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9642 Randle Rd
Williamsport, OH, 43164

Honeyrun Farm produces pure raw, honey, handcrafted soap, and beeswax candles in Williamsport, Ohio

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Looking for the rainbow

Jayne Barnes

-Posted by Isaac

You've got to look for the rainbow in everything, right?  Isn't that what they say?

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Here's our rainbow from a few days ago.

It was a nice little gesture from our good friend, Mother Nature. This was after the beatdown she served us just moments before.

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We're still cleaning up the mess.

Let me try to take this rainbow analogy a bit further. If you've been following this blog for the last few months, you know that I'm an adept complainer. Aside from the stupidity of people and politics (and people in politics), aside from the many mechanical breakdowns and expenses, you know that my one never-ending complaint is the weather. The ridiculous weather. Too cold, too wet, too windy... I've been bleating about it all spring. 

The ridiculous weather. And we have a very minimal spring honey crop to show for it.

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The last few supers were run through this week.

Grand tally: about one tenth of last year's crop.

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It's gorgeous honey though. Light, floral and delicate- my favorite of the seasons. Thankfully we still have a decent reserve of the 2017 and 2016 spring honey.

But here's the rainbow: although it wasn't much of a spring for making honey, the hives were all split in April, most have new queens, and the bees are looking awesome. The girls are strong and the weather is starting to come around. The soybeans are blooming and the heat is upon us!

When it's sunny, mid nineties, mid Ohio, mid July, it's honey making time. Go out and shake a frame, see for yourself.

  Nectar!

Nectar!

With strong bees, plentiful blooms, and perfect conditions, the boxes really start to fill.

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We're going to have summer honey! 

How much is entirely dependent on how long these perfect conditions last.

There's still a debate among Ohio beekeepers about the source of this summer honey. To my mind, it's obvious- the soybeans. That's what's out there in plenty, that's what's blooming. But some still say it comes from clover. Last week I got a text from fellow beekeeper, Dan Williams. He was excited about the sudden nectar flow and heavy shakes. Just a week previous, the frames had been bone dry. He said he found bees working the soybeans, but also working the dutch clover pretty hard. That struck me as strange. I had thought that the bees mostly ignored the clover once the soybeans came on. The next day I was in a bee yard, and nearby was a perfect situation to observe the relative attractiveness. Soybeans vs. clover:

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And guess what I found- Dan wasn't lying. They were all over that clover. But you'd walk a few yards into the soybeans, and find bees all over those blooms too. They were working both.

So maybe there is a little Ohio honey to be had from clover. Maybe I need to cool it with my insistence that it's all the soybeans. I don't know. But I do know what there's more of...

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In terms of quantity, soybeans beat clover by at least an order of magnitude. It wasn't always like this. In the good old days there was not only clover in the ditches and fence rows, we had something else littering our farm fields. They were called weeds. Weeds! Bane to grain farmers, banquet for bees. 

 So if you're a honeybee in July, your diet isn't necessarily diverse, but at least there's nectar to be had. Plenty of it when the conditions are right. Some of us beekeepers are trying to get to the bottom of what exactly those conditions are. It seems to me, hot, dry and sunny make a winning combination. Sunny being the most important variable of the three.

One other side debate that comes up from time to time is what variety of soybean the bees go to. Beans bloom out in two colors- purple and white. Usually it's an entire field planted in one or the other. In our area, purple seems to be more prevalent. A few beekeepers are adamant about knowing which the bees like best. I distinctly remember one old fella telling me that you'll never see a honeybee on a white soybean bloom. 

I like to keep that conversation in mind when I walk the soybeans. Last Sunday Eden and I took a little inspection trip. It was around 85 degrees and the bees were hard at it. You could hear them everywhere. Sorry I don't have a good photo... they move so fast from bloom to bloom and it's under the canopy where it's hard to snap a picture. But trust me, they were making honey that day. We chased the buzzing for five minutes or so. It was fun. And guess what color of bloom those bees were wild about:

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Another myth debunked.

I guess I already knew this one wasn't true. I had seen bees work the whites before. But never this hard. Maybe the old fella needed to do more soybean walking.

Or maybe he just forgot his good luck Batgirl.