Apiary update

September in the apiary

September in the apiary

Apiary is a fancy word for bee yard. At the start of September our bee-yard has four lavender-colored top bar hives that are queen-right, healthy, and filled to the back bar with comb. Our mentors say they look just like they should at this time of year, which makes us happy. We also have a yellow Warre hive filled with a feral swarm. We have situated this collection of hives behind the garage in a meadow bordering our backyard woodlot. We’ve put the herb spiral in that meadow, which the bees adore. They also like the bird bath (really a bee bath) we installed so they could get to fresh water.

Many plants give pollen, which the bees collect and eat as their protein source. Before I kept bees I didn’t know that so few plants actually give nectar. In this county the main nectar sources are big leaf maple in the spring and blackberry in the fall. Lesser sources include fireweed and thistle. So yeah, weeds Dana Coggan tries to get us to control are the ones that make local honey.

This was a bad year for nectar. The blackberries didn’t bloom well or at the right time. When this happens the bees don’t have anything to make honey with, and honey is what they eat to get through the winter. So beekeepers feed the bees with a solution of sugar in water. Natural beekeepers frown on feeding, preferring to steer the bees toward their natural food sources. However in this county and this year we are all feeding to give the bees a fighting chance of putting enough stores by for the winter. Note: bees are livestock and will require feed! Honey made from sugar water is thinner and has less quality than honey made from nectar, beekeepers don’t collect this or sell this as honey. So there isn’t much honey in Kitsap this year.

The bees are already cleaning house for winter. In the cool weather earlier this week a couple of the hives already started dumping out their drone brood. This is such a weird thing to watch – honeybee hives kick the male bees out before winter and hunker down with just the queen and the winter workers. Winter beekeeping is going to be really different, we’ve been very active in the hives all summer, and in winter we’ll have a lot less to do, just try to feed them if they need it and root for them to get through to spring.

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