More questions people ask…
How often do you harvest honey?
Bees only make honey when there is nectar in the flowers. In WV, that typically runs somewhere around April 15 through June 30. I usually remember the period as tax day through Fourth of July. Once the honey flow is done, the bees need to reduce the moisture in the nectar and let it cure into honey. We typically harvest around the first part of August. By dumb luck, our harvest day is usually the hottest day of the month. That’s good in a way as the honey flows from the comb a little better. It is terribly hot lifting 40-60 pound supers of honey wearing a bees suit while thousands of small stinging insects are curious why I am taking the fruit of their labor. Anyhow, there is another honey-flow in the Fall when plants like goldenrod bloom, but I prefer to leave that honey for the bees to eat though the Winter.
How many bees are in a hive?
I never really counted them but some folks have…a healthy, managed hive usually contains around 50-60 thousand bees at its Summer-time peak.
Are there different kinds of honey?
Absolutely! The color and flavor of honey is dependant on the nectar source. Tree honeys are often (though certainly not always) darker, richer flavored honeys. Alfalfa honey is very light colored and mild in taste. Some beekeepers are able to place their bees in a field of a specific crop so can produce specific varieties of honey. We have collected several varieties of honey as evidenced by their flavor and color, but are not able to label the varities. Instead, we call it all wildflower honey.
Are you affected by the bee losses that have been in the news?
Maybe some. I have lost some colonies of bees but have not had wide-scale loss like many beekeepers have experienced. Plenty of really good beekeepers have been wiped out so I can’t say that I am just a better beekeeper. However, I do not locate my bees in heavily agricultural areas, I do not transport my bees much and I tend not to use chemical pesticides in my hives. I don’t know to what degree that is related to my apparent success, but it hasn’t hurt so far.
Is this your full-time business?
That would be cool, but I am a software engineer by trade
Why do you bother with this? You can buy honey at the grocery store.
Someone has to manage the bees and harvest the honey that ends up in the grocery store. I keep bees for some of the same reasons I garden. I like to see how things work. I understand so little about nature, but it is a whole lot more than I used to understand. I pay a lot more attention to the seasons, the blooms of the trees and flowers, the weather. I also like to know what goes into my food. I know there are no chemicals or hormones in the vegetables from the garden or the honey from my hives. I enjoy seeing my efforts turn into a harvest and I feel good from the exercise that this work provides me. It’s a great time to mess around as a family and for my kids and me to earn a few bucks too.