We are non-commercial, all volunteer and supported by our readers. Please help sustain the Dew by making a donation.
Inspecting the bees in the middle of the honey season
Probably the most fun a beekeeper can have is extracting honey from the hives. But since you do that only once, maybe twice, a year, you have to get your pleasures elsewhere.
You can stand there and watch the hive on a day when the bees are active. That can be fascinating.
But pretty soon, you begin to wonder: “What’s going on INSIDE the hive?”
And that’s the second “most-fun” part of beekeeping: inspecting the hives.
My friend John and I have six hives on the little farm that Sally and I have in East Tennessee. John is just starting and has two hives. I have four. Since it’s the middle of the honey season, John and I both stay eaten up with curiosity about what’s going on inside the hives, and yesterday we decided to take a look.
(We try to keep the curiosity in check during this time of year because the bees need to concentrate on making honey rather than dealing with a couple of bumbling humans disrupting their ancient routines. Still, inspecting the hives is a necessary part of beekeeping. You’re looking for problems — overcrowding, critter invasions, etc. — so that you can help the bees along.)
My first hive is a prize-winner. Rather, the queen is some kind of champ. She has been laying from the moment she was released from the cage back in April, and the hive is full of bees, and those bees are storing up a load of honey. In fact, she is making so many bees that I decided that maybe that hive could share with one of the weaker hives. So, one of my goals yesterday was to find a frame or two of brood cell to put in one of the other hives.
I did just that, and the situation in one of the weaker hives, I found, is more dire than I had suspected. Something must have happened to the queen in the weaker hive because there is some brood cell but not very many bees. I put a frame of brood into that hive, but I’m going to have to watch it closely. I may have to get a new queen before long.
My other two hives are doing well. One has lots of brood, which means the queen has been laying and the population will increase substantially before long. I’m still hopeful of getting some honey from those gals. The other hive is coming along but slowly.
John found both of his hives in good shape with lots of bees and lots of brood. Good queens are doing their work for him. He may not get any honey this year because it’s his first year, but he should be in good shape going into the fall.
The wet weather has been both good and bad for the bees this spring. The good part is that it has produced plenty of sources of nectar and pollen for the bees to work. The garden is beginning to come in, and they should enjoy the cucumbers, beans, cantaloupes and sunflowers — among many other things available to them.
But the bees hate wet weather. The rain cuts down on their ability to forage, and it raises the humidity levels inside the hive. That’s right. The bees are far more weather sensitive than we realize. When the inside of the hive gets damp, they have to work to dry it out — the old fashion way, by flapping their wings.
That’s because the honey they’re making — in order to be real honey — has to be less than 19 percent water. It starts out as more than that, and one of the bees’ jobs right now is to get it down to that level so it can be capped. Good dry days in June help that process.
So, now that we’ve had plenty of rain this spring, pray for dry.
Worthy of Comment
Also on the Dew
It's the second week of January 1999 and the McCartneys are visiting Atlanta. But not for a concert. On this trip, Heather McCartney is unveiling her line of houseware items at the America's Mart, and Paul is there to guarantee his daughter ample media play. After helping to promote Heather's rugs, cushions and other items arrayed with designs inspired by the Huichol and Tarahumara tribes of Mexico, Paul and his son, James, make a smooth exit to explore the side streets of Atlanta. According to Paul, James, then 21, wanted to "visit the funky side of town." So into the Read on →
We left Shanghai’s Hongqiao Airport for Guangzhou where we spent three days before flying on a small CAAC Ilyushin 14 aircraft to Guilin in the Guanxi Zhuang Autonomous Region. The airplane was noisy, basic transportation and typical of Russian-built commercial aircraft. We nicknamed it the Friendshipski because of its similarity to the Dutch-built Fokker Friendship commonly used by airlines for service to small airports. The view as we approached the Guilin area was spectacular. Perfectly shaped limestone mountains rose straight out of the countryside, providing an eerie landscape and seeming to almost touch the wheels of the airplane. While I t Read on →
It’s that time of year again. Ya’ll know what I’m talking about … the holidays. Some see it as the song claims “It’s the most wonderful time of the year” … But others among us are just left wondering. First it’s the sugary shock of Halloween. Then it’s surviving the Thanksgiving glutton-fest. Followed by a tsunami of high-octane shopping you can’t afford, partying, last minute gift buying, a morning of exchanging gifts you don’t need, a mad rush to return the gifts you don’t want, more shopping and finally a drunken evening, ending with new year’s resolutions and false resolve to quit your shameful and glut Read on →
The excitement and acclaim that greeted both the Peachtree and the Broadway premieres of producer David O. Selznick’s adaptation of Gone With the Wind seventy-five years ago this week seems genuinely cringe-worthy today, after multiple indictments over recent years of Margaret Mitchell’s novel as racist and historically distorted. Mitchell is clearly culpable on the first count, although by no means uniquely so, but latter-day critics who charge her with distorting history would be well advised to consider the history she had to work with and, in some aspects, even undertook to revise. Released in mid-summer 1936, Mitchell’s book had already sold more Read on →