Tag Archives: honey bees

Spring Beekeeping

Hey honeys!

Honey Bees and Beekeeping on Oysters & Pearls

As sad as I was to do it, I liberated myself of a couple obligations this week.  Sometimes, even though I care SO MUCH about SO MANY different things, you just have to take a step back and make sure you still have time to do the things you enjoy for yourself, ya know?  One of those things is beekeeping.  I just adore these honey bees, no matter how many times they sting me.  ;)

Sunday, Wheat and I opened up our hives to check on the girls.  We didn’t find what we expected to find, exactly, either.  Our strong hive, the Killer Millers, which we expected to split this spring, we found was weak.  So weak.  They had tons of new honey and comb (pictured above), but so few bees.  The mean old queen was still there though, which was odd.  When a hive swarms, they normally take the old queen with them and leave the new queen (or sometimes, no queen at all).  So the only thing I can figure (because so few bees did not make all that honey) is that the hive already swarmed (which is CRAZY) and they took the new queen with them.  Le sigh.  You never know what those bees are gonna do!

Honey Bees and Beekeeping on Oysters & Pearls

My “sweet bees,” our original bee capture, were stronger than EVER!  I’m telling you, bees and honey everywhere! We spotted this queen, too, and she was just laying away.  A bottom box in our double deep (meaning two deep hive boxes without a queen excluder) was chock full of brood.  We even spotted a lot of drones!  So if we don’t do something, this hive will swarm pretty soon, too.  We even found a few in progress queen cups we nipped off.

In these pictures, you can see the white, freshly capped honey.  Fresh wax is pale and light, almost white.

Honey Bees and Beekeeping on Oysters & Pearls

Honey Bees and Beekeeping on Oysters & Pearls

Honey Bees and Beekeeping on Oysters & Pearls

Just looking at these pictures again makes me so, so happy.  I can’t wait for Spring!

Honey Bees and Beekeeping on Oysters & Pearls

Honey Bees and Beekeeping on Oysters & Pearls

Bees on bees on bees. :)

Honey Bees and Beekeeping on Oysters & Pearls

Honey Bees and Beekeeping on Oysters & Pearls

Honey Bees and Beekeeping on Oysters & Pearls

Now for a quick game of (unmarked) Queen Spotting:

Can you find her?

Queen Bee, Honey Bees and Beekeeping on Oysters & Pearls

Queen Bee, Honey Bees and Beekeeping on Oysters & Pearls

Did you spot her?  She’s right above the word “spot!”  I didn’t exactly manage to center her in the picture.  The sun was so bright I had trouble seeing my phone screen.  She’s a champ!

Then we spotted our marked, mean old biddy of a queen in the Killer Miller hive.  She’s been laying a little, but she’s got her work cut out for her.

Queen Bee, Honey Bees and Beekeeping on Oysters & Pearls

Queen Bee, Honey Bees and Beekeeping on Oysters & Pearls

We plan to harvest honey as soon as it warms up, give the sweet bees some room to expand without swarming and take away some space from the Killer Millers.  I love that just when you think you understand the bees, they show you that you don’t actually know much at all!  Kinda sounds like life.

I hope everyone has a very happy Valentines’ Day weekend!  I’m helping throw my little sister a baby shower tomorrow (that sounds crazy even saying it), then retiring to a steak and a bottle of red at home with my very patient, kind, lovable husband.  We are seeing one of my all-time favorite bands, MoFro, with friends on Sunday, and I plan to relax with a day off on Monday.  Cheers to a wonderful weekend, friends, and don’t forget to hug the ones you love!

Until Next Time

Southern Makers: Tupelo Honey from Deep South Honey

In case y’all haven’t gotten enough of bees this week (I never will), I thought I would share some thoughts on the pride of the Florida Panhandle and my home town: Tupelo Honey.

The Keeping of Bees  Oysters & Pearls.jpg

I have a bit of sad news.  The tupelo honey harvest was less than stellar this year.  The water rose too high and beekeepers couldn’t get their hives close enough to the tupelo blooms.  On top of the that, between the polar vortex and a late, paltry bloom, the tupelo trees didn’t really fulfill their end of the bargain, either.  I had big plans to share the details on my friend’s honey business, but alas, he doesn’t have enough to sell directly to my readers.  However, I decided it was worth sharing the pictures anyway, because I hail from the land of Tupelo and it’s an important industry in my hometown of Bristol, Florida and the surrounding areas along the Apalachicola River.  So with that introduction, meet my buddy Andrew Finch of Deep South Honey.

DEEP SOUTH HONEY

Andrew Finch, Deep South Honey | Oysters & Pearls

I grew up with Andrew Finch.  A Chattahoochee native, Andrew has been keeping bees for a few years.  Constantly striving to grow his hives and his business, he has upwards of sixty hives now.  He is passionate about his bees and tupelo honey, and he has become a great resource for a novice such as myself.  He has learned from some of the Wewa beekeeping giants, but he says he learns something new every day.

SNOW ON THE FRAMES
 Snow on the Frame - Deep South Honey | Oysters & Pearls

“Snow on the frames!”

That’s what Finch (as we grew up calling him) said as soon as he cracked open the first hive on the day I visited him in one of his bee yards.

That snow-white wax is a sure sign of tupelo blooming.

