Monday, August 26, 2013

Honey’s Eternal Shelf Life

Very interesting article: "The Science Behind Honey’s Eternal Shelf Life" by Natasha Geiling. Some highlights:
- Through millennia, the archeologists discover, the food remains unspoiled, an unmistakable testament to the eternal shelf-life of honey.
- Honey is, first and foremost, a sugar. Sugars are hygroscopic...
- It has a pH that falls between 3 and 4.5, approximately, and that acid will kill off almost anything...
- Bees have an enzyme in their stomachs called glucose oxidase (PDF)... this enzyme mixes with the nectar, breaking it down into two by-products: gluconic acid and hydrogen peroxide...
- The earliest recorded use of honey for medicinal purposes comes from Sumerian clay tablets...
- The ancient Egyptians used medicinal honey regularly, making ointments to treat skin and eye diseases...

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Backup Nucs

I started my beekeeping journey early this year. So far, as a hobby, it is very fulfilling and exciting. I harvested my first honey a couple of weeks ago. I read somewhere that the best and sweetest honey is the honey straight from your hives. And that's absolutely true. It's priceless, and my honey is the best I have ever tasted. How exciting is this?

I would like to share with beginning beekeepers the most important lesson I have learned this year: To have small nucs as backups. Just in case your queen becomes non-laying or fails in some other way.

I attended an advanced beekeeping class in May: Queen Grafting. (Thanks to Janet and Rick Baxter for organizing the class and their hospitality.) It was a hands-on workshop with instructor Linda Monahan from Yosemite Gateway Farms. She has been keeping bees for 4 years and uses no treatments on her bees. We had the opportunity to try grafting queens under Linda’s supervision. And it was a success: I had 3 queen cells that I grafted myself.

My plan was to have few small nucs as reserves on the side. First, I had to find enough frames of capped brood with nurse bees to introduce these queen cells. Luckily, I found a local beekeeper who could provide me those frames. I bought 6 frames. At the end, I had 3 nucs with 2 frames each. Then I placed them such that the entrance of each nuc was facing a different direction. This would help foragers and queens returning from their mating flights know easily where to return.

After 10 days, I checked these mating nucs. In the first nuc, the queen had hatched, mated successfully and started to lay eggs. I saw lots of larvae. It was such a joy to see young brood. On the other hand, I did not see any brood in other nucs. I got impatient thinking that those queens had not emerged, and immediately tried to re-graft. I also tried Serge's method of cutting a piece of comb with larvae and installing it horizontally with a piece of toothpick into these nucs. One week later, when I inspected these nucs, I didn't see any queen cells but lots of larvae. It appeared that these queens took their time to mate and start laying.

Finally, I had my backup nucs ready with mated and laying queens. It was a great peace of mind to have the resources if a queen failed in the honey production hives. Here is one of these young queens with her royal chamber.

Soon enough, I had two hives that went south. One queen became non-laying. And the other hive almost died. I still don't know why, but I saw a pile of dead bees in front of the hive, which is really heartbreaking. I could not see any sign of disease in the hive, but I am a beginner, so I don't know exactly what I should look for.

I simply merged these colonies with the backup nucs that are healthy with young, laying queens. One hive recovered immediately. And the other one, I am still monitoring with my fingers crossed.

Thursday, August 8, 2013

First Honey (Alum Rock)

I harvested the first honey from Alum Rock. 1 medium frame. Full of honey, sweet honey...

Alum Rock - Backyard Honey
Untouched Comb Honey

Un-treated Bees
No Drugs
No Antibiotics
No Chemicals
No Supplements
No Bee-wax Foundation
No Plastic Foundation
No Plastic Frames

As natural as it can bee...

Here is Ursula, our host, helping me. We were about to start inspecting the hives. Thanks, Ursula, for providing a nice cozy home to the bees in your wonderful garden.