It’s that time of year again, honey harvesting at our ranch in Upstate New York. I have to say I can not complain about the beauty we get to behold here while we work the ranch and process the honey.
This year is going to be uniquely fun due to the picture below. My bees are doing so well some of them swarmed. Swarming is the process by which a new honey bee colony is formed when the queen bee leaves the colony with a large group of worker bees. Swarming is the natural means of reproduction of honey bee colonies.
Our hives are doing well enough that we will be selling our honey this year at retail outlets in the community and online. We are excited about this. Since we run an organic ranch and farm, we do NOT use sugar in winter to help feed the bees. We will not use any GMO based sugars in our operation. Therefore we harvest only moderately in summer and fall to assure there are enough honey stores left in the hives to keep the bees alive through our long winters. It is great to see the bees doing so well this year!!
I am writing today about several things: 1) what to do with a swarm, 2) how to set up your hives for best success, and 3) how to protect against wildlife (bears) if you live in the mountains.
So, first — What to do with a swarm?
I wil be catching this swarm today. This is what I am going to be doing once I am fully bee suited. First, I am going to weed wack around my other two hives and get the grass low so as not to impede the flight path of the bees to the entrance of the two existing hives. Second, my husband and I will lay another pallet down next to the other two hives. Third, I am going to set up another bee hive set up with base box and frames. While there I will also open up the other two hives and check inside for how much honey there is for extraction later this week. Fourth, I am going to take one of my bee transporting boxes and bring it over to the swarm. Fifth, I am going to knock the swarm down with a stick into the bee transporting box and then close the box. Sixth, I am then going to take the box over to the new bee hive I’ve just stood up and dump the bees inside that box. I will leave the lid off the top and let them settle in. I will then set the transporting box to the side of the hive and let those bees leave and follow the queen inside the new hive. Seventh, later tonight I will remove the transporting box and then also put the lid on the top of the hive as they settle in for the night. Eight, I will monitor the new hive for the next several days. That, is how you collect and move a swarm.
So, on to how to locate your hives so they will succeed.
- It’s important that you place the hives in a location where you can get to it from a motor vehicle. Trust me, the hive frames when loaded with honey are HEAVY. And they need to be moved at that point to whereever you choose to process the honey.
- It’s also important to set the hives outside of people’s line of site in the community. Some folks just aren’t so happy having bees around and will blame you and your apiary for every bee they see flying in the community. With nuisance laws it can deter some people’s ability to have hives if highly visible.
- If you live in a cold climate such as upstate New York, you absolutely want the hives shielded from heavy winds.
- You want the hive to have morning sun to warm the hive, less sun mid day so as not to overheat the hive and sun in the evening to warm the hive again.
- You want the bees to be close to water and to flowers they feed on.
- You want protection around the hive.
Below are several pictures to show our location of our hives.
Above you can see the hives, while in the woods for wind protection, have a direct path of cleared trees to fly and forage with access to water. The river is right next to the fence.
I literally have a garden right next to the bee hives in the clearing of goldenrod to assure the bees can forage until late fall. This is a wonder of the Adirondacks, though a cold climate in winter, it has probably the longest honey harvest season in the country due to early spring willow (earliest plant to offer nectar in spring), maple, then clovers etc. all summer and goldenrod late into October. The very long season for bees in Upstate New York and the diversity of plants bees forage on make the honey the best tasting honey there is. Amazing right?
Directly behind the hives is our developing sugar bush with sugar maples. We literally have hundreds of sugar maples in these woods that we have intended to turn into a operating sugar bush. Maple is the second nectar flow behind willows for bees in early spring. Also, right to the left of the hives is a pond that is wrapped by willows — the first flowing nectar of the season. So indeed, our bees are VERY HAPPY HERE.
I have had our hives in this location for four years and we have never had bears attack the hives. This is due to the electric fence powered by a solar charger that works amazingly well. I recommend it for all bee keepers.
When shooting a photograph up above the hives you can see that the location is nicely shaded above the hives with a mix of pines, poplars and sugar maples. But, the sun shines on the front of the hive throughout the day for warmth.
Raising bees has been one of the most thrilling experiences of my life. Because we also raise dairy goats, the wax from the hives allows me to make medicinal salves. The honey I add to my soaps along with my goat milk. The honey we also use and sell with our herbal teas. My primary set of products we sell at our ranch/farm are ‘high value’ products from our wool, soaps, salves, and organic raw honey. Bees were my doorway into medicinals and honestly, learning about pollination and the true cycle of life as seen through the eyes of a bee has shaped the person I’ve become.
I hope this article was helpful learning more about bees!
God Bless! L. Davis