Interested in bees and beekeeping? Read on.
Great news! Our apiary is thriving after this long winter. What does this mean………I would be wondering that if I just popped in on a beekeeping article in an otherwise beer and food page. To back track a bit, Steele and Hops is a restaurant that takes a lot of pride in real food. That means locality and being a contributor to the food community to which we belong. We do this with our sourcing, our on site garden, and our apiary. Yes, Steele and Hops has a full fledged apiary (collection of bee hives) on the roof. I hear you. What?! You have bees on the roof on purpose! Consider: There are bees all around you. (And we desperately need more of them!!) Where there are flowers, there are bees. You are just as likely to encounter a bee walking down the street as you are coming near the pub in my observation and well read opinion. Further more, bees want flowers, not food. Bees could care less about human food so they are not interested in the immediate area around the pub. Bees are also extremely organized in their foraging and don’t waste time and energy on areas that don’t yield – like parking lots and viney patios. Yellow jackets on the other hand,who are often confused with bees, are more aggressive and like meat. Yellow jackets are not even the same genus or family as bees. We have bee hives, not yellow jacket hives (and no, that’s not a thing). In short, the bees aren’t just randomly flying around the patio checking out your brisket sandwich. I personally have never seen more than one or two bees on the patio, total. And I’m here almost everyday. Now, if you are allergic to bees, like anaphylactic shock allergic, would I bring you up for a tour of the hives? Probably not. Can you still come to restaurant? I dunno, probably; That’s up to you. But seriously, you can walk down the street without getting stung by a bee, right? Then you’re probably fine. You’re the one with the allergy so use good judgement for goodness sake! Ok, now that rant’s out of the way, let’s talk about the hive inspection!
This inspection (meaning opening of the boxes and checking out the colony) was the first since the late fall. In beekeeping, you don’t just go opening the boxes in the middle of winter. The bees are taking care of business keeping the colony warm and alive. Opening the boxes is a deadly interference. You crack open all the propolis (bee glue) seals they have created to keep out the cold. The process going into winter involves downsizing the size of the hive boxes and ensuring they have enough honey to get through while there is no opportunity to forage. Want to hear something cool? Bees huddle around in the inside of the hive in a ball, keeping each other and the queen warm by vibrating. They take turns being on the outside of the ball so that no one freezes their bee butt off for too long.
As we have been inching up to spring, I have been impatiently jumping around like a little kid waiting for a warm day to check in on the girls. Over the last couple weeks there has been a lot of activity outside the hive: Lots of worker bees zipping in packed with pollen. Finally yesterday we got that sunny window and cracked open. What a beautiful healthy set of ladies inside! The population is already on the rise. We got a glimpse of both capped brood (babies at the final stage before they emerge) and brand new eggs less than 24 hours old. This tells us the Queen is healthy and active. There was still plenty of honey from their winter stores which was my biggest worry (despite my mentor telling me repeatedly that this wasn’t likely to be an issue – I’m a feeder of people and things having enough food is kind of where my mind goes. Hence our giant chicken sandwich….) Population increase is great and is what we want. So now we need to make sure there’s room for the new girls. We added a box to the top for the bees to start building upwards, but only included a limited number frames. This is because it’s still freaking cold. The more space you add, the more space the bees need to heat up. So now we’re riding the line between giving them room to grow fast enough, and keeping the hive tight for these cold nights still to come. The next couple weeks will be an important time to watch and react to their needs. So with that said, hopefully more info and more cool bee pictures coming soon!
Happy almost spring and thanks for reading. Jonnie