Tag Archives: austin

Mystery Honey Part Deux

A few weeks ago I posted about my first honey harvest at the Sunshine Community Gardens, and how it was a complete bust. The general consensus was a super filled with dumpster honey which I ended up throwing out. I had planned on sending a sample for analysis but in the end decided it wasn’t worth the money to have someone tell me my honey was 40% high fructose corn syrup.

I had another harvest this weekend from one of my south Austin hives which has been consistently producing beautiful floral spring honey. When I started extracting this time however, it was that same thick weird “honey” I found in my central Austin hive just a few short weeks ago. Clearly something is up, and I’m now thinking perhaps this wasn’t produced by some dumpster diving bees.

My new theory is honeydew honey. Central Texas is experiencing an explosion in aphids due to the rains and hot weather we’ve had this summer. I’m guessing that the bees are taking up aphid honeydew instead of plant nectar which is resulting in this unusual honey. It is extremely difficult to extract using the crush and strain method and also has a very grainy texture. At this point, I think I need to bite the bullet and send a sample off to A&M. Are there any other beekeepers out there who have run across this issue before?

At least this harvest wasn’t a complete bust as we had a wonderful lunch from Team Baab-Brock Farms based on honey and the wild plums ripening around Austin right now.

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Harvest at Sunshine Gardens a Bust

I was super excited to pull 8 frames of honey off my hive at the Sunshine Community Gardens on Sunday. I had high hopes for some delicious honey produced in a pesticide free environment teeming with flowers and vegetables. What I got instead was a super thick almost goo like substance that has a sweet taste but doesn’t smell like honey.

After almost 36 hours, it is still sitting in the first 5 gallon filtering bucket laughing at gravity.

Terrible Honey from Sunshine

The “honey” that actually made it through the first coarse filter is barely even going through the nylon strainer bag. I brought it to the Austin Urban Beekeeping Meetup Group this evening and the general consensus is that it is dumpster honey.

For those unfamiliar with this particular variety of honey, it is when your girls decide to ignore all the beautiful flowering plants around town, and go straight to a dumpster of a restaurant or other business where high fructose corn syrup is plentiful. You may recall the Brooklyn hive whose honey turned red after hitting up the local maraschino cherry factory.

So this batch of honey is going in the garbage. I plan on sending a sample to A&M to do an analysis just try and get some clue on what happened, but it certainly not how I wanted my inaugural harvest from the gardens to turn out.

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What’s hot for beekeepers now?

Fashion forward beekeepers are wearing these cute little numbers around the apiary. Who says you can’t look good while inspecting a hive?

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Speaking of cute, Knives 2.0 produces the most beautiful friendly bees I have ever come across.

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Today I put a bee escape on both hives at Baab-Brock farms in preparation for a honey harvest tomorrow. I plan on also pulling honey out of the Sunshine Community Garden the following weekend. If my hives are any indication, the recent rains have kicked off another strong nectar flow and the girls are taking advantage of it.

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Knives 2.0 Loves Propolis

You may recall that I had to requeen Knives’ hive in early spring. I was unable to get a BeeWeaver queen that early so my beekeeping friend Jim Hogg got a bunch from his friend who breeds his own. He uses Minnesota Hygienic Queens which he then breeds with his own stock. I’m not sure what the final combination ends up being, but these are the most gentle bees I have ever seen. I could probably inspect their hive in a smoking bear suit, and they would still just go about their business. However their gentleness is outmatched by their propolis production. These bees glue down everything. And then they glue it down again to be extra sure.

I tried to take some pictures, but they really don’t do the girls justice.

Propolis on Inner Cover

Propolis on Frames

So while inspecting this hive is a bit sticky, I’ll take the mild inconvenience over hot bees. I’ve also found that I hardly see small hive beetles in this hive while Rue’s right next door always has some running around. They probably find it incredibly difficult to find a corner or crack to hide in since everything is gummed up.

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July 21st Dai Due Menu at the Market

Here is the menu for this Saturday’s breakfast and lunch at the Dai Due booth.

Kimchi Hot Dog with mayonnaise.
Shrimp and Grits with a fried egg.
Chicharrones in Tomatillo Sauce Taco with cortido.
Braised Lamb with Peppers on garlic naan bread with 200 yr. yogurt and Kuri squash chutney.
Wheat Crepes with pears, goat cheese and Worker Bee honey.
Cactus Fruit and Lime Agua Fresca.
Iced Cafe a la Olla. Boiled Mexican coffee with sorghum syrup, brown sugar, anise seed and cinnamon, served over ice.

I recommend getting there early if you want any of these items. I missed out on the fried rabbit with Worker Bee honey last weekend as it sold out super quick.

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Honey in the Gardens

Due to the July 4th holiday, it’s been two weeks since I’ve been out to check the hives at the Sunshine Community Gardens. The girls have certainly been busy filling up the top most super with honey.

Rosemary's Honey!

The honey looks darker than the honey I pulled off from Baab-Brock Farms. I think a pollen analysis is definitely in order when I harvest 8 frames from this hive. I’m very curious on what the girls have been feeding on either from the gardens or the surrounding area.

