Thursday, July 17, 2014
Sustainable Bee Keeping - How Long Until a Hive Becomes Productive?
Recently I went around to see if I had any more frames of cured honey to pull off. Typically I do this about every month starting in May or June but this year it has been so humid that although the girls have a bunch of honey in the hives very little of it is actually cured yet.
Basically as the bees add barfed up nectar to the cells they fan air over it until it reaches a particular moisture content of I believe less than 17 or 18%. At that point the honey is cured and they cap it up and from there honey will store indefinitely as long as it isn't exposed to air.
It's just been so humid this year the girls can't get the nectar cured very fast.
Truth be told though I am still hurting from the drought of 2012 if you can believe it. Even though I replaced the lost hives last Summer and then some I have generally found that hives kept in a more sustainable manner do not really begin producing until their second year. Basically right now I have four hives that are more than two years old, ranging from six years to three but only one hive that is already producing at one year of age. The other eight yearling hives have not completed the second brood chamber or filled out a surplus super to harvest yet.
Generally speaking I allow my hives to get quite large before I take any honey off of them. Usually two complete large brood chambers and a medium super must be filled before I will begin stealing a frame off the top and then it is only one or two at a time. I will also leave partial mediums on the hives over Winter. While some beekeepers would consider this overkill I have found that it's better to be safe than sorry. I attribute allowing the bees all this extra honey is about the only thing that got them through this last Winter to be honest.
Most of my one year old hives are now working on their first medium supers now. I believe I have one that is still lagging and hasn't completed their second brood chamber yet.
I figure I prep for emergencies the bees should as well I guess. It also doesn't help that I allow hives to swarm sometimes to break the mite cycle and refuse to treat but I believe overall the payout is much healthier bees with a little less honey production.
To each his or her own I guess. Hopefully next year I will jump from four hives producing to twelve though.
Keep Prepping Everyone!!!