We're back to planning for the beekeeping year ahead. Since none of our bees made it through winter, we will be buying new bees and starting each hive brand new this year. There is not a lot of news to share at this point, but we are thinking about having two hives and what is new is that we are considering trying to keep a different "stock" of honeybee. We haven't made any final decisions yet, but you might be interested in what difference a "stock" or breed of honeybee might make.
Beekeepers have known that genetics make a big difference in honeybees - they can affect temperament, disease resistance, and productivity. Although there can always be "exceptions to the rule," here are some quick characteristics of some of the two types of stocks we are talking about:
Italian This is the type of honeybees that we have had every year so far. When I say we have Italian honeybees, I usually hear jokes about their accent, but these are the most utilized stock in our country. They have a less-defensive temperament and a long brooding season, meaning they can keep the hive working and producing new bees all summer. Apparently, though, this type can quickly eat up their own honey when the nectar flow stops and they can become kleptoparasitic, meaning they might rob honey from a weak, neighboring hive.
Carniolan honeybees have a strong, spring boost that helps them take advantage of the early blossoms, and they are great producers of wax. They are not as prone to rob from other colonies, which means they are less likely to spread bee diseases. We would just have to be on top of the inspections since they can be likely to swarm due to their big spring productivity.
Bonus: they are very docile and can often be worked without a lot of protective gear or smoke.
http://www.beesource.com/resources/usda/the-different-types-of-honey-bees/ was a helpful site in putting this post together and has even more information about bee stocks and all things honeybee in case you'd like to look more into it.
I was asked to share the Honey Candy Recipe that I used last fall, so here it is:
(this makes a hard candy)
2 cups sugar
1/2 cup water
1/2 cup honey
1/4 cup butter
2-1/2 cups honey
1/4 cup butter
I just used the honey-and-butter-only option.
Put all ingredients in a heavy pan and cook on medium heat until the Hard Crack stage (Your candy thermometer will have this listed right on it). Pour caramel onto a buttered sheet. Fold edges until it is cool enough to pull (Look up candy pulling if you need to - I did. Just a word here, the candy is very hot! If you have kids, you'll want to use caution. It retains the heat longer than I thought it would, so just keep that in mind.) Pull and cut into 1" pieces or roll into balls. Put on greased or buttered cookie sheet to cool. Optional: roll in wax paper or cellophane.
I am hoping to try a recipe for chewy honey caramels soon...stay tuned!