Hive Diary / PART 8

Gone but not forgotten

no_more_bees

Late last year we mentioned that Ranch Foreman Mike checked our hive and reported that it did not look like it was doing well. Unfortunately I have to report that the hive did not make it through the Winter and we are saddened!

This was a tough season for honeybees and beekeeping. Ours was not the only hive to be lost. Several of our clients lost hives. In some respects it is a bit of a head scratcher but it is also a reality. Not all hives thrive at the same intensity as others. Some of our hives that were booming right out of the gate in early Spring struggled during the cold season. Some of the ones that were looking suspect did great through Winter. Always hard to predict Mother Nature.

Our garden is just not the same as when they were around. They definitely brought a sense of energy and level of activity to our yard. They are truly missed.

Come mid-April we’ll start over again with a new batch of bees. We’ll be eagerly awaiting their arrival and will welcome them to our home!

How did your bees do this year? Drop us a line to let us know!

Hive Diary / PART 6

Autumn’s amber harvest!

High whispy clouds, sunny warm “indian summer” days, high pressure off shore winds, pumpkin carving, Halloween, apple picking, raking leaves (if you got em) a slight chill to the early mornings and evenings and of course uncrowded fishing. These are all things I look forward to during my favorite part of each year. Well I can officially add one more great thing to look forward to for Fall / Autumn and that is a late honey harvest!

Mike came over roughly a week ago and harvested our honey out of our hive. Unfortunately I had to work that day so I was unable to participate in removing the frames from the hive and placing them in the centrifuge. There were not a lot to load but just enough to get a good and memorable supply of first harvest honey. Certainly enough to share with friends and family.

While I was unable to assist with the core extraction, Mike left the bulk honey in a 5 gallon bucket with spigot so our family could have fun and participate in jarring the honey. Mike also supplied us with 9oz. jars with lids.

We decided to pick a saturday to jar our honey so the whole family could participate. First observation, the honey was extremely thick – something Mike had noticed as well. Second observation, it was a dark amber color. This is not your golden Spring time honey! Third observation, this is an activity that the whole family can have fun with, from the pouring to the jar filling. Even the littlest of hands can help, especially to clean the empty bucket with their fingers!

We’ve even been able to come up with a custom label that will be applied to each of our jars announcing our special honey.

Bottom line, super fun and well worth the wait. I can almost guarantee that the best honey you’ll ever taste will be from your own hive’s first harvest!

A shout out to our honeybees, BRAVO and well done! All your hard work is sustaining your thriving hive and leaving a little left over to share with us. Thanks, you truly are the hardest working honeybees in Contra Costa County and you’ve been a great addition to the family!!!

The Hive Diary / PART 5

Houston we have capped honey!

Some of you may remember the last “Hive Dairy” where I expressed my excitement at the fact that I’d have honey very soon. That was back on June 27th!

Well mother nature and certainly Honeybees work in mysterious ways and can’t always be counted on to deliver the goods when you might predict they will. So (8) weeks later and we have confirmation that our Honeybees are in the Super and capping pure honey.

Mike, Ranch Foreman, came by to check the hive last week and said that almost half of our frames were drawn out with capped honey! This is great news. And I should have known as I was beginning to get very strong wafts of honey when near the hive recently – you literally can smell it.

So no predictions this time, it is just good to know that our bees are happy healthy and productive. Mike informed me that our hive was the most productive in the Lamorinda area. So perhaps we’ll get some jars of honey this season – PERHAPS!

Do you have a hive in the Lamorinda area? How is yours doing? Would be great to hear how other folks / apiarists are doing this season.

The Hive Diary / PART 3

Our Bees have been busy!

Mike came over to our house in the East Bay last week to check in on the hive. I made sure that I was there to capture the moment. I wasn’t sure what kind of lens I should shoot with thinking my telephoto might be good from a distance. Mike cautiously assured me that I would not need that. I’m happy to report that he was right. His observation of many of his hives have been that the bees have pretty mellow so far (you’ll note he is not wearing gloves during this check).

Mike took off the lid of the hive which show cased some “burr comb”. This is comb the honeybees have made between or on top of the frames. In order to maintain the hive properly this “burr comb” needs to be removed – typically scraped off with a special tool. If you are lucky, there will be some honey in it to taste.

Mike checked the frames and said the hive was very healthy and looked to be productive. He added a second Brood Chamber on top and went on his way. If all goes according to plan, Mike thinks we may extract some honey in August.

I really enjoyed seeing the inner workings of an active hive first hand.

The Hive Diary / PART 2

The Bees have arrived!

Our family has been waiting for this day for a couple of weeks and it did not disappoint. There was the nagging question that went through my mind several times, “What does a package of bees look like?”. The pics below answer my question.

An interesting little wire encased, cage-type box with a canned food-like lid is the answer. Supposedly there are roughly 6000-8000 honeybees in a package. This was the first package that Mike dropped off. The pic above shows his truck with the back full of 47 packages of bees! Lets do the math on that…

…282,000 – 376,000 honeybees, destined for good homes and the great honeybee habitat of various locales of the Bay Area! Many are headed to Alameda, while others have further to travel throughout the Bay Area.

For now, the package of our bees have been placed in the hive as you see in the picture below. The reason being, Mike will come back later this evening to “hive” the bees. Evenings tend to be a good time to “hive” bees as they are not prone to immediately leave the hive to forage and disrupt the colony’s new home.

If you are curious what they sound like packaged the way they are (I was), I describe it in this way, take a ice cold coke, pour it into a glass with ice and listen to it bubbling. Kinda sounds like that!

We’ll report back to you all on our new colony once they have been hived.

The Hive Diary / PART 1

Brand Foreman gets a hive!

I’m excited to announce that I officially have a hive in my backyard. Hive #001 to be exact (by request). Mike (The Bee Rancher) and Ranch Hand Morgan came by last weekend to set it up. A true family affair.

Full disclosure. I’ve never owned a beehive before but have been around them from time to time at Mike’s house. It was great watching and documenting the whole affair. I’m excited to add this new facet to my backyard ecosystem/landscape. Now I should also mention that what I actually have is an empty beehive. The bees do not arrive until mid-April. Yeah, a little anti-climatic but in reality it is actually a good thing as it gives me time to acclimate to the location I have chosen for the hive.

The location of the hive (X marks the spot) is something Mike and I discussed in some detail. There are some key factors in choosing the right location. Ideally an area that gets a good amount of morning light. Certainly a location that is a fair distance from high traffic areas. And a location that is reasonably accessible as the hive will need to be tended to as Mike performs his care and maintenance.

I think we found a great location that fits all those parameters perfectly. My location highlights the hive in my backyard and may very well serve as a focal point. There certainly are other areas that would be suitable but less visible. As you’ve probably seen, these hives are beautiful, so I want to be looking at mine on a daily basis.

Plus Mike tells me there is nothing better than kicking back near the hive after work, cracking a beer and watching the honeybees wind down their day as well. Can’t wait. The beer is chilling in the fridge, now all I need are the Honeybees!

Some additional pictures of the hive installation below.