By J. David Weidner
If you made it through the crazy swarm season this year and managed to maintain the integrity of your hive without it swarming, you will most likely be rewarded with a sweet bounty of local raw honey. The early part of May brought on a bumper crop light-colored autumn olive (an invasive species) and a good crop of black locust honey, which despite its name, it also very light in color. When it wasn’t raining, honey supers filled quickly, and it was all we could do to stay ahead of the bees and ensure that they had plenty of space to store nectar.
As we move into the month of July, it appears that the bees have transitioned to clover nectar. This nectar is somewhat darker in color and more robust in flavor. With the abundance of rain, clover is providing an excellent source of nectar for our bees and we believe this nectar source should continue well into the month of July.
Beware the months of July and August – the DEARTH is coming! Hot and humid weather will soon bring with it the threat of hive robbing as pollen and nectar sources begin to dry up. Upon removing your honey supers in July, it would be a great time to conduct your monthly varroa mite checks and treat your hives appropriately. Varroa mite levels will soon start to increase exponentially and it is critical to keep their levels low as we move closer to autumn. Continue to conduct your routine hive inspections and feed all your colonies to help minimize the potential for robbing. Stronger colonies will often try to take advantage of smaller and weaker colonies and overwhelm them – stealing their honey stores and possibly killing their queen!
We normally pull our honey supers in mid-July, extract the honey and then return the empty “wet” combs to the bee yard for the bees to clean up, before we store them for the season. I have often spoken about the many benefits of joining your local beekeeping club. Besides the educational and networking opportunities, one of the great benefits of joining your local beekeeping club is the opportunity to borrow your club’s honey extractor.
For most backyard beekeepers, depending on the actual number of hives, you will most likely need to extract less than 10 supers of honey. For this reason, and the fact that a honey extractor rarely is used more than once a year, I believe for most backyard beekeepers, an extractor is not a wise capital investment. The equipment can range from $400-$1,000 depending on whether a hand-cranked extractor or an electric extractor is purchased. Either way, this piece of equipment is used for one day and then stored for 364 days.
If you are lucky enough to have a surplus of honey this year, you will certainly have a sweet bounty to share with your friends and neighbors. There are so many great recipes in which local honey can be incorporated and it doesn’t matter if your honey is spread on toast with butter, incorporated into a cold summer drink, used in a baking recipe or enjoyed on its own. There is a certain level of satisfaction that comes from all your hard work in the apiary. Enjoy a great summer and I strongly recommend some local raw honey drizzled over a nice bowl of vanilla bean ice cream!