Do you know what comes with Late July heat and humidity? Tons of wildflowers, that's what. I've been checking on my beehives about once a week this summer, watching them slowly build up the comb and fill it with eggs. It's pretty interesting to see the eggs, which are only two to three millimeters long, white and attached to the very bottom of each comb cell, quickly grow into a grub-like larvae that get bigger and bigger until they fill the entire cell. At that point, the bees seal up the cell and each larva transforms into a fully developed bee in about 21 days.
While I've watched the bee population expand in the bottom two boxes of each hive, I've added additional boxes one by one, and these have been filled with pollen and honey, and eventually just honey. I put the sixth box on each hive today and they'll probably need at least one more each by the end of the summer. I plan to steal the top three boxes off each hive around Labor Day and extract the honey and bottle it. I've already stolen a frame (about two weeks ago) just to see how much the yield would be, and how it tastes. Since it was early season honey, it had a very mild flavor and a light color. As the season progresses, and the bees forage for nectar further from the hives, on more and more diverse flowers, the honey will be darker and the flavor will be more intense in character. A lot of commercial beekeepers collect the early honey in mid summer and leave the darker honey for the bees to feed themselves through winter. Since this is the first year for these hives, I've decided to wait until September to see how much honey they actually make before making the decision about how much I'm going to steal from them. I'll be able to compare the September honey to the sample I collected a few weeks ago to see how much of a difference there is between the two.
If I end up pulling off three boxes from each hive, I'll end up with a total of 60 frames. If each frame yields two pints, I'll end up with roughly 15 gallons of honey, and that's still leaving at least two full boxes of honey on each hive to get them through the winter. As I was lifting the boxes off the stacks this morning, there were two that were 100% full of honey and I was shocked at how heavy they were.
I took each hive apart this morning because I wanted to get a look all the way down in the bottom box on each hive to see if there were any empty frames or if they'd all been built out with comb. I mainly wanted to make sure there was enough room for the queens to keep producing eggs through the rest of the summer. It looks like that is the case. In the process, however, the bees got pretty cranky and I ended up getting stung three times; twice on my right hand, and once through my suit just above the knee. I had one whole hive taken apart and had to walk away for a few minutes to see if they would settle down, and they really didn't. I ended up closing things up and getting out of there but I did add the 6th box on top of each hive before putting the covers on. Greg's going to have to put together another 20 frames soon because with all of the wildflowers blooming right now, they are definitely not even close to shutting down the honey production. I will probably keep adding boxes until I see the first ragweed blooming, then I'll pull off what I'm going to keep, and let them make honey out of the fall ragweed bloom, which they can keep. I've had several beekeepers tell me ragweed honey is not particularly tasty but the bees apparently don't care.