Tag Archives: urban beekeeping

Mystery Honey Solved

While I have yet to receive the formal report, I did get an e-mail from Dr. Vaughn Bryant confirming my suspicion that the thick woody smelling honey I pulled off two of my hives was in fact honeydew honey.

Here is the text from his e-mail:

I did complete the pollen study. It does not contain any pollen but it does contain lots of honeydew elements and thus, it is what you suspected….a honeydew sample. I was going to take some pictures of the fungal spores in the honeydew and send them to you. However, I was at West Point Military Academy lecturing last week and just returned.

I’ll post a follow up when I get the official results, but it is at least nice to know the girls aren’t dumpster diving for food.

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Keeping Bees in Towns & Cities

Luke Dixon is a London beekeeper whose new book Keeping Bees in Towns and Cities was just published.

In addition to giving the basics on starting a hive, he talked to 23 other beekeepers around the world about their experiences and added it to his book. I was one of the lucky ones he picked so if you buy a copy or see it in your local book store, open it up to page 148 to see my smiling face. I guess now I can just sit back and wait for the movie offers to come rolling in.

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The Queen is Dead! Long Live the Queen!

Last week’s requeening of Rue’s hive got postponed due to some much needed rain in the Austin area. We decided to requeen Friday after work in the early evening. The thought was even though we’d have more field bees coming back to the hive for the evening, that would also play in our favor as the girls would have to settle down and return to the hive when the sun went down.

Rue’s hive is currently six medium supers, and of course we didn’t find her until we got down to the first super on the second to last frame. By that time, the girls were really worked up, and I felt I was touring a banana factory with all the alarm pheromone in the air.

My initial thought was the hive had requeened itself like Large Marge did, but the queen I found was marked so it was the original queen installed in April. I do think she was perhaps starting to fail as I found more empty cells in frames than I would have expected as I went through each super. She also didn’t seem to be moving as quickly as I’ve seen in the past.

Here’s a shot of the stingers I found in my gloves after the inspection.

Honey Bee Stingers

I picked up the new queen this morning and installed her in the hive. I wasn’t about to open up the hive again, so I’m trying the method of just placing the queen cage on the bottom board through the front entrance. I tied a piece of twine to the cage so I can easily pull it out in a week to see if the queen has been released.

Now I just have to sit back and wait. Other than checking on the queen cage, I’m going to leave this hive alone for at least two weeks. Hopefully this new queen will produce some gentler bees.

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What’s going on behind that capped cell?

During the last honey extraction, while inspecting the frames to kill any small hive beetles still lurking about, I noticed one lone capped brood cell in a frame otherwise filled with capped honey. I carefully removed the developing bee since I didn’t want it in the honey.

Once the cell has been capped, the metamorphosis is well on its way and it is very obvious now that this is a bee in the making.

Honey Bee Larva

Honey Bee Larva

Honey Bee Larva

Of course, these great macro shots just don’t happen by themselves. The Worker Bee Honey team uses the latest photography techniques and exotic reflective materials to bring you these fantastic photos. Here is a behind the scene shot of the state of the art facility used.

Behind the scenes bee shoot

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News from the Hives

I’ve bad been about updating since our return from Seattle, so a synopsis post is in order.

We did another honey harvest this past weekend with a super from Sunshine Community Gardens and a super from Rue in Baab-Brock Farms. I was pleased to see that the Sunshine honey was just that. Nothing weird about it although the light floral honey from early spring has now given way to the darker late summer honey.

Rue had 4 frames of good honey and 4 frames of the mystery honey. I finally got to the post office and mailed off a sample to A&M for analysis today so perhaps an answer is just a week or two away.

I am also planning on requeening Rue this weekend. This hive has gotten aggressive as of late, and one of the neighbors got stung (on her birthday no less). I don’t want another Large Marge experience so I’m taking the steps now to try and nip this problem in the bud. I’m anticipating a fun Saturday trying to find the old queen.

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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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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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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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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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The Honey Must Flow

Before I get to the exciting honey news, Rosemary is trucking along, and I decided to remove the entrance reducer and add a third super to the hive.

Rosemary's Entrance Reducer Removed

She is starting to store honey in the frames so I also removed the feeder and will hopefully be done feeding this hive for the season. This is a good thing with her propensity for building wax on the inner cover with the feeder on. Nothing too bad this week, but I’m glad to be done with holding my breath every time I open the hive.

Wax on the Inner Cover

Moving on to Baab-Brock farms, Rue surprised me with her third super entirely filled with honey.

Honey frame in Rue's HIve

They are just starting to cap it so it is not quite ready to harvest. There must be a good flow on for them to basically fill out a super in a week’s time. My only concern with harvesting out of this hive is I was feeding them up until the 20th. While the bulk of this wax and honey has been drawn out in the past week, there could be a few frames of “honey” they may be the syrup I was feeding them.

The hero of this week is Knives 2.0 for having 2 supers filled with honey in various stages of curing. I was able to pick out 8 frames of capped honey for harvesting. I didn’t get a chance to use the bee escape as I was out of town for most of the weekend. I was concerned about brushing the bees off the combs, but Knives 2.0 makes some chill bees so it was a non-event.

One of the days I’m going to buy an extractor, but until then, it is the crush and strain method for me.

Untitled

Here is a shot of all the wax in the first straining bucket.

caps and comb

After it strains through the first bucket and then a fine mesh, it is ready to bottle.

Where Worker Bee Honey comes from

Please pay no attention to the cat. Worker Bee Honey is bottled in near cleanroom facilities.

Bottled in a highly hygenic facility

Bottling in Worker Bee Honey clothing is essential for extra flavor.

Worker Bee Honey worker bee #1

After all the honey drains, you are left with wax that needs to be melted and used for various fun projects. Stay tuned for those in future posts.

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