Thursday, July 13, 2017

Simple Joys

Summer is full of activity in Minnesota, for us and for the bees. We have been visiting parks, pools and lakes, fishing, picnicking, and spending as much time as we can outside, and, of course, checking on our bees. We are already in what is one of the main nectar flows in our area. This means it is prime time for bees to be collecting nectar and storing honey. We will be checking on the hives about once a week to make sure that the bees have enough space to work.

Honey is often called "liquid gold". It is a very sweet reward for the labor of beekeeping. Many people don't know that there are other simple joys in beekeeping aside from just collecting honey. For example, our second hive is doing remarkably well, and it's really neat to open the cover and see a full box of frames like this:

Every year, I look forward to the first time I see an emerging bee. This is the first time I have tried to post a video here, so I hope it works. Here is a short clip where you can see a brand new honeybee emerging from her cell:

Honey bees are very intricate creatures. Aside from the bees themselves, we learn more each day about local flora and other pollinators. It's a hope of mine to be able to identify more and more wildflowers and insects as time goes on.

There are also lovely and strange smells in beekeeping. We notice week by week how the bee yard smells differently depending on how the local plants are blooming. We smell the burning pine needles in our smoker and, later on, the campfire smell in our hair. When a hive is opened, we can tell a lot about it by how it smells, and we can definitely tell when honey is being stored box upon box.

Of course, there is that honey. When we first started beekeeping, a beekeeper gave us the advice to make sure that we take the time to stick our finger right into some early-season honeycomb and taste it. He told us not to worry, that the bees would fix it, and that we should set aside a moment for that enjoyment. I still do it every year! ...maybe a couple times each year.

Finally, a hive summary:

Our first hive is seriously lagging. We are planning to re-queen it - more on that when it happens. The second hive is doing very well, as you can see in the picture below. They are already storing honey (which is what I sampled). The third and fourth hives seemed behind earlier, but they are right on track right now and are growing.

Seeing life in tiny honeybees and other pollinators, in the plants and flowers and trees all around us, and in our children is a gift.  The sounds and smells of beekeeping are simple joys. The unpredictability of beekeeping keeps us working together, which is fun. We have a lot to be thankful for!

I will post on update with the re-queening soon. Thanks for reading!