Wednesday, September 28, 2016

Season Finale


We have finished our harvesting for this season, and we're thankful for another year of beekeeping. For the first time, we ended up with two colors of honey this year.  The lighter and darker golden honey came from the two harvests, one early and one late August. Not only is this really neat, but it highlights the way that bees access various plants, flowers and trees - and different varieties of nectar - throughout the year.

The girls have been gathering the last bits of pollen and nectar available outside, and they are certainly preparing for winter.  Here is some of the last nectar we'll see this year:

 ...and some of the last flowers:

We are certainly holding on to fall, but this is the time of year when Minnesota beekeepers make decisions for winter.  We did an inspection two days ago, and here is what we found:

Hive 1, we'll call it, is looking fine.  The bees have stored up more honey and the queen has still been laying some eggs. Most of all, I noticed that their temperament was very good.  Normally, that is not something I notice this time of year and, normally, the hives with a bad temperament stand out the most (see Hive 2, below).  I was impressed with how calm these bees were during a fall inspection and I would love to be able to see them winter and then split the hive in the spring to have even more of them.  We added a few frames of honey to this hive and we'll try to see them through winter.

Below are some bees from Hive 1, cleaning up during our inspection.

Hive 2, on the other hand, was in a different state.  These bees haven't stored up much honey and they were not nice.  This hive has been "hot" (read, angry) all year and I watched them chase Mr. Bee out of the bee yard twice just during this inspection. All bees are defensive this time of year, for good reason, but this was overboard. It could be a sign of a stressed colony or it could just be the way this hive is. We have decided that we are not going to winter it.

After both of our hives swarmed this year, we were doubtful that we would have any hives to winter, so I am pretty pleased that Hive 1 has a shot. Wintering bees is very hard in our climate, so we keep that in mind, but we also stay optimistic.

Hive 1
As I said earlier, we are very grateful to have the chance to continue beekeeping.  We thank Mr. T. for the use of his land, where our bees live, our children play and explore, and where we all visit. We also thank Mr. Martin, our beekeeping mentor, who is a source of wisdom on many levels and who reminds us that there is always something to learn - even for experts.

I plan to give more updates during this autumn season and before winter - and I hope that winter holds off a bit.  We are really just starting to enjoy beautiful Fall in Minnesota.

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