Yesterday I extracted from my hives, and Dad brought around his honey to extract also. Having had everything set up well, and a nice warm shed to encourage honey flow, made the event very easy, and it was all over too quickly. Actually, the season has been very poor, and so the harvest was far too small. I extracted from 3 boxes of mine, and one of Dads, for a total yield of 27 Kg. (7 from Dads, 20 from mine). When I add it all up, including the December extract, we obtained:
- Apple Hive: 25 Kg
- Olive Hive: 15 Kg
- Dad’s Hive: 44 Kg
This gives a total of 84 Kg, compared to 176 Kg last year. So, what was the cause? I have a feeling that there are two aspects to this –
The first is timing, in that we both missed the opportunity when the nectar was flowing remarkably well in the late spring, and our boxes were full. I think about 1 Kg per day was getting added, perhaps more, and with the pressures of work meaning that I was not getting home until dark on most evenings, meant that I could not capitalise on the flow.
The other aspect, the biggest one, is the climate. We have had a summer of drought, followed by a wet autumn. There just was not the flowers available for the bees to forage from. The wheat and barley farmers down the road have had a ripper of a season, but it has just been too dry for the bees. Dad’s hive has done better due to the urban gardens being better watered.
I also found that Apple hive had a very large varroa burden, to the point that I was suspecting American Foul Brood (AFB, a hideous disease that, in New Zealand, we are trying to eradicate – the only permissible treatment is to dig a hole, put the the hive in it, cover in petrol, and woomph). When a small twig is jabbed into a dead brood that has AFB, it comes out ‘ropey’, and the dried proboscis is often visible. With mine, the dead brood just went squish, and a bunch of mites would run out of the cell. After a very thorough look, I have no AFB thank goodness, but the hive is, under the surface, weakened. I have put strips into the hives, this time I have used ‘Apivar’, to give Bayverol a rest and help prevent resistance. I just hope we have a few more weeks of good weather for enough healthy brood to be laid down before winter, otherwise that hive could be in real trouble. I just waited a couple of weeks too long, in the hope that there would be an Autumn flush of nectar. It makes me feel sad. To be empirical about it, I would have to say that there was no new honey laid down from the beginning of February. I think I should have had mite treatments in by the end of the first week of March.
I will have to feed them this winter, no doubt about it. Still, I aim to do splits in the spring if my hives are doing OK, and have enough woodwork for a couple more hives quite happily.
Even though the tone of this post is somewhat introspective and negative, I still have to say that a jar of honey collected straight from the extractor, with bits of wax in it, tastes absolutely magical. It is a darker honey this time, rich and golden, and very elegant to the palette. I am grateful for the bounty provided to me by my little apis mellifera minions, and solemnly swear to be the best beekeeper I can be to them, in return. Any stings I shall receive are to be attributed to my own fault, and not held against them.