We harvested our honey for 2022 last week. This was the first year that we had two hives with almost all of the frames completely full!
I find it interesting that bee colonies can have different personalities. One of the hives has been very gentle all summer. They never swarm me or follow me back to the house after I have opened their box up. The other colony though is very aggressive. It always seems like all of them swarm out and try to attack you when the hive is opened! I have been told that the more aggressive colonies tend to survive winter better so I’m hopeful that we will have bees live though the winter again. This was the first year that we had bees live all winter. It was a pleasant surprise when I checked hives in March!
Like usual the kids were a lot of help for awhile when we started collecting the honey. After we finished the first 16 frames though, they lost interest and I got to finish the rest by myself.
Honey or “liquid gold” as Colton calls it, produced by bees right here on our little farm is something that I will forever be grateful for. Bees are amazing creatures. The symmetry and organization they use to build out the honeycomb is fun to study. The health benefits the honey provides to our family are a big plus as well!
We will have a limited amount of honey available for sale to local customers only. Look for it to be listed soon!
All photo credits go to Lane and Colton – my hands were way to sticky to touch a camera!
Taking the wax cap off of the honey.Extracting the honey from the frames. They boys loved cranking the extractor!Honey from the extractor then went into a bucket with a cloth strainer to catch any wax bits that might have been in it.Bottling the honey into quart jars from the bucket.After bottling we had 3.5 quarts of honey. When the wax finished draining we had almost 4 quarts of honey!
We had our first honey harvest on September 28th. It was a very exciting afternoon! Lane, Colton, and Kinzie all helped with the extraction and bottling part of the process.
We had expected to have at least 7-8 frames of honey to extract between the two hives based on my hive inspection the week before. However, when we went to collect the frames we found that the hive with the most honey had been completely robbed! There was absolutely nothing left in the frames of the honey supers. Thankfully, my mentor was with us to help and was able to explain what had happened and how to tell. Basically, in the fall stronger hives will rob weaker hives of their honey. This occurs because there isn’t as much for the bees to eat this time of year. When a hive is robbed the robbers come in and eat everything that they can. Luckily, the robber bees had not touched the frames in the big boxes the bees have stored for winter.
We ended up only getting 4 or 5 frames that had honey we could harvest. Most of them were only partially filled and capped so I am very happy with our 4 jars of honey.
Our first honey harvest on 14 Hands Ranch was celebrated at dinner that night with our favorite thing to eat with honey – homemade biscuits!
The rest of the fall I will be feeding sugar syrup to all three bee hives. This will help to ensure that they have enough honey stored up to make it through the winter. The first two hives are going through one quart jar of sugar syrup about every 3 days. The swarm hive is getting their jar refilled every day. They still have a few frames to fill before winter so I am feeding them as much as they can eat.
I have learned so much about beekeeping and bees in general this year. Next spring, I plan to split any of the hives that survive the winter as a more economical way of adding hives. If none of them survive winter, I will have to purchase all new bees. I am hoping to have 8-10 hives within a couple of years. This would hopefully give us enough honey for our family as well as leave some to sell. As with anything, I am sure that I will continue to learn more about bees and beekeeping summer. And next year, I will have someone else come take photos for me when we harvest our honey! I had my good camera in the garage but my fingers were so sticky that I didn’t dare use it!
Last week, we embarked on a new adventure. We bought bees! We have talked about getting bees for years but never took the leap. Well, on Thursday we finally officially started beekeeping! We are starting with two beehives but I can already see how this can easily turn in to several more beehives over the years
A local beekeeper, Nikki, has been keeping a beehive at our house for the last couple of years. This has given us the opportunity to observe the bees and get comfortable with having them around. I called her this past winter with a long list of questions about beekeeping. After patiently answering all of my questions, she graciously offered to mentor me if we bought bees. After visiting about it and weighing out the pros and cons, Lance and I decided that it would be a good fit for us to get bees this year.
Nikki gave me a list of items that we needed to purchase. I was able to get almost everything we needed but I am still waiting on my pants and smoker because they were backordered. We purchased our hives and bee colonies from her since she had extras available. We are using 8 frame Langstrom Hives.
After placing the bees in their new hives, I made a mixture of sugar water to feed them. This will help them to have plenty of food while they are getting their hives started. There isn’t a lot of things blooming yet so this is also a good supplement for them. After they had been in the hives for two days, I opened it up and checked how much sugar water they had left. Surprisingly, they both still had half to three-quarters of a mason jar full. This indicates that the bees have been successful in finding pollen sources.
Currently, there is yellow clover, white clover, dandelions, my strawberries, and some wildflowers blooming. It’s still too early for all of my planted flowers and garden vegetables to be blooming. Adding the bees though is an excellent excuse to plant more flowers than I already have! I have a lot of zinnias, marigolds, and purple coneflower planted as well as other flowers and herbs. For the past few years, I have always tried to plant pollinator friendly flowers and herbs just because we enjoy watching the pollinators.
There is so much to learn about beekeeping and bees in general that I am enjoying the challenge of learning a new skill. I have been reading Storey’s Guide to Beekeeping, joined groups on Facebook, and followed pages on instagram. However, I think that the biggest help will be having someone to mentor me and teach me the craft over the next year or two. I have a feeling though, that just like with any type of livestock or farming, there will always be something new to learn with bees!
We are hoping to have our first honey harvest sometime in July. Our family loves honey so we are all excited to hopefully have some that “our” bees made! Taking photos is one of my hobbies so be prepared for lots of bee and flower photos over the summer!
Photo by Kim SimonA fun fact I have learned about bees is that a colony can have 10,000 – 60,000 bees living in it! In this photo I am putting the bees into their hive. Photo was taken by Nikki.Putting sugar water in the hives.The following photos were taken by Lance’s aunt, Kim Simon.