Friday, May 21, 2010

Bees and Beekeeping..........

Ever wonder what goes in to making good honey, I mean really good honey?  Actually, there's a lot involved in being a bee keeper, and in producing a special, raw, natural honey.  I'm just learning the ins and outs of the trade myself, and the more I learn, the more I really appreciate a gourmet honey.  I thought it would be fun to share with you some of what I've been learning.

Now is the time of year to divide the hives (which involves "making" new queens and starting new colonies) after the cool weather, and to get the bees out to locations that will have plenty of food - be it clover, black berries, coffee berries, wild grape plants, wildflowers, orchard flowers......  whatever "fodder" will keep the bees working hard to turn pollen into honey. 

Last week I followed Seth and Zion - the two guys of "Two Guys Honey"- while they were setting about 20 hives in a new location across the street from Blue Fountain Farm at Piras Ranch. They showed up with the "Bee Mobile", and were dressed up in their protective suits (I thought they looked like bio-hazard guys), and drove into the pasture.

This time of the year, the hives are full of bees, but they haven't produced much honey yet, so the guys can carry the hives off the truck without using the boom.  When it's time to collect the honey, or move the hives later in the summer, they get very, very heavy - that's when the boom comes in handy.

Moving bees happens best when the bees are somewhat inactive, such as early in the  morning when it's cool, so they stay quietly in their hives, and don't cause the guys too much trouble.

Zion opened a hive for me to look into, and there were quite a few bees in there, (most were hiding between the frames) but they were pretty sedate.

The above bees were quiet, but soon we found a hive that was wondering, "What the heck??  Where are we?", and Zion had to give them a little dose of smoke so they would settle down.

Luckily, it worked - especially since I did not have a protective suit on, nor was I using my big telephoto lens from far away!

The men got the hives all facing a certain direction, eventually had all the hives on the ground, and that was it for that day.

There are a couple of ways to collect the honey (which is done later in the summer in the warm weather) from the frames inside the hives, but last year we had the fun of doing it the old fashioned way - to scrape it from the frame itself, and enjoy it immediately over vanilla ice cream!


It was a smash-hit, and enjoyed by all..............let's say it was "finger lickin' good!"............

Eventually, whichever way you get the honey out of the frames, it gets poured into jars, and it's ready to serve!  Yum!!

And that's a very shortened version of Beekeeping 101.  There really is quite a lot of work involved in maintaining  healthy, happy bees, and a lot that I didn't get into here, but I surely have a greater appreciation for how honey comes to being than I ever did before.  Hope you do as well!

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