-Posted by Isaac
We're done! We're done! So happy we're done!
It feels like just yesterday we were frolicking amongst the bees, bathing in the warm September sun. Now, on this chilly late October day, we fill drums of beautiful rich goldenrod honey.
Ah, what a life.
September sunshine = October honey. The bees do the alchemy.
They have given us their best, and we need to properly thank our girls.
I finished up pulling the last of the fall honey on Thursday and today marks the last we'll hear the whirl of the extractor in 2017. It took about a month to finish the fall harvest. It's a little slower in the bee yards on this go-round because there is a lot more to it than just pulling honey. Part of it is the 'thanking our girls.' In this post I thought I would show you some of the feeding and in-betweens of the fall harvest.
Normally I feel like I'm about done with the protein when the goldenrod blooms. It's time consuming the expensive. But this year I figured another pound or two couldn't hurt. I had to split the brood boxes anyway to feed sugar syrup.
Instead of buying those expensive pre-made patties, this round I mixed it myself.
At $90 a bag, the powder still isn't exactly cheap.
We ended up going thorough five bags. This averaged maybe a 1.5 lb patty per hive... bigger hives got more. That's around six pounds since mid-July. Could this be the reason the bees look so strong? I think so.
The mixing took some time, but I was spending a lot of time in the mixing room anyway. Mixing up sugar syrup, that is.
Most hives were already heavy. If I have to grunt to pull off the top brood box, it's heavy. (Maybe 60-70 lbs of honey.) But the populations were also heavy (see above). It made me feel better to give almost everybody a gallon or two of syrup, whether they needed it or not. Couldn't hurt, right? I checked, and even the heaviest hives were taking down two gallons of syrup in a couple days. They must've found somewhere to put it. This all meant that we went through mountains of sugar in October. To the absolute bliss of Maizy.
At the farmers market I am occasionally asked in an accusatory manner whether we feed our bees. Sometimes it's someone who wants to make sure our beekeeping is 100% natural.
To that, my answer is, "Huh??"
Everyone has a different idea of "natural." Modern beekeeping, complete with trucks, trailers, forklifts, extractors and painted rectangular insect-filled boxes all in a row... doesn't seem very natural in my opinion. And finding 'natural' wild honey in Ohio would be a stretch. Did they want me to cut down bee trees??
But even with our modern beekeeping practices, there is nothing we do that would change the goodness of the honey. And maybe that's what some of those feeding questions are about--wondering whether the honey is somehow adulterated. I try to patiently explain that yes, we do feed our bees (We love them!), but no, there is no chance you are going to have sugar syrup in the honey. We feed to get ready for winter... in October... there are no supers on the hives, and there won't be until next April. We've got over six months until the next honey flow.
Like any domestic creature under your care, bees need their basic necessities met. One of those needs would be having enough stored calories to make it through the long winter. Because we can never be sure how long or nasty the winter will be, it's just a good safe insurance policy to give the bees a little more feed... even when they are already surrounded by their own honey.
And even with that thorough explanation about feeding, I've still had people turn up their nose and walk away. One persnickety lady about a month ago comes to mind. (What? Feeding?? No!!)
(You want your bees to live this winter? Oh, the horror!)
Particularly persnickety... the worst kind. Oh well. Can't please'm all.
The mixing tank holds about sixty gallons and I installed a heater a couple years ago in order to make the syrup thicker. To this mix we add a little of this...
and a little of that...
...all intended to help the bees. The lemon juice breaks the sugar down and aids in digestion. The Pro Health essential oil supplement supposedly helps something in the bees' gut... but it could just be an expensive 'feel good' additive for the beekeeper.
On a good solid day of fall feeding, we'll go through two tank mixes. This means some very early-to-rise mornings. I like to get up and get mixing way before the bees can smell what's happening.
And that goes for loading supers also. When we're extracting full on, the honey house can quickly fill with empty supers. Three times this October Lafe and I had to fill the truck and trailer, moving it out to the field before daylight.
If it's a warm night, even at the first crack of dawn the bees will be pecking around the honey house. They know that there's something good in there!
By mid-afternoon it's a great big party.
Once the supers have been excitedly cleaned for a couple days, we stack them in the barn. 1700 supers can present a space problem. You can see I'm working on alleviating this problem...
...but for now, we have to work with the space available.
My contractor is just so darn slow. And if you ask me, she seems quite inexperienced and has a rather shoddy crew. I wouldn't recommend Eden Inc.