One of the good things about being a bee is that your “doctor” makes house calls.
As one of his chores to prepare the Rogue Honeybees for winter, Beekeeper Josh medicated the hives to protect the bees from mites. Two species are of the biggest concern, varroa mites and tracheal mites.
Not that we’ve had much of problem with mites this year. But no matter how hard you try some mites are unavoidable. And with winter coming we need to be extra careful.
The next month or two may be decisive for how well the Rogue Honeybees do this winter. Most honeybee losses occur from December to February. But the time to prepare the hives for colder temperatures is now.
Rogue Beekeeper Josh is checking the hives for various diseases and pests, including Nosema, brood diseases and mites. Any one of these can weaken a hive late summer and reduce the odds of surviving the winter.
He also wants to make sure each hive has a healthy population of about 40,000 to 50,000 honeybees. Some winter die-off is inevitable and can’t be avoided, no matter how good the beekeeper. If a hive has a small number of bees, say 20,000 or so, Josh may want to combine it with another hive.
Josh will also check the hives for good ventilation. When bees cluster during winter months it can actually become too hot inside the hive. Good ventilation will make sure the bees have fresh oxygen and don’t accidently suffocate themselves.
We’ll do what’s necessary, and then some, to make sure the Rogue Honeybees are safe and sound this winter.
Settling Down For Winter
We’re still a few weeks away from the official start of fall. But at the Rogue Farms apiary, we’re very much focused on the upcoming winter.
The summer nectar flow is all but over. And with no more natural food sources available to them, the Rogue Honeybees have to rely on the leftover honey in their hives… and our Beekeeper Josh.
Josh began feeding the honeybees over the weekend. From now until the nectar flow of spring, Josh will visit the hives regularly and replenish their supplies of water, sugar syrup and pollen cakes. This is the only way the honeybees will survive the winter.
It seems only fair. They provided us with several hundred pounds of honey for our first batch Chatoe Rogue 19 Original Colonies Mead. Time now to return the favor.
Settling In For Fall
The Rogue Honeybees, and our Beekeeper Josh, are taking a breather now that the 2012 Rogue Honey harvest is over.
From Honey Harvest To Dreams Of Mead
These days you’ll find Rogue Beekeeper Josh in the Farmstead Brewery where he’s still at work extracting honey from our 19 colonies of Rogue honeybees. So far he’s extracted 250 pounds and figures he’ll get another 300 pounds by the time he’s done.
That doesn’t leave much for a second harvest in September. Maybe another 100 pounds at most. If we take much more than that the Rogue Honeybees won’t have enough honey to make it through the winter. We love our bees. They get what they need first and we’ll use the rest.
Not long after Josh began extracting the honey from the first group of honeycombs, the first buckets of our wildflower Chatoe Rogue Hopyard Honey were carried to Newport where Brewmaster John Maier wasted no time brewing our first batch of Chatoe Rogue 19 Original Colonies Mead.
The Rogue Honey Harvest Begins!
You’d have to be crazy, or a beekeeper, to dress up like a spaceman and harvest honey on one of the hottest days of the year. But when Brewmaster John Maier is calling for some honey to brew Chatoe Rogue 19 Original Colonies Mead – that’s what you do.
So Rogue Beekeeper Josh along with local Honeybee Whisperer Ernie donned their beekeeping suits and got to work collecting the 100 - 200 pounds John Maier needs. Harvesting honey is tough work. The honey filled supers are heavy. The bees are a little cranky because of the heat. The sweat pouring down your face doesn’t help either.
And that’s just the beginning.
After gathering the supers, the next step in harvesting the Rogue Honey is removing the honey from the frames. Using a heated knife, Josh carefully slices off the waxy caps that the bees used to seal the honeycombs.
Before too much honey drips out, he places four of the frames into the honey spinner. Then he turns the hand crank for about three minutes, spinning the frames so fast that the honey literally falls out and collects in a bucket. Josh will do this twice for every four frames. Slice, spin, extract and repeat.
Then it’s over. Except for running it through a sieve, we don’t process the Rogue Honey that goes into our 19 Original Colonies Mead. Josh puts lids on the buckets and then loads them on the next truck to Newport.
This initial harvest is small compared to what we expect to gather in about a month. The summer nectar flow is running a few weeks later than usual. With plenty of natural food sources available, Josh will let the honeybees keep on gathering nectar from the many wildflowers still blooming at the Rogue Farm in Independence, Oregon.
By the time we harvest again, probably mid-September, there will be more than a half ton of liquid gold in them thar hives.
The End Of The Flow, The Start Of The Harvest
It was while he was picking some blackberries that Rogue Beekeeper Josh made one of his most important decisions of the year.
He noticed the Rogue’s Honeybees were still finding nectar and pollen in some late blooming blackberry flowers. Others were filling up on Queen Anne’s Lace, Bachelor Buttons and the Pumpkins in the Rogue Farms two acre pumpkin patch. The summer nectar flow wasn’t ready to call it quits.
