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.
I think it was fitting to inspect my hives on Mother’s Day as Rosemary, Rue and Knives 2.0 each have brought thousands of new bees into this world. We had one of those rare cool May days in Austin, and it was a pleasure spending time outside peeking into the hives.
I think I’ve finally figured out Rosemary’s hive. I had no comb on the inner cover this week so adding that 2nd super was a good call on my part.
I also noticed that Rosemary loves building out frames 1-4 first and ignoring frames 5-8. I need to re-check the level of the hive next week as that is the only thing I could think of that would cause this behavior.
To combat this, I did a frame switch to get the 1st super 8 full frames of drawn comb. We will see if Rosemary continues this trend when I check on the hive next week. The recent rain in Austin is really making the gardens bloom and this patch of sunflowers is just one of many for Rosemary to forage on.
Meanwhile at Baab-Brock Farms, Rue continues to build up quickly, and I added a 3rd super to her hive. Here is a representative shot of the tight brood patterns this queen is producing.
Last but not least, I opened up Knives 2.0’s hive and what a difference a new queen and a few weeks makes. What was once a grumpy queen-less hive is now a thriving gentle one. She is also laying quite well, and I’m hopeful that if the rainfall in Austin continues over the next month or two, I’ll actually get some honey this year.
The only blight on the day was a colony of carpenter ants that took up residence in the outer cover of Knives’ hive. They don’t seem to be entering the hive at all, but just going up and down the outside of the hive.
I replaced the cover with a fresh ant-free one, but now need to figure out how to get the ants out of the old one. I’ve also ordered a big 5 pound container of cinnamon which is a natural ant repellent. We’ll see how well that works in the coming weeks.
You can’t see my face in this picture, but I assure you, I have a very annoyed look.
I made the decision to switch Rue over to a top hive feeder last week even though this hive didn’t seem to have any issues with the Collins Feeder. I guess I should have stuck with the Collins because they started building comb on the bottom of the inner cover.
The good news is they still continued to draw out wax on the frames.
I still didn’t see Rue this week, but eggs and larvae were aplenty. Since 6 out of the 8 frames were drawn out, I added the second super on top. I’m hoping this extra space will encourage the girls to draw out wax in the right location this week.
Here is a shot of the hive with the new super.
Sorry Rue, Rosemary wins this week’s award for best hive.
On March 31st, I installed a new queen in Knives’s hive. I came back the following week to confirm she had been successfully released and laying well. This week I wanted to do a more thorough inspection to gauge the health of the hive as it had been queenless for almost a month.
I was greeted with a wonderful sight in the topmost super. Here is Knives 2.0 in all her glory.
The very top super had a bunch of frames with a combination of eggs and capped brood.
All seemed to be going well until I started going down deeper into the hive. It appears Knives 2.0 is just hanging out in the very top box and isn’t laying anywhere else. Since I knew where she was, I decided to move the super with the queen to the very bottom to get the brood nest going again in the first few supers. The bees weren’t really happy about this.
I’m hoping this is the last time I have to completely rearrange this hive. If the brood nest gets reestablished in the first three supers, this hive will be well on the road to recovery. I’m also looking forward to this queen producing some slightly less hot bees. They aren’t too bad now, but they do tend to get worked up when inspecting deep into the hive.
After a successful installation over at the Sunshine Community Gardens, it was off to Baab-Brock Farms to install the remaining package of bees.
This hive is going in the same location formally occupied by Large Marge so the new queen Rue will have Knives 2.0 as a neighbor. Here is a shot of the bees yearning to be free.
The syrup can on this package almost defeated me, but we eventually got it removed without using a chainsaw.
Here is Queen Rue in her cage. You can just see the yellow dot on her back.
Bees love getting dumped into a hive.
Another successful hive installation!