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Saturday, August 16, 2014

The Beekeepers' Lament

My husband and I are beekeepers. We have three hives of Russian bees. Last year, our first year in fact, we expected to get no honey from our two hives because the bees had so much work to do. You put wooden frames in the bee boxes (called supers) filled with wax foundation that is like a blueprint. The bees "draw out" the cells on the foundation with wax and use them to store nectar and pollen and for the nest cells for the bee brood.  Check it out on the right.

Last year one of our hives surprised us by working so hard that we were able to harvest twenty pounds of honey, a real coup for our first year. This year, we were able to divide our hives and get a third "nucleus hive" and expected we would easily harvest 80 pounds of honey since the frames were mostly drawn and ready to be filled. 

A Russian bee on our marigolds with a full pollen pocket
Well, today is the group honey harvest and we checked out our three hives yesterday. A frame needs to be 90% filled with capped honey in order to harvest. (The bees cap the honey with wax when it's the right moisture content. It prevents the honey from fermenting after it's harvested.) Yikes! Not one frame of 90% capped honey. Lots of nectar, lots of brood, but no honey ready for harvesting. I am complaining today to the patrons of beekeepers, St. Ambrose and St. Valentine. They helped us earlier in the season when we were having queen problems. Maybe they will get in the hives and give those bees a pep talk. We still hope to get a little honey before the end of the summer, but it isn't looking good. My husband says Putin probably sent a message to all the Russian bees to go on strike in retaliation for sanctions against Russia.

Maybe next year we'll add some Italian bees to our bee yard. Hmmm...I wonder if a little opera would help. La Traviata for the Italians; Boris Godunov for the Russians.

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