Saturday, September 18, 2010

Honey Flows

The honey harvest is well under way, and light summer-time honey is flowing from Peace Bee Farm’s extractor. We’re collecting frames of honey one day and extracting it the next. Whenever honey is flowing from the extractor, it is the end result of having the bee hives placed in an area with adequate nectar sources for the number of hives. Weather conditions affect the nectar flow as well. Excessive rain can keep the bees from flying and dilute the nectar; drought can stop the plants from producing nectar. Timing is important. The beekeeper must have an adequate number of honey supers in place on the bee hives before the major nectar flows in order to take advantage of the bees’ honey production. The colonies need a large population of foraging-age bees and a queen laying a large number of eggs when the flowers start blooming. The beekeeper should take steps to help control swarming. If a colony swarms, it will not produce a surplus of honey that year.

Each locale differs in the honey produced by the honey bees. For example, our honey produced on different sides of the Mississippi River varies in color, aroma, and flavor. The timing of the nectar flow also differs. Experience tells the beekeeper when the different nectar flows occur in an area. Observing the blooming of the various nectar-producing plants and regularly checking the build-up of honey in the supers lets the beekeeper harvest a crop of surplus honey. This year, many of our colonies built-up large stores of spring-time honey and then early summer honey; but some nectar flows stopped abruptly with weeks of hot, dry weather later in the summer. Beekeepers producing honey should record the honey harvested from individual bee yards over a period of several years. At times it is best to move the hives from a bee yard that performs poorly. The problem may be lack of adequate nectar resources, soil conditions, or chemicals used in the area.

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