- Important: All passwords were reset on 06/15/11. Old passwords will no longer work. Click here to retrieve your password.
- Subscribe to Our Free Dewsletter
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
That hawkish Republican Senators John McCain and Lindsey Graham have once again blasted President Barack Obama for an insufficiently bellicose foreign policy barely qualifies as news. Of course they did. That is what they do. The scorpion always stings the frog halfway across the stream. What is worth noting is the rationale offered they present for a much riskier American foreign policy. The August 28th press release from the un-dynamic duo is a complaint about President Obama not doing enough to punish President Putin for violating Ukrainian sovereignty. Seems they are outraged that the President of Russia dares to assist beleaguered Read on →
The project involved dropping a few yards of crush and run into the holes in our driveway and using rakes, shovels and old peoples’ sweat to spread it smooth. The final step was cranking my ancient Highlander and slowly packing the gravel. I rolled the windows down and energized the newly installed Alpine replacement radio. I am now using advanced technology and had filled a thumb drive with stuff from my youth. Up and down the driveway I slowly drove, trying to hit each spot of spread gravel. By random serendipity, the first tune was by an old group called the H Read on →
When I met Ernest, we courted for five months, and after we married, on February 2, 1974, in Fort Valley, GA. That was 40 years ago. I wrote my parents in Anniston, AL. They replied with the hardest letter that I have ever received. They knew I was gay. That was not their problem. Ernest's being black was the hard part for them. In their letter they wished us all happiness but asked me not to bring Ernest home with me. They hoped that I would continue to visit, but they did not want to put their friends to t Read on →
Above my family homestead in the East Tennessee foothills is an old, abandoned cemetery. I admit I've never seen it, but I think about it often. I imagine the worn stone markers neck deep in leaves in the fall or peeking out of the winter snow like early hyacinths. In my imagination, I never bothered to name these people, much less engage in meaningful character development. I don’t know them in any sense of the word; I just know that they are up there, tucked deeply in an earthy hollow waiting for whatever comes next. I don’t expect anyone comes to vis Read on →