-Posted by Isaac
Nose to the grindstone. While some beekeepers choose to fritter their summer away with vacations, it's nothing but Work Work Work around here.
The bees have been hard at it, and me, I haven't had a break in like a week!
And what an awesome summer for honey production! If you remember, I mentioned going out to shake a frame before the Montana trip and finding the very beginnings of the of the summer honey flow. Well, the last three weeks have been amazing! Many hives have filled two, three, even four supers.
Strong bees and a strong nectar flow... almost makes you forget the cussing and complaining of last summer.
I bought a lot of new frames this year. And what a great decision that was. (A statement I don't get to make very often, unfortunately.) The bees have done an awesome job on the new stuff. Beautiful white wax, drawn out with the recent nectar flow.
It's not quite time for extracting. The nectar continues to come in, and most of the honey is not yet capped. So we wait. But we're not sitting around, oh no. We've actually been into one of the tougher jobs of the bee year-- feeding protein.
This is something that I've done in recent years, July and August, and I'm pretty sure it helps the bees immensely. I say "pretty sure," because it's kind of hard to quantify. A little protein now, when forage is scarce, may just be the ticket to taking full advantage of our wonderful goldenrod flow in mid-September. And it's not just a matter of making more fall honey. The bees seem to winter better also. They go into the cold months with a bigger cluster, more stored honey, more protein reserves, all of that.
At least I think I'm seeing this... Or am I just trying to convince myself that it's worth all the trouble and money?
I had one big beekeeper (3500 hives) tell me that summer protein was effective at diluting all the systemic poisons coming in from corn pollen and neonic drift to whatever else. The neonics! (Months after planting, still protecting the American farmer!) (Thank you Bayer. Thank you Monsanto.)
Whatever you choose to believe, a little protein does seem to result in healthier hives.
But it is quite an expense. It is quite a bother. Not only is it hard work getting protein to the brood, the stuff needs to be kept cool if you're going to take a couple of months to feed it. Thankfully I'm in good with some rich produce farmers. Half of our boxes now sit in a 50 degree storage room. The other half will be fed in the next two weeks.
Back when I started feeding protein, we would mix big wheelbarrows full of protein powder, syrup, eggs, cinnamon, bananas, essential oils, honey, etc...
But lately I've gotten lazy. Most of the protein now goes down in pre-made patties. I'm thinking, just let the nutrition experts figure it out... and pay them a lot for being the "experts."
Plus, even without all the mixing, this job is hard enough. The protein needs to sit between the brood chambers, so you're out there in a bee suit, 90 degrees, sweating bullets, trying to get down three, four, five boxes to the brood. Hard work! Especially this year... we've got all this dang honey in the way!
I keep getting tagged in facebook pictures about the hard work of baling hay. We did a lot of hay during my growing up. Sometimes a thousand bales a day; I'd get feeling pretty exhausted. But this bee protein stuff, on a hot day, takes "exhausted" to a whole new level. Six or seven bee yards in eight or nine hours... it makes baling hay feel like a day on the beach.
Is the protein necessary? I hope so. I want to tell myself it is...
At the very least, with the heat and expense, I have something to complain about. Without that, I'd be at a loss.