So Josh decided to wait a bit longer before starting the honey harvest from Rogue’s 19 beehives. The supers are filling up and could be pulled from the hives at any time. But Josh says it’s better to wait for the honeybees to get the last of the summer flow. And then he’ll start harvesting.
That could begin as soon as this week.
Here’s one of the best photos you’ll ever see of a Rogue Honeybee. This one was visiting the pumpkin patch when Natascha snapped the image with one of her close up lenses.
Pretty as it may be, Josh says most beekeepers won’t let their bees anywhere near pumpkins. That’s because the flowers produce lots of pollen but little nectar. And the nectar they do produce is of poor quality.
That may be. But the Rogue Honeybees have other chores to do besides making honey. One of those chores is pollinating our pumpkins and they are very, very good at it.
Rogue Hopyard Honey Harvest Coming Mid August
Something must have worked. Josh says his requeening of our 19 Rogue Honeybee hives put honey production back on track. The honeybees are once again filling up the supers and Josh expects to begin harvesting in about two weeks.
The good news comes as Josh returned from a trip to the Rogue Apiary to see the results of last week’s requeening. In most hives, the queen is easy to see and egg laying has resumed. But a few of the hives may have rejected their replacement queens. In that case, Josh will have to merge them with other hives. It’ll be a few days before he finds out for sure.
We’ll let you know when Rogue Hopyard Honey becomes available. And if you’d rather drink your honey, keep watching for Chatoe Rogue 19 Original Colonies Mead.
A Change Of Command In The Rogue Apiary
Rogue Beekeeper Josh re-queened some of our hives this week. He discovered some of the hives didn’t have queens and others had queens that were failing to show proper leadership.
The bottom line as far as we’re concerned – not enough honey.
So change was needed. So Josh and his friend Andy headed out to the hives and did what had to be done.
Step One: Josh looks for the old queen. When he finds her, she is summarily dispatched with a quick pinch.
Step Two: The new Queen arrives in a small cage.
Step Four: The worker bees nibble away at a sugar plug that blocks the entrance to the cage. It takes a few days for the bees to eat their way through. This gives them time to adapt to the new queen.
Step Five: The new Queen takes her place as the leader of the hive.
Watch Out For The Zombie Bees!!
Some parts of the country have to watch out for Killer Bees. But here in Oregon, our problem is the Undead variety.
They’re called Zombie bees because a parasitic fly has laid eggs in them. As the eggs turn into larvae, they eat the bee from the inside. The result is Zombie like behavior where the bee wanders off from the hive and crawls around blindly in circles until it dies. Call it the Flight Of The Living Dead.
The problem is real and may be one of the causes of Colony Collapse Disorder say researchers at San Francisco State University. They were the first to find the parasitic flies in honeybees in Northern California not too far from Oregon.
They’re asking for help in tracking the spread of the flies. You too can be a ZomBee Hunter by signing up at ZomBee Watch.
Long Live The Queen!
Among our beekeeper Josh’s chores for the week – adding new supers to some of our beehives. Josh a few of the supers he put on the hives this spring are already full. So he’s doubling up to make sure the bees have all the space they need to stock more honey.
Supers are the honey storage boxes that sit on top of beehives. They’re important because having more space prevents overcrowding and swarming. When it comes time to harvest honey we just remove the supers instead of disturbing the hives – and the bees.
But Josh also noticed that some supers are nearly empty. That’s usually the result of a queen bee who’s not doing her job. When the queen doesn’t lay enough eggs, the workers will store the honey in the brood chamber. And that’s exactly where we don’t want it.
This is when a beekeeper will requeen a hive. There’s an entire industry built around supplying new queens to beekeepers. About a third of it is centered in Hawaii. We get our queens from Oregon.
Requeening is almost always necessary every couple of years. It helps the genetic diversity of the hive and a good queen will always lead to better honey production.
Pumpkin Patch Honey
There’s nothing wrong with wild blackberries, but bees are better off with a little variety in their diet.
Sure enough, just as the flowers started blooming on our two-acre pumpkin patch, the honeybees from our 19 beehives stopped for some samples. They must have liked what they found. The bees come by all the time now.
Their hard work is paying off. The supers are filling up with honey and some are close to full. Our beekeeper Josh says he expects to start removing the supers towards the end of the month and into early August.
Our first honey harvest is at hand!
The Honeybee Whisperer
It was just another Sunday at the Micro Hopyard. Folks were playing games on the lawn, feeding the Free Range Chicks, Turkeys and Potbellied Pigs, and enjoying some beer on the porch of the Chatoe Rogue… when Josh got the call.
Another one of our hives was swarming. The bees were clustered in a cherry tree. Josh had to act fast before the swarm took off to never be seen again. Arriving on the scene, he shook the tree branch and the swarm fell into his collection box.
