Time to Thank the Bees

| 8/8/2014 11:00:00 AM


The bees and I have survived another season. It is late afternoon, late summer, and all the honey has been harvested and sold. It’s time to thank the bees.

I drag my lawn chair out to the end of a row of the newer hives. I settle the chair into the high grass off to the side, and watch the miracle that unfolds at the entrances. It is still 90 degrees at 6 pm, but dry and comfortable. I am immediately rewarded with the smell of warm beeswax wafting from the hives. This scent is different from the lighter, honey-sweet smell of the wax cappings that I render for candles in the honey shed. This scent is an older, richer, slightly burnt, but still pleasant smell. The same smell infuses the barn where I clean wax from old frames and store used equipment. It’s a smell that makes you want to breathe deeper to take in more of it. My adult son says he associates this smell with my farm. I associate this smell with high summer and with the beekeeper who taught me my trade.

The bees have prospered this season. Even after leaving a full shallow super of honey atop each of the established hives, each produced an average of 73 pounds of honey, in addition to each also producing at least one 3-frame nuc in the spring.

It wasn’t all good news. Thirty percent of the hives produced only enough honey to nourish themselves. I neither harvested honey from nor took frames to make new hives. I lost one hive that was queenless in early spring, before the nectar flow, and that failed to rear a new queen when given frames with eggs. But the pendulum swung well past gawd-awful and average to pretty darn good this year.

The Middle Tennessee spring and summer have been unseasonably cool with adequate rainfall and abundant bloom well into early summer. Nine of 11 nucleus hives successfully raised queens and are now well established, like these 3 that I am communing with now. Today the bees are active, flying furiously to and from the hives, evidently still finding something to forage on. The autumn bloom has not started but promises at least to be normal considering the adequate rainfall and still-green of summer.

8/12/2014 6:08:00 PM

Dooflatchie, it's always tough to lose a hive but it sounds like you did what needed to be done. Have you ever used the newspaper method to add the bees from a weak hive to a stronger one?

8/11/2014 7:54:31 AM

Your middle Tennessee sounds like my WNC, Betty. We didn't get too much rain this summer, not nearly as much as last summer, but the humidity has made it hard for my bees to cap their nectar. I've been checking the supers since June, waiting, waiting, waiting for them to be ready, and only last week I was able to take 2 medium frames from each of 2 hives. I'm trying not to be too impatient, and the bees are helping to teach me that! I did have to dispatch my little middle hive, Foxtrot last week. It was a split from Delta in the same apiary. Although the bees made their own queen, twice, they were not mated well, evidently. My last inspection showed me shotgun brood on only 1 or 2 frames, several frames of nectar and pollen, and a wax moth invasion still in its early stages. I felt like a terrible person, but I shook out the bees, transferred the brood box and the 1 medium super over onto 2 other strong hives, and did away with the queen. A very rough day for me, tho I know I did the right thing. I enjoy your blog, by the way! Jennifer B in WNC

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