding) can be summed up with that one sentence: Make sure the queen has room to lay.