Sunday, July 4, 2010

Honey Production

Honey bees evolved a means of survival based upon a diet derived from flowering plants. The arrangement proved to be quite successful for both the honey bees and the flowering plants. While the honey bees find in the flowering plants a source of food, the plants gain a method of moving pollen from flower to flower. Through pollination, honey bees unknowingly serve a vital role in plant reproduction. Being able to collect carbohydrate from flowers in the form of nectar allows the honey bee to produce its own high-energy food, honey. Making honey that can be stored and eaten when flowers are not blooming, the honey bee is the only insect in the temperate zone that remains alive and active throughout the year.

Beekeepers measure honey as a crop harvested from the bee hive, and honey production is an important measure of colony health. At Peace Bee Farm we practice continuous evaluation of our honey bee colonies. Honey production follows our evaluation of over-winter survival success, spring build-up, brood pattern, gentleness, and calmness. Other traits, such as hygienic behavior, cleaning of the hive, and propolis production can be measured as well. We measure honey production simply by counting the number of honey supers filled with honey that we harvest from each hive. It is important to remember, however, that honey production is affected by colony behavioral traits, beekeeper’s actions to stimulate foraging and hoarding instincts, population size at the time of major nectar flows, available nectar-producing plants, the weather, the number of honey supers provided, and whether drawn comb or foundation is supplied. Measuring the honey produced by a colony gives an idea of the way that the colony is being affected by the new strain of Nosema disease, as this strain shortens the life of the adult bees that forage the flowering plants. Today’s photo shows one of our production bee yards with supers being filled with light amber honey as nectar flows from Arkansas Delta soybeans.
--Richard

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