This information sent in our newsletter is important enough to share. In your preparations for the approach of Hurricane Matthew, be sure to make preparations for your bees!
It’s not the greatest year to be a beginning beekeeper. The weather has been horrific.
It’s June and my bees (installed in May) are working on the second deep brood box (Hive A) or just filling out the first brood box (Hive B).I have identified larvae, capped brood, and capped honey…but I can’t seem to spot either eggs or a queen. However, there’s always new larvae, so I’m clearly missing the queen and the eggs. It’s frustrating. There’s also been robbing going on, despite my best efforts to keep them both happily fed. Today, however, I hope to have fixed that problem.
Today I added (it just came, I’ll paint it when I have time) the Mann Lake internal feeder. It holds four gallons of sugar-water and allows the bees to feed inside the hive. I can even refill the feeder by taking off the telescoping top without disturbing the bees (too much).
Now that I’ve removed the outside feeders, I’m hoping the robbing will stop and my bees will get back to doing what they are supposed to be doing…making baby bees and honey!
It was really hot outside today when I checked the hives, even though it was 3:30. I saved one from drowning in the water feeder I have set up and felt really good about myself.
My bees are generally good natured; I haven’t been stung yet. My extensive checking and photo taking of Hive A, however, tested the patience of my other-wise saintly bees. There was some buzzing mumbling going on, but they behaved themselves.
All of the following pictures are from Hive A. Hive B looks very similar except that the bees have not worked their way into the second box yet.
Warning: The linked images are very large.
Some people collect old money; some people collect old cars. I collect old recipes. This one just happens to be of Persian/Iranian origin and is super-old. Sekanjabin is a drink made from honey and vinegar that is often flavored with mint. It can be flavored with a variety of things, however, including cinnamon. I haven’t tried it yet, but I think citrus peels would be good as well.
Now, before you walk away this because there is vinegar in it, trust me. This is really tasty.
Persians would drink sekanjabin mixed with water during the summertime because it was refreshing. The vinegar adds electrolytes, the honey adds sugar making the drink an ancient form of energy drink.
Here’s how you make it:
- 1 part honey (2 cups in our example – sugar may be used as a substitute for honey)
- 1 part water (2 cups)
- 1/2 part red wine vinegar (1 cup)
- Handful of fresh mint sprigs, to taste
Take the honey and water and heat stirring occasionally till boiling. The honey will dissolve in the water making what is known as a simple syrup. It should be pretty much translucent; if using sugar, the syrup will be clear. There may be a scum that develops on the top of the syrup from the honey. I rarely bother to skim it off. It can make the final product a little cloudy, so if you are hoping for a crystal clear liquid, be sure to skim it.
Add the red wine vinegar; return to a boil then allow to simmer for half an hour. This simmering removes almost all noticeable traces of the vinegar.
Remove from heat and steep mint springs in syrup until cool. A note about flavorings: the more you add the heavier the taste will be. When I made this several years ago with cinnamon, I was of the mindset that you cannot have too much cinnamon. I was right; but it did carry a bite.
Add to water in a ratio of about 1 to 6. I have seen all different suggestions for ratios (1 to 10 through 1 to 3), but I believe you have to season your drink to taste. I like a heavier flavor to my water, so I generally use a 1 to 5. Experiment. You can always add more water or more syrup.
The syrup itself can also be used as a dip for certain vegetables. Leaves of butter lettuce and cucumber slices taste fantastic when dipped in sekanjabin, especially on a hot day.
Generally, this doesn’t stay in the house long enough to test if and how it will go bad. I’ve read a variety of ideas on how best to store it from keep refrigerated to shelf stable for years. I can say that I have had a dark brown bottle filled with sekanjabin in my pantry closet for well over a year and it was fine when I took it out. Refrigerating the syrup may make it thicken and be more difficult to pour.
Now we’re cooking with honey.
Wow. I am so glad that I did. Of the ten frames in the box, six appeared to to be full with the next two being drawn on. I didn’t do a full inspection because the smoker and I are not friends yet and I didn’t want to stress the bees too much with the weather.
From my cursory inspection, however, there are lots of bees in the hive, milling about as I expected them to be. On the third frame in from the side, I saw lots of capped cells.
The bees now have a second box on each hive – they are really moving up in the world. I told them that if they continue to work hard, soon they will be able to move into a high-rise. Here’s hoping for sunny days soon.
“Demeter to Bee Control; I’m on approach.”
“Demeter, all landing pads are open. You are clear to land to the right, Aristaeus is taking off on the left.”
“Copy, Bee Control.”
“Bee Control to Aristaeus, have a good flight!”
“Copy, Bee Control, Arisaeus transferring to free flight.”
“Bee Control to S-2375, come in Artemis.”
“Artemis to Bee Control; I’m on approach right behind Demeter.”
“Artemis, you are clear to land as soon as Demeter is clear.”
“Copy, Bee Control.”
Apparently, my bees are Greek…even though they are Italian.
It’s been kind of a crazy week…but I was finally able to get my bees on Sunday night. We picked the girls up around 8:30 p.m. and settled them down in their small apiary set up next to the chicken coop. We’ve got two hives, at the moment simply referred to as Hive A and Hive B.
The next morning (Monday) I brought some sugar water out to the hives and found that there were already quite a few bees doing orienteering flights and otherwise hovering around the hive. Over the course of the day, which was really nice and warm, the bees were really active. I saw some activity that looked like it could be fighting, but it was localized and stopped about mid-day. I’m guessing some of the bees got confused. Perhaps I should have painted the hives different colors.
Since then the weather has been pretty lousy and I haven’t wanted to spoil the relationship I have with my girls by cracking open their hive when it is drizzling, I haven’t done a full inspection of the hive yet. I have, however, been able to see worker bees coming back to the hive heavy with pollen. I also watched a few bees get a drink from the watering station I set up between the hives. A few more bees were drinking from the waterfall/pond I have set up in my front yard.
I just hope the weather brightens up soon. My garden loves the warm, wet weather, but the bees and I – we’re not crazy about it.
My house is all a buzz lately…we are getting our first batch of bees soon!
Why bees? First off, why not? Secondly…honey! Third, as pollinators bees are responsible for keeping our food supplies (up to one third of our food crops) growing. I, personally, really like food. So I’m all for things that keep food crops growing.
How did I get into beekeeping? I’d been contemplating it for a few years – our family already keeps chickens and attempts to maintain a small garden – but it wasn’t until a friend of mine declared that she was going to start a hive that I decided to jump in as well. We attended a beginning beekeeping class given by the Hoke County Beekeepers that consisted of a ton of information, classroom discussions, and practical experience in a local apiary (that’s a bee yard for those of you new to bees). Just last week we went to the apiary again to split some hives and gather her bees.
I have my two hives painted and ready…I’m just waiting on the bees.