Archive for July 5th, 2012

Bee Yard Maintenance

The beehives on our property, all abuzz

The Bee Man was back today to check on the hives’ progress.  Ever so carefully he lifted off the large rock that weighted the top of the box to keep it closed.

they’re in there, doing well! (click to enlarge)

The entrance hole is at the bottom of the hive, and the bees create the honeycombs starting from the bottom and working their way to the top.  By checking on the numbers of bees on the topmost box, he was able to determine if there were enough bees to warrant adding yet another box on top of that one.

Shlepping more boxes from his truck to the hives. These contain more trays for the bees to make combs and honey. If the honey becomes too copious inside, then the queen becomes “blocked” from all the honey and the hive will cease producing, so BeeMan adds another “floor” to their apartment dwelling.

Before loading the new layer onto the hive, the BeeMan checks the spacing of the trays within. The bees will create combs on the trays, which will be filled with honey. A box like this can weigh 50 lobs when full of honey.  Being a beekeeper involves a lot of heavy lifting and is very hard on one’s back. The BeeMan is well into his 70s, and he’s in impressive shape!

This is what one of the trays look like from the box. It’s lined in plasticine, and the bees make a honeycomb over the surface, which they fill with honey. This picture shows the honeycomb, but the honey has been extracted, spun, and filtered.

The bees seemed to be doing well, which was surprising, Bee Man said, because this year honey production will be down by 50% due to the over-abundant rainfall in the month of June.  He’s thinking of adding two more hives next year if they continue to thrive and they survive the winter.

Bee Man said that this year bears have been a problem, and he seemed relieved that so far the local bruins in my immediate area  had (so far) left his hives alone.

“I had to shoot one last week in North Fryeburg,” he said, which is two towns away.  “That bear came three times, and did damage each time.  The last time he came, he destroyed 3 of my hives – that’s a $900 loss I can’t afford.  If a bear has never tasted honey, then an electric fence will be enough of a deterrent once they get zapped on the nose.  But once a bear has tasted honey, there is really nothing that will keep them from doing just about anything to get to that honey!  And then I have to shoot them.”

He showed me where a small bear had scraped the wood of one of my hives (where it had been in a different location before being used on  our property)

At the entrance to this hive, one can see wood that has been scraped away by a hungry young bear. “I know it was a young one,” the BeeMan told me, “because an older, more mature bear would have succeeded in knocking the entire hive over, not just scraping it up a bit. Fortunately he was able to salvage this one so he could use it elsewhere

Afterwards Bee Man did some weed-whacking around the hives.

While weed-whacking he wears a “bee jacket” which has a protective face guard.

“The honey will be ready for harvesting around mid-August,” he said.  “I’ve taken off work at my job at Lowes from August 8th until the 12th so I can go around to all my hives and bring in the combs.”

Much to my disappointment, my grandchildren are scheduled to visit the week after he’s done, so they will miss the honey harvest entirely – – a lost educational opportunity I was really hoping they’d get to experience.

I asked if I could go to his house and watch him extract the honey from the combs, filter it and bottle it.  It should be really interesting.  But one thing I’ve learned already:  I’m glad I didn’t attempt beekeeping on my own.  Beekeeping is both a science and an art.  There is a huge amount to learn, and a huge amount of things that can go wrong, and it’s quite expensive to get started.  For me, having a “bee yard” on our property but managed and funded by someone else  has been the best of all worlds, even if it means I’ll only get a jar or two of honey at the end of the day.