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9642 Randle Rd
Williamsport, OH, 43164

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


CCD, Catching Swarms, Russian Bees, and White Boxes: More Beekeeping Questions Answered

Honeyrun Farm

  1. -Posted by Isaac
    Our Candle Pouring Station
    I like to start these dark December days pouring candle wax and listening to the alternative station. Yesterday I heard an awesome song that stuck in my head the rest of the morning.  Some of the lyrics went like this:
    It's better to feel pain   --  than nothing at all...
    The opposite of love   --  is indifference...
    Do you know the one? Well you might. Much to my chagrin I came to find out that my little discovery, a song I planned to learn and try singing for Jayne or whoever, has already gone mainstream. I heard it again last night watching football with Dad. It was background music in a commercial selling baseball gloves or something. Funny how your perspective can change. Maybe I won't learn it now. Oh well, I still I got a day of nostalgia out of that song. 
    We'll try to keep our beekeeping practices from mainstreaming. Size and efficiency in modern beekeeping, as with all modern agriculture, has no doubt brought higher production. But higher production is only a silver lining. There are also big black clouds concerning food production. I'm sure many of our blog readers are well aware of this. Julie Scordato touched on this in her question:

    "Can you give us an update on colony collapse disorder? Is it still bad? Are changing practices helping? Should we still be worried? What have you seen locally regarding this?"
    Colony collapse disorder (CCD) has not been in the headlines as much as it was in 2007 and 2008 but it's still a problem and research into the multitude of various causes has yet to come up with a definitive answer. Some bigger migratory beekeepers claim that keeping their bees away from row crop agriculture (corn, soybeans...) has helped colony health. On our small operation, we do lose bees (15% last winter) we've not seen anything like the CCD symptoms. Mites continue to be our nemesis. And I think this holds for other local beekeepers (those whom I have confidence in, anyway.) There are a few large beekeepers in northern Ohio and I haven't heard much in the way of CCD complaints from them either.

    Andrew Scordato writes:

    "There were lots of swarms this year that Isaac was able to collect. With beekeeping full time, do you have a goal number of hives you want, or is the sky the limit?"

    One of our "swarm catcher" boxes we use in the Spring
  2. I think about this all the time, Andrew. The market for local honey at present seems endless, so we continue to grow with hives and equipment. I'm building enough woodenware to reach a goal of 300 hives this year. We'll decide from there. There's a point where your practices are compromised as well as time with family and other obligations. Right now, I tend to babysit the hives more then I probably need to. We can definitely increase from our present 230. How many more... who knows?
    Little Molly Scordato writes:  "Will you ever consider hybridizing with Russian honeybees for hardiness to weather and parasites? Aren't the russian bees notorious for sussing out and destroying certain hive parasites that the Italian bees tend to tolerate at their own peril?"

    I bought 30 Russian queens a couple years ago and noticed a few things good and bad:

    -The bees don't accept the queen as readily.
    -They don't seem to make as much honey.
    -They seem to weather the winter better, but not at a significantly higher survival rate then the Italians.
    -They don't eat as much honey in the winter, but seem to build up very slow in the spring.

    I need to try a new batch this year. For me, the jury is still out on the Russians, but thanks for the reminder.
  3. Our bees are a healthy mix of Italians, Carniolan, and Russians.
    See the little queen cage in the center?  The bees will eat the candy plug,
    releasing their royal highness. 

    Marci writes, 
    "Why are most bee boxes white?"
    I've wondered this myself. Maybe white reflects light best in the Summer, thus keeping a hive cool. I suspect it has more to do with the cheap and plentiful supply of white paint.
  4. Honeyrun Farm Boxes - a little bit of white, purple, green, gray, and
    whatever color of exterior paint we find on sale at the hardware store.
    Leah asks,
    "How many times can you harvest honey from one hive in a year? I know you have Spring, Summer and Fall honey. But maybe you keep some hives for Spring harvest, some for Fall etc."
    This all depends on weather and location. Of our 21 bee yard locations, only six are close enough to groves of Black Locust trees that we can harvest Spring honey and confidently call it Black Locust honey. If it's a year like 2010 where God smiles down on bees, you can pull honey from a single hive in all three seasons. There was just an abundance of nectar and sunshine. A rainy, cold year like 2011 means you're lucky to have any honey at all. For the most part, you can depend on almost all hives producing a Summer crop with the Spring and Fall honey being kind of hit or miss and having a lot to do with the abundance of nectar producing plants in the vicinity of the yard.

    Spring, Summer, and Fall Honey
  5. Katie asked a question that really got me thinking:
    "What about beekeeping is most rewarding?"

    Happiest after a big honey harvest
    The short answer is pulling honey-- seeing my labor come to fruition, and knowing I don't have to go looking for a "real job" to put food on the table. The deeper answer is my general fascination with bees and their place and our own place in the world. Sounds cliche, huh? If you end up keeping bees you'll notice that you're more in tune with what's going on outside, what's growing, what's blooming, the temperature, the sun, the rain, the wind etc... You'll notice what the farmers are doing, where certain crops are, where tree lines, fence rows, woods, streams and set-aside areas are... what's being sprayed and planted, what's being plowed under, what's being built...
    In general, you become more aware. I like this.
    She also asks,
    "What advice would you offer someone interested in getting started?"
    Prepare yourself for broadening horizons, great high peaks of joy and mystery and reward. Brace yourself for deep valleys of death, depression and worry.
    And join a bee club.  Scioto Valley Beekeepers, our local club, is offering a beekeeping class this coming April, if you feel so inclined.