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

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Beekeeper secrets

Jayne Barnes

Posted by Isaac

Do you ever see an object and take pause? See something that takes you to another place and time?

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A few times a month I come across these frames with a stamped date. I love them. For a couple reasons. They range from 1997 to 2005, and for me, those were turbulent years. Emotionally intense years with sky high peaks (literally and figuratively) and some dark valleys. I guess I wouldn’t trade it for the present. The memories are enough. Let’s see, 2002, what was I doing that year… bouncing between Ohio, Colorado and Mexico… both gainfully employed and ski bumming… trying to figure things out… trying (and failing) to figure out women…

Little did I know, the very next year Jayne would come along. I still haven’t figured her out, but she did light a candle in the darkness.

Bees weren’t even on the radar in 2002. But I bet I know the guy who put that stamp on there. This is the second reason I love these frames. What was he doing in 2002? In what state was his business? What was he thinking? Was he worried about honey production or pollination, or mites or weather? And what was he doing to mitigate?

It had to be one of the three: Jim North, Dan Grant or Joe Blair. During those years the majority of the beehives in central Ohio were owned by one of these old men. I’ve now known them for years and I love to speculate about the bee days of old. Joe died in 2010, but I do see Jim and Dan at least once a month.

These guys can talk. They’re beekeepers. They have hours of old time stories, and every now and then at a bee meeting or even here in the honey house, I’m the lucky recipient. And I’m not always patient. In truth, it’s hard for me stand and listen when I’ve got something else going on. But I’ve learned that I’m better for it. (Plus, it’s polite.) There are nuggets of wisdom floating in all that talk. Beekeeper secrets.

Now that we’re finally seeing the beginnings of a spring honey flow,

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I’m happy to think back on a bit of wisdom Jim imparted on me. It’s kind of a common sense thing, but I wasn’t doing it. I wasn’t really taking advantage of our short but intense spring flow. Here it is, the big secret: bees put honey UP.

Meaning, put your brood nest high in the boxes, right below the super. The bees will fill the super first when the nectar starts pouring in. Keeping in mind, you wouldn’t want to do this for a fall flow, but in the spring, you’ve got plenty of days left for the hive to adjust itself.

Let me show you using a couple nucs to fill some dead-out holes.

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If you’re using double deeps to overwinter, go ahead and put that nuc in the top box.

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If you can do this a week or two before the flow, and if the nuc is strong enough, those bees will explode into honey production mode.

Put on a queen excluder to force the egg laying down.

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And put a super above to catch all that incoming nectar. (cross your fingers)

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Bees put honey UP.

Thanks Jim!

I know, something so commonsense is not really a secret, but it took hearing it from Jim. He’s been beekeeping for decades, knows our weather and our honey flows, and knows how to take full advantage.

And this week it all started to fall into place. We got the heat and we got the sunshine.

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Our lovely invasive honeysuckle has bloomed in full force.

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And our black locust also decided that this was the week.

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All this, combined with some acquired knowledge, and we may just make a little spring honey.

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Have you ever seen anything so beautiful?

Sunrise, sunset

Jayne Barnes

-Posted by Isaac

On our way to the baseball game, we decided to have ourselves a track meet.

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And on our way to the track meet we thought we needed to look for honey bees.

There’s one!

There’s one!

Does anyone know what this is? It’s everywhere right now. I’ve heard wild mustard, spring goldenrod, stiff goldenrod, yellow aster… I suppose I could look it up. Our little southern Ohio paradise is painted with bright yellow splashes of mystery. With the rain, the farmers still can’t get in. Mother nature is doing the planting this year.

It’s been a strange spring. This week I listened to an NPR story about the annual bird migration through northern Ohio. The guy was saying he’s never seen a year like it. Certain species are weeks early, flying along the southern edge of Lake Erie. Others are a month behind. Very weird.

But at least the apple pollination has gone like clockwork. All our girls are home now.

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Out of some, I made a few quick and easy three-frame splits. These will grow and eventually go into the pumpkins in July or August.

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Most are getting moved out to their summer yards. Almost every morning I get up early, fire up the forklift and load a group of 16 or 20.

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Sometimes the bees get a little testy. Maybe they’re not early risers?

By daybreak, barring mud holes or breakdowns, I’ve got them where they belong and all supered up. On the nicest mornings, I get to enjoy the sunrise.

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But most of the time I just come home to start my day. Is this what it feels like to be a dairy farmer? …the milking first, a lot of early chores to get done, only catch a quick breakfast so you can start your day full of work… I did that for two summers in high school. No thanks.

I think I’ll stick with bees. None of this really feels like work.

It just takes time.

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For a few days, counting pollinators, nucs and splits, we had almost 500 beehives right here on the home place. A lot of bees in the air! And what a wonderful soothing vibration the sky makes.

Between sunrise and sunset there’s a lot of moving and shaking…

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shifting and checking…

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Every nuc gets checked. I want to see the strength, pull the queen cage out, and make sure she’s accepted and laying. It gets somewhat repetitive and time consuming.

But worth it, I think. I like those happy customers.

There goes Laura from Urban Honey Bee.

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Hopefully happy? …I usually go with the ‘no-news-is-good-news’ approach.

Nuc, splits, moving bees, supering hives. The days are busy.

But not too busy to look around and be mindful. To be aware of the greater busyness out there— the growing, the greening, the nest building, the noise making. Reaching a crescendo in the daylight, then melting into the sunset.

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It’s a great time to be alive. Whatever your job may be.