by April Paffrath
So many bits o' honey to discuss! I'll break it into a few posts, so it's easy to read. It's a heavy honey week with articles, Pollinator Week at Miel, and a new local honey we found this weekend. (Miel is doing a special menu this week for Pollinator Week. More about that tomorrow, but in the meantime, let me say that the fourme d"ambert with honey roasted seckle pears sounds great. Go there this week to try the special menu(pdf).)
To start, though, are our favorite bees from Carlisle.
I checked in with Ed Erny of Carlisle Honey recently. Ed is letting us follow along with the hives so we can keep track of what happens to a hive over the course of a season. Not only is that season-long story flat-out interesting to those of us who adore honey, but it's pretty important to those of us who like fruits, vegetables, nuts and more—all the foods and plants that bees and honeybees pollinate.
At the beginning of June, two swarms left the hives. Swarms can happen because a hive has grown beyond the bounds of its physical confines. It can also happen because the queen has neared the end of her productivity—the hive can build queen cells in which they will raise a new queen to lead the hive. Bees will swarm with a queen, looking for a new hive and home.
One thing I learned form Ed (and from the British bee guy on Twitter) is that when bees ready themselves to swarm, they fill up with as much honey as they can, so they have food and provisions for the new hive. In filling up with honey, their abdomens are in a more distended position that makes stinging more difficult—but they will still sting! However, it changes the popular idea of a swarm that is angry and picking for a fight. A swarm isn't angry, it's searching. They're just looking for a home and aren't out there making trouble...as long as you don't get in their way. Stay away from the bees and call a professional beekeeper if you see a swarm. A beekeeper can collect the hive and install them safely in a new home and not in someone's attic eaves.
So some of the Carlisle bees left to make a new home, which is a natural process. A beekeeper can do some things to make swarming less likely, but it can still happen as part of a hive's growth. When Ed was telling me about it, I was encouraged, in a way, to think that the hive was robust enough that some left home to make a new hive. With the collapse of so many colonies, perhaps it's a good thing that these bees will try to make a home—and another hive—somewhere. Will it make a rare feral hive and will it survive?
The Carlisle bees were gathering from dandelions recently and, now that clover has bloomed, they're adding those flowers to the honey, too. There's a greater supply of honey this spring than last, simply because it was drier earlier in the spring, allowing the bees to have more foraging time. I wonder how this endless rain lately has affected them.
We'll have to wait for another dispatch to know for sure and to learn how the bees and honey have fared the switch from spring to summer.
(cc) Photo courtesy of Max xx on Flickr