Moving and class prevented me from updating more regularly recently, but here’s The Great Update.
Arlington County Fair
First off, I want to recognize the strong bond people seem to have formed in the Beekeeper’s Association of Northern Virginia (http://www.beekeepersnova.org/). I joined this organization earlier this year, and followed their extremely extensive and remarkably affordable early spring beekeepers class. I highly recommend this to people, with a cost of only $100, which includes materials and books, the only reason to pass it up is time, as it does entail weekly classes for two months.
The reason I mention them is because every year, they have a booth at the Arlington County Fair selling honey from their members, who may not have the funds or the time to create a storefront or find wholesale connections in the area. This year was a collection of more than ten different beekeepers with honey, candles, bee pollen, and all kinds of other stuff for sale.
Me and Chelsie helped out last Friday, and it was a blast. It was very interesting hearing people’s stories about beekeeping from all across the world, Slovenia and Argentina, for example, and the entire United States. Not only did we sell a lot of honey, we also educated curious minds of all ages with the observation hive present. My Favorite Lady, Leah, helped tremendously with her excitement and drive to educate people on the life cycle and wonders of bees.
Because of Chelsie’s vacation, and my move, we have largely left our bees alone, feeding them sugar syrup when necessary. The extreme heat was not pleasant to them, and on many an occasion have I seen them perform a maneuver called “bearding”, which happens in higher temperature, helping the hive cool down, and giving the individual bees a break, while still being near the hive.
The Bearding Ways
You can see in that image that we were still using the front feeders. These are successful, but in extreme hot weather, the bees drink these giant jars up in a day or two. With us having full time jobs and our temporary absence, this became hard to keep up, so we decided to purchase top feeders. These are recommended by many beekeepers, including our mentor. They fit on top of the hive, and use a floating grid mechanism to allow the bees to drink/eat the sugar syrup without drowning, and can contain significantly higher quantities of syrup.
Brushy Mountain Top Feeder
We also added another super on top of both hives, as we both thought the bees were running out of space. This should be the last addition of this year, as I don’t expect a nectar flow significant enough in the fall to create a massive amount of sugar.
We are looking out for two issues. We did not notice a significant amount of pollen in the hive. We’re considering adding pollen of some sort, and maybe try out our artificial pollen mix again, to see how they react. The other issue is the potential for varroa mite spiking around this time. Earlier in the year we purchased Varroa sticky boards, which we’ll probably start testing with in the near future. These can be inserted in the bottom of the hive, and removed after a day or three, then analyzed by the amount of mites per square present, and if the count is high enough, perhaps we will consider some of the natural treatments such as dusting the hive with powdered sugar. I have not seen any mites on our bees, but that doesn’t mean they’re not present. It probably just means my sight isn’t good enough, or they have kicked out the diseased bees.
Example of a varroa mite board with a strong mite presence
A hobby of mine that I share with my friends Jesse and Justin is the brewing of mead or honey wine. This is purported to be the earliest alcoholic drink, dating back to far before the Egyptian reign. Honey, yeast, and water are the main ingredients of this drink, although a healthy dose of patience certainly helps. The batch that we started today contains some of the honey I bought at the County Fair last week. I picked 18 pounds of Tulip Poplar honey, which is a rich, dark, spicy honey, from the prevalent Tulip Poplar (not actually a poplar, but I promised not to turn this blog into a tree blog, so I’ll let it be), and 18 pounds of clover honey, which is more sharp and flowery in flavor. We are using all 18 pounds of the Tulip Poplar honey for a strong, flavorful mead, and the clover honey will be turned into a lighter, juniper-infused mead, with only 12 pounds used for this mead, and the remaining 6 pounds perhaps mixed with apple cider to make what is called a Ciser.
Here are some pictures from a previous batch, but it gives you an idea of what is involved. Both of these batches will create 5 gallons of mead, about 24 wine bottles each.
Mixing Water and Honey
Creates this Magic Potion