Mission accomplished, or so it would seem.
So what Josh did was this – he kept the bees in the hive for several hours so they’d become acclimated to their new home. Then he moved the hive about a mile to a spot near our beach on the Willamette River. After resting there for a while, he moved them back to join the rest of the hives.
Josh’s class in Bee Psychology 101 appears to be paying off. The once swarming honeybees are happy in their new home, collecting pollen and nectar, and storing honey.
Meanwhile, Josh’s record for the season is two swarms recovered, one swarm lost. Not bad at all.
The Healing Properties Of Honey
Because of its antibacterial properties, doctors once used honey to treat wounds. That changed when penicillin and other antibiotics came along.
According to practitioners of folk medicine, honey improves energy, stamina, the immune systems, and promotes sleep.
Treatment with honey is called apitherapy.
Storage Wars At The Hopyard Apiary
It’s a cliché to say, “Busy as a bee”. But after what we’ve seen this week it’s oh-so true.
Now that the blackberry flowers are in full bloom, our Hopyard honeybees are so busy collecting nectar that some of the honey supers on our 19 beehives are close to overflowing.
A super is the box that sits on top of the hive, where honeybees store surplus nectar as they pack it into the tiny cells of the honeycomb. Then they hover next to the cells, drying it out with the rapid beats of their tiny wings. When the nectar is dry enough, the bees cap the cell and you’ve got honey.
Our Beekeeper Josh says some of the supers are nearly full. He’ll soon have to replace them with empty ones, or put empty ones on top of the full supers. Either way, our honeybees are going to need more space to store the nectar from the summer flow.
Josh says they way things are going; he’ll be harvesting the honey in about a month.
Let The Good Times Flow
As the song says, it’s summer time and the living is easy, at least for the Rogue honeybees. The wild blackberry bushes on the Micro Hopyard are filling up with flowers and our bees are filling up with pollen and nectar.
This is the beginning of the summer honey flow. For the next few months, the bees in our 19 hives will have an easy to find, plentiful supply of food. They will be hard at work raising their broods and putting away the excess honey into the supers our Beekeeper Josh built for them.
Josh can take it a little easier, too. His biggest worry this time of the season is the possibility of more swarms, though that diminishes with every day. This gives him more time to think of how he’ll create the Mead that we’ll ferment from our Rogue Honey.
If you’ve ever tried photographing a bee, you’ll know it’s not an easy endeavor. We don’t have any images of the bees collecting nectar fro the blackberries. But we do have this one from April when they were feasting on the cherry blossoms.
Summer Honey Flow Begins
The tough times are over for the Rogue honeybees on the Micro Hopyard. The wild blackberries are starting to bloom, giving the bees a have a reliable source of nectar and pollen for the next several weeks.
This is what beekeepers call a honey flow. Lots of food for the bees, enough honey to start packing away the surplus into storage. That’s exactly what our bees are starting to do.
Rogue’s beekeeper Josh can take a break. While we were between flows, Josh was busy lugging out five gallon kegs of sugar syrup to the hives and feeding the bees since they’re wasn’t enough natural food sources to keep them alive. He must have done something right - the size of the colony doubled thanks to his hard work.
Brave Beekeeper Captures Swarm
It started out as just another lovely Sunday at the Micro Hopyard. Dozens of people hanging out, playing games, drinking beer, eating salmon. And that’s when someone noticed this…
That’s a swarm of bees clinging to a branch right over our 19 beehives. There’s tens of thousands of bees in that clump, with the queen somewhere near the center.
Bees form swarms when they leave a hive to form a new colony. That’s good news because it means the hive is healthy and the bees are growing so quickly they’re running out of room. But it’s also bad news because if they’re not captured right away and given a new hive, then they’ll fly off and never be seen again.
The customer who noticed the swarm is also a beekeeper. He understood the urgency of the situation and notified our beekeeper Josh. And Josh got to work right away.
One thing to remember should you ever see a swarm. They’re harmless as long as you keep your distance. The bees in a swarm have just gorged on food and without a hive to protect are usually docile.
But we’d understand if Natascha disagrees. While taking these photos she was stung in the face.
Quiet Times In the Beehives
It’s been just cool and wet enough for our Beekeeper Josh to take a hands off approach with the bees. In this kind of weather, it’s best to leave the bees alone whenever you can. Then conditions inside the hive will stay warm and dry – just how bees like it.
Josh did some feeding last week and - when the weather improves - will do some more. But the important thing he’s watching out for right now is for the blackberries to bloom. When that happens, the bees will be able to feed and take care of themselves for the summer.
Rogue Farms Beeology
Q: How large an area does a honeybee have to cover to collect a load of pollen?
Q: How heavy is a load of pollen?
Q: How fast does a honey bee fly?
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