Monday, 5 July 2010

Honey Harvest

I have two bee hives in my garden most of the time, and rather like Alan Bennet's dad, who always had an everyday suit and a best suit which he referred to as "my suit" and "my other suit" respectively, my hives always seem to be "the Hive" and "the other Hive". Except in my case "the Hive" is the good one and "the other Hive" is not so good.

I was very pleased to find enough honey for a decent harvest in the Hive, when I did my inspection the other day. Not so good in the Other Hive, which still appears not to have a laying queen, despite my earlier efforts, so I have transferred another  frame of eggs and larvae from the Good Hive to the Other Hive, in the hope that this will encourage the bees to select one of the eggs and nurture it into a queen which they do by feeding with royal jelly and generally mollycoddling her. Quite democratic when you think about it, she's really just a bee like any other but  is selected to be treated differently, and if I were Richard Dawkins, I would no doubt see this as evidence of  Nurture over Nature, or am I thinking of Steven Pinker?

Anyway Bee queens, rather like The Queen, are very well looked after by vast numbers of servants, and also work very hard indeed, (but without the dodgy relatives). It may even be truer to say that everyone is her relative since everyone is either her sibling or her offspring (I'm obviously back to the bee queen here) - she is the only one who can lay the fertile eggs which will ensure the future of the hive. I really need to set up a bait hive to see if I can attract a passing swarm, as one good hive isn't enough of an insurance against possible future losses. Even small beekeepers like me should always try to have at least two good hives at any one time. One hive and one "other" just isn't safe enough really.

I've made so much marmalade and jam this year, that I've run out of jars, so I have stored all my honey temporarilly in large preserving jars for the time being, and I will decant it into smaller jars in due course. If  I do get another super of honey to harvest I will have too much for myself and my family/friends and will have some to sell, which will be the first for quite a while. But I always make certain that I leave more than enough to last the bees over the winter. It is possible to feed bees on sugar syrup, and indeed commercially this is always done, but I much prefer to let the bees have the food they have worked so hard to make, and only feed sugar syrup in an emergency.
What a good egg I am.

10 comments:

  1. Several of our friends have suggested that we get a couple of bee hives, but as I am very allergic to bees, I have convinved the other half it is not a good idea. We have had no problems with pollination here and there seem to be plenty around. Thankfully they keep out of my way. I have to admit to taking cover a few weeks ago when a swarm flew into one of our trees and settled there for a few hours!! Diane

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  2. That honey is so beautiful! My Granny,rest her soul,used to harvest wild honey from hives in the woods and give it to us in mason jars with a good piece of honey comb in it.She new the comb was a treat for us kids to chew like gum....

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  3. I hope to be a small beekeeper one day soon, we have even picked out the spot for them...we shall see. Your honey looks so nice, what a treat to have such a wonderful supply of it on hand.

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  4. My previous comment went away into fresh air I think, so apologies if this is a duplicate. What I said previously was that we wanted to get bees here first, but ended up with sheep instead. We have got beehives though but they are still in the house, and not outside in situ. So next year, definitely next year, that is my plan for the bees. I love the little creatures and look forward to watching them live their lives out, and like you, will always make sure that they have their own honey for the winter even if it means going without any honey ourselves.

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  5. Despite the fact that I am terrified of all flying, stinging things and also my husband is highly allergic - we have discussed getting a couple of hives. There are so few bees around. Of course it would require a couple of bee suits, but think better fruit crops would make it worth while.
    Your honey looks soooooo good!

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  6. Wow they must be wonderful to sit and watch when all the bees are busy flying in and out. I would love to have a hive but am not sure we have the time for one really :-(

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  7. Dear Kathy,
    I 'envy' you your bees! My grandfather had some beehives, and as a little child I always watched him with delight (and respect), when he, with that big hat, veil, gloves and pipe was working with them. I loved the honey - and although at the outskirts of Hamburg we have the L√ľneburger Heide (heather gives such a lovely dark and not so sweet honey)we live in a very posh urban area, where not even a lawyer is allowed to practise.:-) I read about Scott and Helen Nearing, Living the Good Life: "How to Live Sanely and Simply in a Troubled World" - they overdid it, I think, using honey only sparingly, because it "exploited the bees" - so it is very noble and kind to give the bees honey in winter time. Britta

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  8. I have been thinking of starting a hive for several years. The reason I have not is I really don't think it is something one should do if they don't feel confident that they will be able to do it right. The bee's are so endangered in some parts of the world. I have run a copy of the design for the Top Bar Beehive and so I think that would be a good fit for the Manor gardens. I have a posting about the "Buzz Box" that has a good swarm of Bumble Bees living quite happily in it. If you can recommend a good way for us to start Knowledgeably I would appreciate it. Any information would be helpful.

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  9. I so want to get some hives set up! Its on "the list" Maybe this next year!

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  10. That honey looks delicious, I am so glad that you had a wonderful honey harvest.
    A lot of people are becoming interested in working with bees, there are so many things to learn about beekeeping as many as the benefits that you can get from that delicious beekeeper honey that you have in there.

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