2009 Wildflower Honey Harvest

The rainy, cool weather we had about a month ago apparently has severely affected the Wildflower spring nectar flow. The mainstay of the spring honey crop in this area is the Tulip Poplar tree. During its bloom the rainy, windy weather accompanied by cool temperatures either prevented the bees from flying to gather the nectar, washed the nectar away or blew the blossoms off the trees.

The end result is that my bees put up only one fourth to one half the honey they normally put up this time of year. I have talked to a number of other beekeepers in the area and they report the same thing. In fact, one of them has one of his hives on a platform scale. He records the weight gain and loss on a daily basis and reports it to the USDA in Beltsville, MD for their study purposes. He said that the hive this year weighed 100 pounds less than the same time in 2008. Last year I harvested approximately 1400 pounds of local wildflower and this year I think I will be lucky to get 600 pounds.  So it looks like the local spring Wildflower honey crop is going to be in short supply. This all serves to remind us that this is really farming and you have your good years and your lean years.

Last week after taking off the honey supers, I moved 13 colonies up to our property in North Carolina to join the bees already there and to hopefully capture the Sourwood nectar flow and to finish building up some of the new colonies I started this year. We’ll see how that goes and I will report on it sometime later this month. Below are a couple of pictures of my friend and fellow beekeeper Jim McClure opening up the hive entrances we had closed off for the move and the hives in place with their supers ready to capture the Sourwood honey.

A Honey Harvest Report

This is the busy, exciting  time of the year for beekeepers. Yesterday in addition to looking for the new queens in my mating nucs, I checked on the progress the bees were making on filling the honey supers that I had previously installed on some of the stronger hives on March 25th and also added a few more to hives that were ready.

They are just beginning to fill the frames in the supers with a very light, almost water white nectar. Since most of my frames have drawn comb, it doesn’t take very long for the bees to fill them with nectar and the challenge is to keep adding empty supers on top of the full ones.  When the bees put the nectar into the cells it is between 40 to 70% moisture content. They then dry it to reduce the moisture content by fanning it with their wings until it is around 17% and then they put a wax capping on each cell, indicating it is “ripe”. At this low moisture content it will not spoil or ferment and will last for centuries.

The very first honey I harvested last  season was very light in color with hint of licorice flavor – very unique and very delicious! That was followed by a darker, fruity tasting honey that the bees gathered from the tulip poplar trees and blackberry bushes. I expect that will begin to harvest this first light honey around the first or second week in May depending on the weather.

I also installed a swarm trap yesterday to hopefully catch any swarms that might emanate from one of my hives. The trap is the size of a five gallon bucket and made from a paper mache like material. It has a 1 1/4 inch hole in the bottom for the bees to enter. A pheromone capsule is placed in the swarm trap to attract any bees with swarming on their mind. I caught a swarm last year in this trap in this same tree. I have modified the trap with a roof made of 3/16 inch plywood that I glued to the top cover as the original cover was beginning to deteriorate from the weather.