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Old 08-04-2014, 11:52 AM   #1
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Daring Daylight Robbery

Well, it's culinary because I cook with it and eat it, and it's garden because - well, just because it's in the garden.

I committed the robbery just after noon. It was a bright, sunny day, and the victims were drowsy and unprepared. I entered through the roof and pried open the main hall and made off with their goods before they could organize a response.

My first harvest of honey from the bee colony I started last summer. I only began with about 10,000 bees, so I gave them the year to get established. The main nectar season is over here, so it was time to see how they did. This is a "top bar" hive, basically a long box with wooden bars down the length for them to build on. I took four combs and left the rest for them to go into the fall and winter, since I don't know how the drought will do this fall.

I got just over 13-1/2 pounds of honey and comb, which will do us for a while. I suited up - first time I have ever worn protection with these bees - but needn't have. They made no objection. They're nice bees. I can open their hive in only a tee shirt and a cap to keep them out of my hair. Next year, I'll split the colony into a second hive. (This spring, I waited too late, and they split themselves, and half of them were last seen flying off to a new home. Fortunately, they can't take their honey with them.) Consider it my contribution to the bee colony shortage.

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Old 08-04-2014, 12:04 PM   #2
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Awesome! Perhaps next year you can look into making some mead!
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Old 08-04-2014, 12:06 PM   #3
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Will you spin the honey off the comb or store them together?
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Old 08-04-2014, 12:46 PM   #4
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I've cut the comb into chunks and packaged it comb and all. There's always enough free honey that breaks out from handling that can be used where liquid honey is necessary, but the comb honey spreads okay.

Probably no mead this year, but next summer, if I successfully split to a second hive next spring, there may be enough. At that point, I'll also have enough wax to make up some candles.

This has brought home to me why bees were such an important medieval crop. Nothing else gave you such a return so easily when sugar was a rare medicinal, and the world was lighted by fire, with beeswax candles being the only source that didn't smoke and stink. Even with their crude beekeeping method of killing the colony to harvest the honey. (But wild colonies were much easier to find and collect then.)
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Old 08-04-2014, 12:56 PM   #5
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I wrote a state rep that I thought bee parks, located in various, remote areas of the UP forests would represent a great bee repository from which to rebuild colonies, since the bees wouldn't be subject to pesticides and other poisons. We have lots of wildflowers and berries in out forests. Also, bear and animal proof fences could be put around the hives. The response has been less than encouraging. But give them an excuse to spend foolishly, and they'll use up our tax dollars every time.

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Old 08-04-2014, 01:55 PM   #6
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Neato. Enjoy the honey.
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Old 08-04-2014, 05:49 PM   #7
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Chief Longwind Of The North View Post
I wrote a state rep that I thought bee parks, located in various, remote areas of the UP forests would represent a great bee repository from which to rebuild colonies,... The response has been less than encouraging. But give them an excuse to spend foolishly, and they'll use up our tax dollars every time.

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That's why I think the answer is a combination of pesticide controls and small individual apiaries. There are about 2.5 million managed hives in the U.S. Before we get too far, let's avoid media-driven panic. There are troubles, for sure, but disaster is not exactly looming. Honey production is pretty stable and has been for a long time. Now, that's largely because commercial beekeepers have been able to rebuild the recent higher winter losses. In the long term, much of the problem is not that bees are going to vanish but that commercial beekeeping will more and more produce a monoculture-like situation of "feedlot bees" with all the attendant problems. Without a large pool of feral bees, that does indeed risk a disaster.

Some are learning, though, techniques like hunting and capturing feral bees to breed into their stock. These are wild bees that survive with no help from man and are therefore resistant to diseases and pests that plague commercial operators. And my bee supplier sells bees they developed over the years simply by letting those that would die without chemical help go ahead and die. The surviving current strain is resistant. I do NOTHING for my bees except protect their hive from fire ants.

There are indeed feral bees out there, but they have been hit hard by peculiar weather recently. They matter. Bee queens are sluts and mate by flying high in the air to find a cloud of all the drones in the area, feral or managed. So they get a sampling of genes. One reason the Africanized bees haven't taken over around here is that the domestic Italian/English bees have bred a lot of the meanness out of them. So, the small beekeeper with one to a half dozen hives is a lot like the backyard farmer, raising healthier stock.

Back to the 2.5 million managed hives. If one person in 100 kept only one hive, the number of managed hives would more than double overnight. Bees building hybrid vigor, as well as being busy pollinators. Cities in the U.S. are gradually changing ordinances that prohibited urban hives. Hotels, businesses, and schools are putting in their own hives and serving up the local honey in restaurants. There is quite a way to go, but a colony of bees is endlessly fascinating, and they present no more hazard than the feral colonies that are present in any city. I can sit three feet from the hive interest in a tee shirt and watch them come and go without being stung. You can build an African style "top bar" hive from scrap wood or an old drum (as they do in Africa), and my supplier, Beeweaver, sells a 3-pound pack of bees with a queen to start a colony for about $145. And, if you want, you can split the colony the next spring. (Or you can fiddle around like I did too long, and they will take care of that themselves.) And in this, the first harvest, I got back the value of hive and bees at current retail prices for comb honey. Consider.
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Old 10-29-2014, 09:23 PM   #8
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I am amazed that you actually have a bee hive! I have always considered getting bees for their honey, but am deathly afraid of bees (the one childhood trip to the hospital from a bee sting probably did not help!). Does the suit you wear really keep the bees out and keep you safe? Also, you are very brave for collecting honey in just a t-shirt and baseball cap.
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Old 10-29-2014, 09:29 PM   #9
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There is a local " Bee Keepers Club" here, and each year they offer classes to learn the basics on Bee Keeping. Ive always wanted to take it, and starting next February my son and I will take it together. Im looking forward to it. Ive always found it fascinating.
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Old 10-30-2014, 08:25 AM   #10
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Good local honey in North GA sells between $12-20 a quart. We go through about 8 quarts a year. Nothing better than a peanut butter and honey sandwich.
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