Monday, September 21, 2009

Honey Harvest 2009

Well it has been a tough year for the bees. Our bees only produced 1/3 of what they did last year. The total production this year was just over 100 lbs, making this liquid gold even more precious this year.

We're really not sure what happened though. The newbees we purchased in April that gave us fits with the failed queen release have been nothing but trouble this year. They were supposed to be Minnesota Hygienic bees, but I'm not so sure. They don't behave at all like those we've had before. The queen must be a party animal, she is very productive and the colony built up very fast and very strong. This new colony is also the most aggressive bees we've ever had - they are HOT! The last few times we've been out to visit the hives, just as soon as we take the lid of of these hundreds come pouring out and go straight for your face with aggression. It wouldn't be so bad if that is what we were accustomed to, but the other colonies are gentle lady-bugs by comparison.

The other thing strange about this colony was the unusual open patterns in the honey frames as shown in the photo in the previous post. Even at harvest, we found nearly all of the frames half-empty, and dotted with pollen as shown below - very strange. This really reduced our harvest. It was not as if they had been raided or even got hungry, rather the open parts were never touched. I'm putting blame on bad genetics and we'll replace the queen.

The survivor colony was slow building up in the spring and slow to fill the honey supers too. There was nothing particularly unusual about them this year, no ailments, just generally not very strong. Looks like another candidate for queen replacement, should they actually survive the winder again.

Finally we have the feral colony we rescued from a tree. They seem strong enough, but not too aggressive. But we got them so late they didn't really have any opportunity to compete for production this year. They now seem to have a good population and hopefully they'll survive the winter and be our most productive colony next year. We'll see. Maybe they will produce another queen we can use on one of the other colonies too.


Ethan Blake said...

Bees are known to develop smaller and smaller sizes as the broodcomb gets wrapped with tiny layer of wax by worker bees after each hatch. Thus, production might be falling behind due to a weaker/smaller honeybee. Cycle the broodcomb and keep your hives well insulated by leaving honey filled frames on the sides of the hive. Queens laying will intensify in a warm hive. Also queens like darker/aged comb better in layings. She will particularly avoid new wax for old every time.

Great site, love the picture!

2-Wheeler said...

Thanks Ethan, good advice. Yes we started removing about 1/5 of the old frames last year and replacing them with new and dating the frames to keep track.