Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Chickens are such attention hogs

I had been neglecting our bees. For the first time in a few months, I went into the hives yesterday afternoon and found gallons of honey, but not a single bee. I had been scrupulously leaving the honey for them to enjoy over the winter, but apparently that was unnecessary. So I removed a frame and manually extracted the honey by scooping the comb into a cheesecloth and squeezing it into a bowl which was, as you can imagine, a colossal, sticky mess. I did manage to extract a pint and a half and it's delicious honey. If the bees were alive, I'd be disgustingly smug.

Given our substantial investment in bee infrastructure, I'm going to order more bees and try again this spring. If I can keep them alive for an entire year, maybe I'll buy a honey extractor. 

16 comments:

  1. Sad about the dead bees, but great bracelets!

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  2. Agreed--I want those bracelets for my own.

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  3. Wait a minute, so how did the bees die? (Or did they move?) Is it common for them to make gallons of honey and then die? Where are their little dead bee bodies?

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  4. Was wondering about your bees when I read a great blog post and article about bees. I'll see if I can find them for you b/c it was very sad--the author had to burn his heritage hives from his grandfather b/c whatever killed the bees in them would still be there and they needed to be burned. His grandfather was terminally ill at the time so it was very poignant. So it might be worth investigating.

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  5. And meanwhile, YUM on the honey and enjoy.

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  6. I should really google before I comment. Blog post his here:
    http://bigcitycountryboy.blogspot.com/2010/03/on-learning-to-listen.html
    Essay here:
    http://www.theatlantic.com/food/archive/2010/03/the-hive-is-where-the-heart-is/36823/
    Should have known he was from the late lamented Gourmet.

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  7. Gah, working too fast and totally embarrassing myself. Essay is here:
    http://www.gourmet.com/magazine/2000s/2008/08/beekeeping

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  8. Yikes, what DID happen to the bees? I had no idea that they were gone. The honey looks spectacular.

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  9. i assume the bees died -- or I suppose they could have swarmed? A few dead bodies, but mostly just honey and empty, moldy brood comb.
    Thanks about the bracelets!

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  10. Sorry to hear about the bees.
    Do you have any beekeepers' associations locally or know of any online advice boards or fora for beekeepers in the USA? In the UK these are quite useful places for contacting experienced keepers who can sometimes help work out the cause of bee loss. Might help avoid exposing new bees to viruses or toxins? Good looking honey, though and hope the hives can be revived.

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  11. I spoke with an expert beekeeper. He said your bees were infected by a certain parasite that causes them to lose their orientation. What happened was they flew away, but could not find their way back. There is an affordable vaccine of some sort that you can give them (or your new ones) - it is really easy. Let me know if you would like to have his email address - he can give you some really great tips.

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  12. Nichols -- I would love the email of your beekeeper. I was also going to ask some local beekeepers in our area, of which there are many. J

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  13. His email address is herbert.hohmann@bbraun.com. I asked him about passing on his address last week, so he is expecting your email.
    Glad to be able to give it to you - I have enjoyed reading your blog ever since it was promoted on Slate's Culture Gabfest.

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  14. Nichols: How in God's name do you vaccinate a bee? Or do you somehow do it to the whole hive at once?

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  15. I thought the cause of death was the Buckeye tree...

    I spoke to a biologist last spring and he agreed with your guy that Buckeye tree flowers are deadly to non-native bees..

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