Honey season, 2018

The 2018 honey season is in the books, and all that’s left to do for this year is winter prep and a mid-December mite treatment.

Despite a busier-than-anticipated summer for the humans, the bees managed to crank out 14 gallons of honey. This nearly tripled our harvest from last year, and reminded us of why we’re pretty adamant about not increasing the size of our apiary beyond our current hives. To that end, we wound up selling or trading two splits from our hives this spring. In addition to extracted honey, I rendered wax for the first time and wound up with 570 grams of cappings wax and additional wax from burr comb.

All of which is to say that, despite the inconclusive results of last year’s unintentional experiment, perhaps less was more in terms of hive manipulations this summer. Or at least that less is what we had time to give, which might say something about us as beekeepers.

In general, we felt less stressed around the bees this year, and not just because we called in reinforcements while I spent a month in Guatemala.

We’re creeping up the learning curve in tiny increments. Beekeeping is a world unto itself, and if I’m honest, I still expect disaster at every turn.

But doing things for the second time around gave us a bit more confidence with everything from handling frames of bees to managing feeding schedules and mite control to remaining calm when very defensive guard bees chase human invaders out of the garden bed by their hive. (Maybe still working on that one…)

Most of all, it feels good to relax a bit into the pleasure of sharing our world with these creatures.

I never tire of watching them forage on plants in the garden or walking through the neighborhood, wondering if the bees I’m seeing are ours. Keeping bees has made me a more thoughtful gardener and a more careful observer of the interactions between humans and the natural world.

It’s also made me a more vocal advocate for nature in its many forms.

Nature doesn’t just happen in wilderness areas. It’s the weeds in the sidewalk, the spiders in the house, the potted plant on the front stoop, the yeasts that make your beer or bread or wine, the dog you walk every morning.

Despite my deep and abiding love for wild places, I’m drawn to things that let us explore our complex and intimate partnership with what we call nature. Gardens. Logging roads. Beekeeping. Mushroom hunting. Fermentation. And dogs, naturally.

So thank you, bees, for another season of guidance and just a few painful lessons.

 

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