Bee Mama Missive: Honey Flow, Honey!

My honeybees have been busy bees this autumn. They’re all over the fall blooming perennials like Goldeneye, Viguiera dentata,

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...and Frostweed, Verbesina virginica.

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And let’s not forget how much the honeybees (and everyone else, it seems) work the Blue Mistflower, Conoclinium coelestinum.

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As well, honeybees adore the blooms of Coral Vine, Antigonon leptopus.

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When I walk into the back garden, day or night,  the fragrance of honey drifts from my hives.  Mmmm.  Breathe deep. That honey-strong fragrance indicates that there is a honey flow happening and it’s been going on for a while.  Honey flow occurs when there are blooms galore and plenty of nectar to gather and honey is busily bee-ing made.

Recently, we checked both hives and Scar’s three boxes are full of comb and honey.P1060815.new

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Mufasa has been the weaker of the two hives, but its two boxes were also full of comb and honey and ready for a third box.  So we prepared another set of top bars for Mufasa’s third box. We melted down some frozen comb from the July honey extraction,

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…to add to the bars. This little track of wax will help the girls start their comb-building.

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Before adding the third box to Mufasa, we sneaked a peek to assure that all is well. The comb in Mufasa’s second box is heavy with honey and larvae.

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However, If you look closely,IMGP2337.new

…you can see how the comb is undulated–sort of wavy-gravy kinda comb,IMGP2339.new

…not neat, tidy and vertical comb aligned with the bars as it’s supposed to be.

This, dear readers, is an example of poor beekeeping management.  In early September, while checking Mufasa, one of the combs broke off of the bar.  Unfortunately with the Warre type hives that we built, this easily happens.    I made the beekeeper’s executive decision to place the broken comb back into the box, as best I could, rather than removing the comb and the honey.  If it was earlier in the growing season, I would have removed the comb and extracted honey and the bees would simply rebuild–after all, that’s what they do. But the latest broken comb incident occurred late in our growing season and I didn’t want to take honey from the bees.  So, I dropped the comb in, knowing that they wouldn’t repair it as perfectly as it was originally built. Given that our beekeeping  goals are not so much about the production of honey for us, but for the bees themselves, it’s a reasonable decision to make.

Assuming our hives survive winter, my best amateur guess is that there will be honey left over and we’ll extract it then, along with the wonky comb. With our Warre hives, when we take honey, we have to take comb too, as there is no straightforward way to extract the honey without crushing the comb.  It’s simply how the design works. Next spring, the hive will have the whole growing season to rebuild and restock their honey stores.

We added the third floor to Mufasa a couple of weeks ago and when recently checked, the bees completed two bars with comb and honey.   That’s fine and expected; they’ll build more comb over time.

RICOH IMAGING

I’ve continued observing a few Small Hive beetles in both hives, which you can read about here, but not many and not every time I check.   When I opened Mufasa this past week, I saw and killed what looked like two Wax Moth larvae.  Well, I knew they would invade eventually.  I opened both hives and didn’t see any webbing that is indicative of a mass infestation of the Wax Comb moth. Whoop!  But I am popping Mufasa’s top off most days to check–just in case.  In one of the articles I read about the Wax Comb moth, the author suggested that if the beekeeper kills the moth larvae, then drops the dead larvae into the hive, it teaches the bees to kill the larvae as invaders.  I have my doubts about that particular management practice, but that’s what I did–not because I’d read to do that, but because I was grossed out and offended to see the two larvae crawling along Mufasa’s hive.

Bee Mama is protective of her little bees.

We’ll  thoroughly check both hives at least one more time before true winter sets in.   Both hives have plenty of honey stores (fingers crossed) for the winter and we’ll see how they fare.

The bees continue their work.  Foraging,IMGP1082.new

….pollinating,IMGP1620.new

…sipping at their local watering hole,IMGP2443.new

….and being bees.

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15 thoughts on “Bee Mama Missive: Honey Flow, Honey!

  1. That second photo from the top is absolutely stunning. You could print and frame that one, except you have the real deal buzzing all around. I am happy-happy for your busy bees, especially after the loss of their queens earlier. It would seem you and Bee Daddy are truly getting the hang of this beekeeping biz. That honey aroma is a winner, isn’t it? It always makes me crave tea and cookies!

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    • I do love it when I hit the photography jack-pot and/or my subjects pose long enough for me to get the shot! Bee keeping is all about experience. The honey fragrance has been so lovely in the back garden. Tea and cookies–yes that does seem like a thing triggered by the whiff of honey!

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  2. A fascinating look at your bee- keeping. I used to keep bees and I do miss them now but I always had help with them. Now I have moved I haven’ t got the confidence to do it by myself.
    I hope your lovely bees will get through the winter safely.

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    • I think it takes two to bee-keep. I can do a quick check by myself and I re-queened by myself, but there are so many variables when the hive is opened that two people coordinating is a must. Maybe you could find a friend or neighbor who would partner with you on beekeeping?
      I hope they make it through our (usually mild, but not always) winter as well!!

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  3. Wow. I can just imagine turning the corner and walking into honey scent. That must be so nice. Your photos are beautiful and that is hard to do because honey bees are so tiny. I can definitely picture the bees recognizing the dead invaders and tossing them out just as they do with their own. But you sound dubious. I don’t know much about how they defend themselves.

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    • That honey scent has been glorious this fall. Throughout summer, I could smell honey when I was near the hives, but not all over the back yard–and into my bedroom as my bedroom window is just above the hive. Nice!!

      I guess I’m not really that dubious and I think they would remove invaders. You’re right, they remove sick or dead bees. The honeybees we have are varroa mite resistant and the resistance comes about because the bees remove any mites that appear, thus keeping the common pest in check. And the fact that a strong hive keeps both hive beetles and the wax moth in control suggests that they do take an active role in “cleaning house.”

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      • Honey bees just fill me with fascination This must be a great place to have a hive (or two). With a long season and so many resinous plants …. it is a lot like the place where they originally evolved.

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      • So, get yourself some hives, Gardening Girl! It’s been fun–lots of responsibilities, big learning curve, but very interesting. And there’s nothing better than warm bread (of any kind) drizzled with home-grown honey!

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    • You are getting cold! So are we, but it’s all relative. I don’t know that I’ll have a freeze where I am–in town and with the heat island thing, but “they” are predicting a light freeze in the Hill Country. It’ll be interesting to see if I have blooms for Garden Bloggers’ Bloom Day….

      Thanks for the warm congratulations. It’s been fun and I hope that fun continues.

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  4. Thanks for such an interesting post. I do not garden or keep bees, but I find it fascinating to hear about your experience with beekeeping. You kept my attention all the way through. 🙂

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  5. Just curious … Im not very familiar with Warre hives; are the towels an inner cover of sorts? Do the bees get their feet tangled in the loops (like mine do when I’ve used an old towel as a temp cover during inspections!)?

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    • Hi MJ, thanks for stopping by. Those towels! In a Warre hive, there should be a top cover, called a quilt, placed just underneath the roof. We made ours to just fit over the square and we found that when closing the hive after inspection, that it was hard (even with two of us) to place the quilt on top and set it properly. One day, I grabbed two old towels to place on top of the quilt, with the idea that we can hold, then pin, the towels in place, thus closing the top of the box more securely. If we made another Warre hive, we’d probably make quilts of a small hand towel size.

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  6. Pingback: Bee Mama Missive: Honeybee Love | My Gardener Says…

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