The beekeeping life continues on the usual schedule. We are busy clearing the honey boxes off of the hives, keeping the extractors spinning, and doing our best to lower the mite loads. The hive populations generally look quite good, but there are some hives that clearly need food in the near future. Some of the singles really didn't store anything significant in their brood chambers, and right now the first significant rain in two and a half months is falling. It will be at least another day before the bees are able to attempt much foraging.
The fall bloom is decent. After a period of near dearth, it seems the bees are getting some honey off the goldenrod in some areas. Here is the field of yellow that is adjacent to one of my locations:
A few asters are getting attention as well:
Despite some honey coming into the hives, the flow isn't strong enough to dissuade the bees from shifting into robbing mode whenever the truck is parked next to them while we are harvesting. The scene has been manageable, but it's certainly not as peaceful as when there are more foraging opportunities available in the field.
Extracting continues over in Lynnville. The honey has arrived in a staggered manner. First we got a nice flow that filled a lot of boxes in eastern Iowa, and now there have been a couple of good weeks in central Iowa. While it would be nice to have strong flows in both locations for the entire summer, it has relieved some of the pressure that we might have felt on the processing end of things.
Most of the white clovers are spent, and there isn't much trefoil aside from areas where it got mowed and then came back into flower. Red clover is still blooming decently, but the bees haven't gotten on it like last year when he had a drought and higher temperatures. Some soybeans are still in bloom after delayed planting, but a lot of them are pretty tall at this point.
Some of our honey is for sale in the Agricultural Building at the famed Iowa State Fair. Just go up to the second floor of the agriculture building and visit the Iowa Honey Producers' Stand (and enjoy some honey lemonade at the same time).
The fair is also a good place to buy honeycomb. A few of our combs are at the honey booth this year, including some of these darker wildflower sections that came in recently:
These sections are markedly darker than the ones that appear a couple of posts earlier. It's interesting that the year when we've gotten a disproportionate number of extremely light combs is also the year when we've gotten some of the darkest sections in our memory. We see something new every year!
We still have two or three weeks with good potential to put surplus honey in the boxes. The really wet spring delayed soybean planting, so we have a decent chance of catching some of that honey in a later flow. It would be nice to have some kind of benefit since we always worry about the insecticides drifting over the fields at different times of the year. Soybeans aren't a very dependable honey source though--they're pretty finicky about yielding a lot of nectar.
The bad news is that it got pretty chilly--lower seventies all of a sudden. Although people weary of the summer heat were pleased about the cool down, we are disappointed because our bees were in high gear when the temperature change hit. We're supposed to slowly ramp back up into the mid 80s, but we always worry that the bees won't shift back into gathering mode instantaneously (if at all). Luckily, we have only a few more weeks of wondering about the crop's size and character. Then we will shift toward mite control and winterizing once more.
We just finished extracting the first pull from the eastern Iowa bees that I manage. Hopefully there will be a second pull that boosts the barrel count. Here are some of the extra-full frames that we had the pleasure of extracting recently.
The cut comb boxes are also coming in for sectioning. Here is an example of how markedly the floral source affects the honey color--some really light sections and some really dark ones. These particular combs are from the Lynnville bees, but I've had a few root beer-colored combs from time to time too.
Here are some coneflowers that I planted in my front yard to entice the honeybees. It turns out that the bumblebees are visiting them much more frequently than my little friends, but they still look nice!
The honey story is continuing to improve. Earlier, only the overwintered colonies and very strong splits were producing. Now, only the very slowest colonies and late requeens are lagging. I started a few dozen packages this year to aid my expansion, and almost all of them are significant producers at this point. Now we need the next few weeks to find out if it will be an "okay" year or a really nice crop.
I went around yesterday and found that straight boxes of foundation are just getting whited with little flakes of wax--it seems the flow is strong enough that we will get some new combs (if the weather holds favorably). Our fingers are still crossed, but we're also breathing a little easier as the crop becomes more substantial.
The past several days have seen tremendously increased activity in the honey boxes. Our main honey flow usually comes in July, and that seems to be the case this year too. Clovers and trefoil are both peaking right now, and the temperatures are in the upper 80s and lower 90s. Pretty great honey-making conditions. Last night Alex and I both had bees flying intensely at almost 9 p.m. Here are some images I took a few days ago with honey filling the boxes. It is the same yard that appears a few posts earlier during the pollination period when many of the hives were singles.
Entire boxes covered with bees whiting the combs with fresh wax are a great sign. Most of the stronger hives are working at least two boxes in this manner at the moment.
The later splits are the only hives that still need to get into gear. While there is not yet a great crop, it is becoming more probable that we will at least have a decent result from this year's beekeeping efforts.