Since all eight frames were drawn out with wax and honey on the top super, I went ahead and added another one. I’ve always loved my frame grip for inspecting frames because it allows me to leave one hand free for other tasks. I also find it makes a handy frame spacing guide when adding on a new super.

Spacing frames on new super

It is very important to get frame spacing correct otherwise you may find yourself having issues down the road as the bees will try and fill any large gaps to get the proper spacing in the hive.

Here is a shot of some nicely spaced frames ready for the girls to start working.

Perfectly spaced frames

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Breakfast and Lunch at the Market

For those folks that will be at the Austin Farmers’ Market this Saturday in Republic Square, stop by the Dai Due both for either lunch or breakfast.

Here is the menu for Saturday July 7th:

Lamb in Chile Colorado Taco with cortido and jalapeno salsa.
Egg Salad + Bacon Sandwich with sliced tomatoes on wheat.
Fried Egg in Tomatillo Sauce with tostadas, refried beans, onions and queso fresco.
French Toast with Worker Bee honey, figs, cinnamon and pecans.
Peach and Blackberry Soda.
Iced Cafe a la Olla. Boiled Mexican coffee with sorghum syrup, brown sugar, anise seed and cinnamon, served over ice.

You’ll notice that Jesse’s french toast will be even better than usual with the addition of Worker Bee Honey.

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Summertime Inspection

After it hit 109 on the mercury this week, I was dreading the weekend inspection, but we had a small respite today with a possibility of some much needed rain.

Rosemary is trucking along, and I may need to add a 5th super this week. She is slowly but surely building up her honey stores, and I am very curious of what this honey from the community garden will taste like. It looks much darker than the recent South Austin harvest perhaps from all the sunflowers in the area. If I am able to take some honey from this hive, I think a pollen analysis is definitely in order.

Rosemary Honey Frame

She is also still laying tight brood patterns and is still a very gentle hive.

Rosemary Brood

Before heading over to Baab-Brock Farms, we stopped by the Dai Due booth at the Austin Farmer’s Market. I’m a big fan of anything Jesse prepares especially since he sources everything he can locally. I traded 2 gallons of the recent spring honey harvest for some of his delicious Venison/Pork Hot Dogs. You may see my honey in one of his breakfast creations at his stand so stayed tuned for updates.

The inspection at Baab-Brock Farms was straight forward. Both hives are doing well and still have a lot of honey packed away. I tend to be conservative when it comes to harvesting honey because you never know what the Austin summer will bring plus I’d rather not feed my bees in fall or winter if I can help it. Both hives are also bringing in a lot of pollen.

Knives Frame of Pollen

I’ll end this week’s post with a shot of something that represents the sound of summer in Austin.

That's not a bee!

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Brought to you by the letters H and S

In my third year of beekeeping, I believe I have found the magic formula for an enjoyable honey harvest.

  1. Use a bee escape
  2. Remove frames from hive
  3. Harvest honey
  4. Enjoy a delicious meal and a honey and spirits based beverage
  5. Bottle honey

Even though it has been near 100 degrees for the past few days, the bee escape did its job, and I had minimal bees in the supers for the harvest. I was able to pull two full eight frame supers off my Baab-Brock Farm’s hives.

Two Supers!

My spring time harvests have typically been a very light floral honey, and this harvest was no exception.

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The bee escape does remove all the bees from the super so pests will try and take advantage of the situation. In my case, I had to deal with small hive beetles but there was no place for them to hide.

Small hive beetle destruction

After the harvest, you do need to wait to let the honey separate from the wax if you are using the crush and strain method. Brenna found a delicious cocktail recipe that uses both honey and scotch called the Penicillin, and it cures what ails you.

Penicillin Cocktails

We probably pulled close to 50 pounds of honey today.

Two gallons of honey

Here is a great shot that shows 3 seasons of Worker Bee Honey with today’s harvest in the middle.

Three seasons of Worker Bee Honey

There is still a bunch of uncapped honey in both hives so I expect at least one more honey harvest before the Texas summer kills everything. I only hope we will get some good fall rains again this year so that our fall nectar flow is as good as our spring one.

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Dial H for Honey

I’m convinced that Baab-Brock farms is ideally situated for creating massive honey producing machines. Even during the drought last year, the two hives I had were able to gather enough honey for their own winter stores.

I always tell folks not to expect honey their first year as a beekeeper as a general rule of thumb. Rue has decided to break all those rules and pack away honey like it is going out of style. She has seriously filled up three supers worth of the stuff.

Here’s a frame of honey.
Honey Frame

And another.
Honey Frame

Oh look, here is another one.
Honey Frame

Not to be outdone, Knives 2.0 has refilled her honey super that I harvested less than 3 weeks ago.

Honey Frame

I’m planning on a massive honey harvest this upcoming weekend because these hives are about to be taller than I am. Rue is already at 6 supers, and I’ll need a ladder soon if she keeps on growing. I can’t believe this hive started in April.

Rue's Hive with 6 Supers

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