Monday, June 22, 2015

Finally some sunshine

Red and green cabbage soaking up the sun.
Finally a beautiful sun filled day after weeks of rain! As much as the plants were loving all that rain, they're loving all this sun too. Myself I used the good weather to go tend the bees whose honey you may have received in the CSA or from our stand at the Pittsburgh Public Market.

The two hives on the right were so strong that I split them twice this spring,
 make six hives from two.
Here is some of the zucchini providing a feast for us and the honeybees alike.
 This is my second year keeping bees. I started 13 hives last year to help the growers in our cooperative with pollination. Seven of the 13 survived the winter, which I considered a success given my inexperience and the all the trouble honey bees have been having with colony collapse disorder. The colonies that survived were very strong this spring so I decided to split them, increasing my colonies to 14. This was my first experience propagating my own bees. When you split hives the cheap and easy way, just taking a two-box hive and separating the boxes into two hives, you count on the bees rearing their own new queen. They can only do that if they have some newly laid eggs because a queen is just a female bee that gets fed a special nutrient rich diet while she's a larvae. So it's a little risky, but this time all my hives seem to have requeened themselves which means we'll have even more honey and all our crops should be well pollinated.

Even these potatoes make blossoms that feed the bees.
It worked so well that I even split my two strongest hives again, raising my total to 16 hives. These two hives were very strong all spring but they were also very aggressive. I got stung over twenty times while splitting them earlier this spring despite wearing protective clothing. I was afraid they had just turned aggressive
Here's a baby butternut squash growing behind its blossom.
, which requires buying in a new queen from a more docile genetic line, but I knew it might also have just been the weather and the time of year. Bees can be VERY grumpy when it is overcast and there is no nectar out in the fields for them to harvest. They're hungry, bored, and they're all at home with nothing better to do than defend the hive. But today it was a totally different story - a warm sunny day with wild flowers in bloom all over the place and a few acres of squash, zucchini and watermelons right in front of them. The bees were fairly docile and I got no stings.

To celebrate I'm tasting the first glass of a mead (honey wine) I started in March using last fall's honey. It is amazing. Definitely worth all the sweat and all the stings!

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