Yesterday Elodie took some fantastic pictures of both honeybees and native bees visiting the apple trees blossoms. The blossoms are in full bloom now which are gorgeous and smell heavenly but tomorrow night (Wednesday) and Thursday night is supposed to get in the high 20’s at night which is a real bummer because the cold will probably knock off the blossoms and that will be the end of our apple season again… Meanwhile let’s enjoy these great pictures while we have them.
Here is Dorothy in the middle of a comb being attended to by the other bees.
When we had the micro burst of wind happen last week, we found our queen bee, (promptly named Dorothy because her house was turned upside down), outside the hive. I quickly picked her up on a bar that was tossed to the ground and she seemed ok. Queen bees are very delicate and can get easily injured so we worried that she might not be able to lay eggs even though she appeared fine. Yesterday, Elodie and I inspected the hive and she is truly fine.
Look! We found eggs which means she is not damaged and the other bees will be capping them soon. They are in the comb-notice they look like tiny grains of rice. We are so relieved because a hive without a working queen is a doomed hive and the hive could not survive as the queen keeps the continuum going with the hive. Since the worker bees only live about 6 weeks, it is the queens only job-laying eggs, making brood so more bees can be born to keep the hive going!
Yesterday I was planting vegetables in the greenhouse, when this huge micro burst of wind came and almost tore the window shutters off of the greenhouse. Afterwards, I inspected the shutters that were slapping so violently to see if the hinges were damaged. Luckily they were ok. Then I decided to check on the new bees we had just put into a hive on Sunday. The hive got turned almost upside down with all the topbars, bees, honey and sugar-water thrown on the ground behind it. I called Elodie and she came and together we put them back in. I tried to quickly put all of them back in because the queen was already out of her cage and I needed to find out if she was dead or alive. The queen was in that pile on the ground and luckily she was surrounded by thousands of other bees and I found her running around on one of the combs we had supplied. How lucky is that?! She looks fine and I hope she is not damaged or she will not lay any eggs. I’ve named her Dorothy after the Wizard of Oz when she and her house got thrown around in a tornado. I will check in a few days to see that she has started laying eggs, otherwise we will have to get another queen. Keep your fingers crossed that Dorothy is ok…
It’s been a very busy summer for me. I’ve been preparing for my tour here on the property since spring. Nothing like having people over to get things done. I’ve had a punch list that I’ve chipped away at and finally got almost all of them done before last weekend when I had an educational tour for the Santa Fe Master Gardeners of my little Artisan Farm here in Santa Fe. Between the Home Grown Kitchen Garden & Coop Tour (different tour the week before) and my tour last weekend, I’ve pretty much been headless all summer. Now it’s all over and I can get back to a more normal pace. But wait, I’m getting ready to go to the SF Farmer’s Market! Always something. I guess I can rest in the winter! Here are some pictures of my Artisan Farm tour last weekend. The garden looks the best ever…
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).
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.
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.
Bee on a borage flower—Photo courtesy of Elodie Holmes
I went into my one and only topbar hive today to see how the ‘girls’ were doing and am thrilled to report that they have 18 bars-10 full of honey, 1 bar being built and 7 full of brood. They look to be in really good shape for winter. I didn’t see the queen today as I was in a hurry but that was ok as there was lots of capped brood and larva in those 7 bars and lots of activity with the bees coming in and out of the hive carrying in pollen and nectar.
Around my property right now native plants such as Apache plume, chamisa and asters are all blooming and the bees are loving them. Plus my Russian sage, catmint, spireas, lavender, honeysuckles, Datura, borage and my out of control, drought tolerant silver lace vine (all over my fences) is full of little flowers and the bees are loving all of them as well. I’d say they are truly ‘busy as a bee’.
I can’t tell you how happy and grateful I am for this to have happened as this past June I almost lost all of my bees. Nothing is worse or more depressing for a beekeeper than to not have any bees! My queen had disappeared after winter sometime in late spring, and I suddenly discovered I had only 2 bars with a few hundred bees roaming around aimlessly, not knowing what to do without a queen. I had two friends, Bob Z and Les Crowder each give me 1 bar of brood so the hive could survive until I got a new queen acclimated to the remaining bees. The surviving bees had the new queen lay an egg in a couple of queen cells they made to supersede the queen I bought. This process is called ‘supersedure’ which is the bees way of replacing an existing queen in the hive with a new queen without a beekeeper’s interference. They obviously wanted to raise their own queen instead of accepting the one I bought. The queen I bought ‘disappeared’ and a new queen of their choosing emerged and took over. The rest is history. She has been one kick-ass queen to build up her hive so big in such a short time. I just hope no bear will come by this far south but they are always worrisome in the fall and one has been seen not too far away. I’ll keep my fingers crossed it doesn’t come my way.
I went and checked the bees out today. I haven’t gone through the whole hive since last October although I did check them out in March just to see if they had enough honey-they did. Now that the fair is over I actually had some time to catch up on a few things and the bees were definitely on my mind. I wanted to check out the hive to see how they were doing. I saw a fair amount of drone cells, not many worker bee cells, maybe a start of a few queen cells- maybe not but their thinking about it) and a lot of busy bees. As usual I couldn’t find Houdini (the queen). I named her that last year as she is very good at hiding from me! I worry a little since I didn’t see a lot of brood cells so I will be watching closely and will check it out in a week. Perhaps a bunch just hatched as there were so many out and about. I also saw lots of bees at Caleb’s hive (which died in February) and was wondering if mine were swarming but upon inspection, my bees were after his hive’s crystallized honey although there wasn’t a lot. So I cleaned up his whole hive, took off much of the old comb and swept out all the bees that had died. I left the old combs out on top of the hive for the bees to clean out the honey since they seemed so interested. Now that hive is clean and ready if a swarm comes by!
This week I will also put together a new beehive that Elodie’s brother, Mark built for me. Pictures will be forthcoming!