What To Do When You Have 400,000 Mouths To Feed
This is an especially busy time for our Beekeeper Josh. With an ever growing population of bees at our 16 beehives, Josh is out there several times a week refilling the supply of sugar syrup that’s keeping the bees alive.
We’re in a period that’s known as, “between flows.” There are not enough natural food sources at the moment for the bees to feed themselves. So without Josh’s help, many of our bees would quickly starve.
The first flow of the year began over a month ago when the nearby cherry and other fruit trees were blossoming. Our bees were gorging on nectar and pollen, and making lots of new bees. But all those blossoms are gone. The next flow won’t start until later this month when the wild blackberries start flowering. So while we’re waiting, Josh is playing bee chef.
He got some help from Ernie Moreno, a retired beekeeper and friend of Rogue. Ernie looked over the hives and proclaimed them to be in excellent health. He should know, he used to own more than 800 hives.
Ernie and Josh also found warning signs of more swarming. That’s when the queen decides to leave a hive to find a new one. As many as half of the bees in the hive will leave with her. Sometimes a swarm can be convinced to return to the colony. But just as often they simply disappear. Josh says we’ve lost two hives to swarming this spring. He found one of them in the hollow of a tree near the Hop ‘N Bed. But the other one is gone.
Dark Skies, Held Hostage. It’s Swarming Season!
Swarms, like the ones we’re dealing with on the Micro Hopyard, are common this time of year. Honeybee swarms may look scary, but they’re actually quite harmless. And yet people find it hard not to panic when they see a huge clump of bees flying around.
DARK SKIES IN YORK: Everyone was comparing it to a solar eclipse when the skies over York, England darkened as a gigantic swarm of honeybees blocked out the sun. Actually, it’s hard to believe that a swarm would create that big of a shadow, but the local folks insist it’s true. No one was stung in the incident.
FAMILY HELD HOSTAGE BY BEES: A family was trapped inside their car in the Hell’s Kitchen area of New York City by what’s been described as a “massive swarm of bees”. First, they drove the car around the parking lot in an attempt to shake off the bees. And when that didn’t work, they called 9-1-1. The NYPD responded by helping the family escape through the driver’s window while one of the officers (who’s also a beekeeper) vacuumed the bees off the car.
WHAT NOT TO DO WHEN A SWARM IS IN YOUR YARD: A Twin Falls, Idaho woman woke up to quite a surprise one Monday morning when she looked outside and found her yard “carpeted in bees”. When the bees didn’t go away, the husband tried running the sprinkler system. But all that did was make the bees angry and they began going after people walking through the neighborhood. Eventually the bees calmed down and were collected by a local beekeeper.
May 25th, 2012 – Risky Times For Our Bees
This is a scary time of year for our honeybees. The cherry and other fruit trees are done flowering. But the summer plants haven’t flowered yet. Just as our 19 hives are going through a springtime population boom – their natural sources of food have all dried up.
Which is why Rogue Beekeeper Josh was among the hives this week replenishing their stocks with sugary syrup and pollen cakes - to make sure the bees won’t go hungry while their taking care of their growing brood.
Josh says this should be the last time he’ll have to feed the bees. The berry bushes should start flowering soon. We’ve seen a few flowers on the marionberries and raspberries near the Hop ‘N Bed.
But when the wild blackberries start to flower, then we know this dicey time is behind us. The hives will be buzzing again with activity. In fact, blackberries will probably be the major source of nectar for the honey we’ll harvest this summer and fall.
Q: How much are honeybees worth to our economy?
A: Most of the time you’ll read that honeybees add $15 billion to the value of U.S. Agriculture. But new data from Cornell University says it’s actually much higher than that. Researchers say that in 2010, honeybees increased farm income by more than $19 billion. And that doesn’t count how much their honey is worth. Other pollinators, such as orchard bees, alfalfa leaf cutter bees, bumblebees, and hornfaced bees added another $10 billion.
May 18th, 2012 – Runaway Bees!
Josh was making his rounds the other day - finishing up with the supers and inspecting the hives - when he noticed that one of the hives was almost empty. Thousands of bees and their queen were gone.
This is called swarming, when most of the bees in a hive depart all at once with the queen to a new location. It means the hive is healthy, has plenty of food, a strong population of adults and a rapidly expanding brood. But there’s a danger of overcrowding. So the swarm takes off to make room for the next generation.
Josh quickly began looking for them. From his beekeeping point of view, a swarm can become a lost hive leading to less honey to harvest in the summer and fall. Thank goodness that swarms usually don’t travel far. He found our runaway bees in a large, hollow tree at the corner of the Chatoe Rogue parking lot. Obviously the bees were curious about were about our beer and wanted to see where we’d be selling the ales and mead we’ll be making from their honey.
Suiting up and with smoker in hand, Josh is trying to extract the bees from their new location and coax them into a hive box. The tricky part is that he must get the elusive queen or the hive won't survive.
DIY Workshop – Beekeeping 101
The swarm made for a good show and tell lesson at the Micro Hopyard’s DIY Workshop, Beekeeping 101. Josh led the group through the basics of beekeeping and then took the class to the hollow tree to see the swarm.
From there it was off to our 19 hives next to the field of Dream Rye. Josh opened up some of the hives so the class could take a peak inside. Atticus got a little too nosy and was stung twice.
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