2015 honey

bees on bar

Bees on a brood bar capping honey

Before I talk about how our bees did this year, here are some mind boggling facts about bees and honey that should make you appreciate them.

—Bees need to visit 2 million flowers and travel about 50,000 miles to make a pound of honey.

—In its lifetime a bee makes about 1/12th of a teaspoon of honey so it takes 36 bees to make a tablespoon of honey.

Honey bees make little flakes of wax about the size of a pin head. It takes 500,000 flakes of wax to make one pound of bees wax.

—Bees pollinate about 90% of our food crops.

In a strong hive there are 70,000 – 100,000 bees in a hive in the summer and their numbers go down in the winter.

—Bees do not hibernate.  They stay inside their hives maintaining a temperature of about 95-96-degrees at the middle of their cluster all winter by beating their wings to stay warm.  Bees rotate from the outside of the cluster to the inside as they get cold while the ones on the inside rotate to the outside, all the while keeping the queen warm.

 

honey in jars

Our 2 hives produced over 8 lbs of harvestable honey this year which is wonderful as we haven’t collected honey in two years. We always left them with enough honey to get through winter which sometimes didn’t leave us any. With all the rain and flowers this year, they were super busy making honey and there was plenty for all. We left lots of bars of honey for them for winter. In our land with many droughts, plenty is not a word we use a lot when it comes to honey production. For other areas in the country, this may not seem like a lot, but for us it makes us appreciate our girls more. Oh yea, all the bees that you see outside on the flowers are girls-go girl power!

Based on the info above, our bees visited 16 million flowers to make that 8 lbs! Unbelievable! So next time you spread that tablespoon of honey on your toast, think about all 36 bees it took to make it and appreciate all the bees for their wonderful gift.

honey final_2015

We’ve put them to bed for the winter last month in October. We’ve put a false wall to make their living area smaller so they stay warmer and straw bales around each of their hives to give them extra insulation from the wind and cold. We hope they make it through winter.

Fall harvest season is full blast right now!

Harvest season is full blast right now. Started out with our Home Grown New Mexico ‘Jam On’ class where we made a Strawberry-balsamic jam and a terrific Blueberry jam.

Himrod grapes-yum!

Then the grapes ripened-ate lots and dried some into raisins for later.

bread n butter pickles

The cucumbers ripened so fast I was making lots of pickles. First I made bread and butter pickles, then cornichon pickles and then dill pickles-crock, refrigerator and canned. Must have about 30 jars+ and now the 5 gallon crock is full where I am fermenting some with salt brine. After I was bored with pickles,  I made some sweet pickle relish which I haven’t tasted yet. Will probably make more of that with the giant cucumbers I miss when looking for little ones. So far I’ve made pickles with Jody, Nick and Elodie.

peach jam and raisins

Then I bought 20 lbs of peaches from the Farmer’s Market and Mernie and I made 3 different peach jams.

9tomato sauce-finished in bags

Now the tomatoes are coming in and I’m starting to make the raw tomato sauce that I freeze in gallon plastic freezer bags. Later in November after I recover from harvesting, I will take them out of the freezer and make different pasta sauces like puttenesca, marinara, penne alla vodka and good ole spaghetti sauce.

 

Potatoes dug out just in the nick of time!

Potatoes dug out just in the nick of time!

Soon I will harvest potatoes too.

2013-part of the fall honey harvest

and we will harvest honey from the bee hive.

Of course then there is all I take to the Farmer’s Market that I harvest every week-tomatoes, eggplants, shishito peppers, beans, tomatillos and sometimes rhubarb, kale and chard when I have the room on the tables. Phew! Busy time of year!

The best part of it all is I haven’t bought any vegetables in the store since early July and I’ll have a full pantry for winter when harvest season is done.

Fall Honey Harvest-2013

2013-part of the fall honey harvest

2013-part of the fall honey harvest

This year I was able to harvest (13) 5 oz jars of honey from my hive. This was from the same hive that went on sharp decline in June when I lost my queen (she disappeared) and I had to re-queen for the hive to survive. I had bought a new queen to try to save the hive and the remaining bees in the hive had her lay an egg in a queen cell they built and then raised their own queen and killed the queen I bought. Oh cruel world! But they knew better, as the queen they raised has been an unbelievable egg layer and brought the hive back from the brink of disaster. (see story here)

Which brings me to my harvest. The hive with her leading, came back from 2 bars with barely any bees on them to 17 bars loaded with brood and honey-and all since June which is phenomenal! The rule for beekeepers is to always leave enough honey for the bees to get through winter and then we harvest the rest. In our cold climate in Santa Fe, my teacher, Les Crowder says we should leave 12 bars of brood and honey for them to get through winter but I left 14 bars this year in case we have a long winter, harvesting 3 bars of honey only. If they don’t use it all, I can take the honey after the flowers come in spring (assuming the flowers do come).

honey 2012

This is last year’s honey in 2012. It was lighter than this year’s honey.

This year’s color was very different from last year. Last year we didn’t get a lot of flowers because of the drought and I had to feed them some sugar-water to the end of August to subsidize them and the honey I harvested was very light in color because we only got mainly chamisa flowers in the fall. This year I fed them a little in spring but stopped once the rains came and we had many different flowers all summer than the previous year which resulted in an amber colored honey with slightly stronger taste than last year on my property.

3 honeys 2013

2013-Here is my honey on the left, Sara’s honey in the middle and Bob’s honey on the right

It’s interesting because my friend Sara had light-colored honey this year while another friend, Bob had darker honey-even darker than mine so where you live, even in Santa Fe, can affect what your honey will be like. We like to trade so we can taste each others honey to see how they differ.