Quacking from Rappahannock (our blog)

It snows in March

It snows in March

We are all tired of the grayness and wetness that has been our unusual lot in the Virginia northern Piedmont over the last year. Our winter has not been particularly cold, the temperatures dipped below 10F ( -12C) only a few times, and briefly at […]

Chilled Sorrel Soup

Chilled Sorrel Soup

French (or garden) sorrel is a super hardy perennial potherb with a bright pleasant tartness. It grows in my unheated hoop house even in the harshest  winters providing refreshingly tart leaves for our winter salads. It is one of the first vegetables I harvest outside: […]

2018  Honey Harvest

2018 Honey Harvest

Laughing Duck Gardens in Washington, Virginia.

[by Keith Rowand]

Rappahannock Arboreal Honey Facts and a Printable Honey_Fact_Sheet

Jump to Batches Scroll to bottom for Batches

2017 might have been a special year for honey; our harvest was about 900 pounds for 30 colonies. In 2018, I’m hoping for 600 pounds without much of the nuance found in 2017. Clover has saved the day! Harvest currently over 700 pounds with more still ripening! Season Total 1010 Pounds! The reason was rain. Just as locust flowers reached peak bloom, a week of rain. Just as the tulip poplar started to bloom, a week of rain. Brambles and berries fared well, but there was a lot of moisture in the air. Basswood and linden fared a little better, but the bloom ended with 6 inches of rain. In addition to washing out flowers (bees don’t collect nectar during rainy weather), the rain elevated humidity making it difficult for the bees to cure the honey. Nectar is about 30% water while honey is less than 20% water (unripe honey over 20% water will ferment in a bad way). Bees collect nectar, convert it to unripe honey, and then fan it until it ripens. Once ripe, the bees seal the honeycomb with wax. Here it is the first week of July and only about 1/2 of my harvest is fully capped. Total as of July 21 of 790 pounds!

Another problem of these rain interruptions is that I’m not getting complete frames of nectar from a single source – locust is adjacent to berry adjacent to clover, etc. To address this I’m processing smaller batches. Instead of 9 frame batches, I’ve collected a few 6 frame sets (my extractor works best with 9 frames, ok with 6 or even 3). July 22 and after 2 weeks of dry the rains returned. There are STILL uncapped/unripe frames in the field and I need to begin mite treatments. #stillthankful

September 3rd total harvest is around 1,020 pounds! 991 pounds of raw honey, plus another 30 pounds of heat extracted honey (see Batch “X”).

For more about frames and the harvest, please read about the 2017 Honey Harvest.

For these notes, color is taken from the Pfund color chart, a standard honey measurement. Grade A honey must have no more than 18.6% water content (above 20% fermentation can occur)

Batches (more…)

Honeybee Colony Record Keeping

The one tool I carry whenever I go to the bee yard is a Sharpie permanent marker. As a “sideliner” beekeeper, I’m responsible for about 25 colonies. There is no way I can remember all the details and needs of each colony, so recordkeeping and […]

Honeybee Colony Winterization: Wrapping in Northern Virginia

Wrapping colonies for winter is a THING. Some beekeepers wrap, some don’t. Catalogs and magazines have advertisements for wrapping products and even heaters. Before wrapping, the number one question a beekeeper has to address ‘WHAT IS WINTER LIKE HERE?’ Winter in Georgia is different from […]

Honeybee Colony Winterization: Feeding

During early spring, beekeepers feed 1:1 sugar-water solution to stimulate reproduction. In late summer 1:1 again is fed to stimulate reproduction to increase winter populations. In autumn, 2:1 can be fed if honey stores are light as winter approaches. Keeping with simple ratios, I provide 12:1 sugar blocks “just-in-case” and to give the girls something to do.

These instructions are for use with an empty hive set above a 3/4″ plywood inner cover.  The inner cover has screened holes for ventilation and a hole to accomodate a standard-sized mason jar feeder.  The sugar block created will be fed thru the feeding hole.

Mix sugar and water at a 12 parts sugar to one part water by weight ratio.  This will form a somewhat wet granular paste. Spoon the mixture into insulated drinking cups (16 liquid ounces an ideal size). Add a couple drops of either lemon-grass oil or Honey-B-Healthy to attract the bees. Invert the cup over the feed hole.  Check and replace as necessary.

Sugar-water mix
12 parts sugar mixed with 1 part water.
Sugar blocks ready to feed.
Sugar-water mix packed into hot beverage cups. A couple drops of either lemon grass oil or Honey B Healthy added to attract the bees.
Inner cover feed hole.
Peering through the shredded newspaper insulation, through the inner cover feed hole and down to bees on the colony frames.
Sugar block cup in place over the feed hole, ready for the insulation to be repacked. Replacing the feed can be done without compromising colony heat or bee cluster.

Not so hard?

If 12:1 is hard to calculate, use 5 pounds sugar to 1 cup water.  If you don’t have a simple kitchen scale that measures grams, ask for one for Christmas.

Feeding in winter is something that hopefully isn’t necessary.  In Virginia, where I live and where this advice is most relavant, if a colony has a full medium hive body of honey – 50+ pounds net weight – the colony ought to be in good shape for winter.  But things happen.  Winter 2016 had 70 degree days leading up to Christmas, such that bees were burning calories (and stored food) on foraging flights.

Then there is the question of whether a colony will eat provided food (some won’t), or treat sugar as debris and remove it from the colony (some do). Sometimes bees will store sugar granules in food cells. Another good thing about block sugar feeding, is that come spring, when it is time to start 1:1, the unused portions of sugar blocks can be recycled and won’t go to waste.


Honeybee Colony Winterization: Ventilation and Insulation

Two things kill honeybees in winter – moisture and starvation, not cold. Cold compounds the effects of moisture and starvation, but by itself, cold doesn’t kill honeybees. For example, coming out of winter this past year, I had one colony lagging behind the others. The […]

2017 Honey Harvest

Laughing Duck Gardens in Washington, Virginia.   [by Keith Rowand] Rappahannock Arboreal Honey Facts Jump to Batches Scroll to bottom for Batches Inside a hive, bees store honey in frames that contain about 4 pounds of honey each.  When I remove the frames from the […]

Locust Blossoms: Bottle Spring!

locust IMG_2745

The black locusts enchanting blossoms are melting away in the rain as I write.  As everything else this year, they were 10 days to 2 weeks earlier than usual – I generally count on the 2nd week of May to be peak time for the pearly bunches of fragrant flowers. My nose noticed the first ones on April 28, this year, as I was walking out of the Flint Hill Volunteer Fire & Rescue Hall where I was cooking for a wedding. But unlike many other years, this year was a good season, with showy, abundant and long lasting blossoms – well over 10 days. Despite almost 6 inches of rain last week, they kept blooming. But all things end, and now they are just drooping, brown and limp, rain water pulling them down closer to the ground… (more…)

Just Right Bread-and-Butter Pickles

As it turns out, when pickles are good, we eat lots of them. If they are too acid or too sweet, they languish in the pantry. I’ve tried many vegetables and many styles over the years and have concluded that we really only eat a […]