-Posted by Isaac
It's Summer Honey Time.
This has been a familiar routine during the last month:
Full supers come off the hives and go to the honey house. Empty extracted supers, sticky and sweet, go back on hopefully to be filled again.
Well, here's hoping...
It hasn't exactly been a good year. I've got three bee yards left to pull, but judging from the previous twenty, I'm guessing we'll produce about a third of the summer crop of last year. Too bad. We had such high hopes.
Oh well, we'll just charge three times as much... hahaha!
Is that how it works? No?
|Mr. Blair gets a taste of the hot extracting room.|
As many of you know the Summer Honey is mild and sweet, a bit darker then Spring, a bit lighter then Fall.
And every week at market I get asked what the bees are foraging on, making the different honeys. Spring and Fall are relatively easy: Black Locust and goldenrod respectively. Of course there are other nectar sources mixed in, but for simplicity's sake this is what I say... the major players: black locust trees in May and goldenrod blooming in September. The Summer Honey is more complex. And it can actually vary a little in taste and color from one bee yard to the next. This is because there is such a wide range of flowers available (or not) to the bees during the summer.
For this blog post I tried to capture the bees working a few of these nectar sources.
Clover- the old stand-by
This is Dutch clover. I've noticed that when the bees are on this it means there is nothing else available at the moment. Not a good sign. Yellow clover is a much better nectar source. (I missed getting a picture.)
Canadian Thistle- Makes pretty good light honey. Now if the farmers would just quit bush hogging it!
There is a wide assortment of thistles. The bees don't care.
The summer berries- Raspberries, black berries, blue berries, black raspberries... all welcome. You just about need acres of them to make a decent honey crop.
The above photo was from the berry patch in our garden. Here, Bridger shows off another garden flower the bees just love.
Alfalfa- Makes a light spritely tasting honey. The farmers usually cut it (for hay) before it blooms, but every now and then we get lucky.
Soybean- Here's one that the farmers actually benefit from having a few bees around. Soybean honey is mild but somewhat bland. My experience with this as a honey crop is boom or bust. Hot and dry years are the best. This year was a bust.
We had maybe ten good days in July where the bees were bringing in soybean nectar.
Fireweed- Oops, sorry. Montana flashback.
But if you ever come across fireweed honey, buy it! It's delicate and water-white. Very unique taste. This was in the Bitterroot Valley near Stevensville, MT.
With agriculture everywhere, weather dictates the crop. Beekeeping is no different. Hopefully next year one of the many sources of summer honey will weigh in heavy with nectar. As I said, this year was a down year, but hearing some the the lack-of-honey horror stories around the state, I guess I can't complain. We didn't get skunked.