Deep South Honey | Oysters & Pearls Deep South Honey | Oysters & Pearls Honey Bee, Deep South Honey | Oysters & Pearls

TUPELO IN THE PANHANDLE

I know I talk about tupelo honey a lot, and for good reason.  I mentioned it’s a huge industry in my hometown of Bristol, Florida, along with Hosford, Wewahitchka (aka Wewa) and many other places along the Apalachicola River.  In fact, it’s about the only industry besides timber.  But it’s an industry because of its special qualities.  Tupelo honey tastes amazing.  It’s delicate and light in color and flavor.  And that flavor?  It’s unmistakable.  It’s the only honey that won’t granulate (aka crystallize).  It’s the perfect table honey.  Obviously, I’m biased because I was raised on it, but lots of other people think so, too.  Ever seen the movie Ulee’s Gold?

It was filmed from Hosford to Wewa, with real local beekeepers as stunt doubles for Peter Fonda, and it made our sweet Tupelo Honey pretty famous.

Deep South Honey | Oysters & Pearls Honey Bees, Deep South Honey | Oysters & Pearls Deep South Honey | Oysters & Pearls Honey Bees Making Tupelo Honey; Deep South Honey | Oysters & Pearls

TUPELO THE TREE, NOT THE TOWN 

I’ve been asked before if Tupelo Honey comes from Tupelo, Mississippi.  Most people don’t know what makes Tupelo… well, Tupelo.  Honey is named for the nectar source the bees were feeding on when they made the honey.  Hence Orange Blossom Honey in Central and South Florida, or Wildflower Honey on the Plains, or Pumpkin Honey, or Avocado Honey, or Blueberry Honey, or any one of the many, many varietals of honey.  To get pure varietals of honey, beekeepers must put their bees at the nectar flow just as the species begins to bloom and then remove them just as quickly.

Snow on the Frame, Deep South Honey | Oysters & Pearls

Tupelo Honey comes from the White Ogeechee Tupelo Tree (nyssa ogeche), which was imported from China many moons ago, and thrives in the river swamps of the Florida Panhandle.

Tupelo Tree, Deep South Honey | Oysters & Pearls  Tupelo Tree, Deep South Honey | Oysters & Pearls

Those little poof balls turn into barely visible white fluff, which may see a little anti-climatic to you and me, but not to the bees.  If you venture out into the swamp when the tupelo is in full bloom, you’ll hear what beekeepers call the “tupelo roar.”  Literally all you can hear around you is the buzzing and humming of millions of honey bees.  Tupelo Trees produce an extremely high nectar flow, and the bees will focus all their energy on this single source of nectar until the bloom is over.  Once it is, the beekeepers must pull the frames or move the bees, lest their precious Tupelo gets tainted with any other source of nectar.
Tupelo Blooms, Deep South Honey | Oysters & Pearls

Tupelo Tree, Deep South Honey | Oysters & Pearls

It’s pretty amazing how much honey these bees can make while the Tupelo is blooming, and if conditions are right, they’ll make a whole lot of it.

Deep South Honey | Oysters & Pearls Honey Bees, Deep South Honey | Oysters & Pearls

 Tupelo Tree, Deep South Honey | Oysters & Pearls

TUPELO HONEY

I know that everyone is partial to certain types of honey, but I thought I would explain a bit of my love affair with Tupelo.  Keep an eye on Deep South Honey – Finch will update the site if he can sell any directly to you, and has plans to grow his business.  Otherwise, I thought I would include some Tupelo Honey Resources for your browsing pleasure, whether you’re a beekeeper or just a honey-enthusiast.

Honeyville, Deep South Honey | Oysters & Pearls

Deep South Honey

Deep South Honey on Instagram

Tupelo Honey Festival in Wewahitchka, Florida

Tupelo Beekeepers Association

Robbing the Bees: A Biography of Honey–The Sweet Liquid Gold that Seduced the World

The Bee House – Beekeeping Supplies

Smiley Honey

L.L. Lanier & Sons Tupelo Honey

 Until Next Time

Adventures in Beekeeping: Hive Removal

On Saturday, Wheat and I helped our good friends Lee and Ben move a colony of bees out of the wall of a tenant house on their family farm into a hive box.  It was only our second hive removal (the first on our own), so we were pretty grateful it turned out much better than expected!

The hive was in the wall of this very old tenant house.  They were using this knot hole as an entrance.  Lee and Ben wanted to remove them and put them into a hive box to begin keeping bees, so Wheat and I offered to help them do it.  It was just as exciting as last time!

Knot Hole Entrance to Wild Bee Hive in a Wall | Oysters & Pearls

Knot Hole Entrance to Wild Bee Hive in a Wall | Oysters & Pearls

We began by using a handheld saw to cut the boards right next to the studs, which we figured were bordering the comb.  Luckily, we were correct, and the guys had the boards down in no time.  Cutting Open Exterior Wall to Remove Bee Hive | Oysters & Pearls Removing a Bee Hive from a Wall  | Oysters & Pearls Removing a Bee Hive from a Wall | Oysters & Pearls Removing a Bee Hive from a Wall  | Oysters & Pearls Bee Hive in a House Wall | Oysters & Pearls

There were a LOT of bees in there!  This colony was pretty well established, and had quite the stock of honey.Honey Comb and Bees | Oysters & Pearls Bee Hive in an Exterior Wall | Oysters & Pearls Established Bee Hive in an Exterior Home Wall | Oysters & Pearls Established Colony of Bees in a House Wall | Oysters & Pearls Lee and Ben and a Bee Hive | Oysters & Pearls Bees on Honey Comb | Oysters & PearlsWe took a group picture when Keri, Ben’s wife, stopped by, then got started on the removal.

Natalie, Wheat, Lee, & Ben with the Hive | Oysters & Pearls Natalie, Wheat, Lee, & Ben with the Hive | Oysters & Pearls

We cut the comb piece by piece and used large rubber bands to fill empty frames with the pieces of comb.  It just so happened that Ben had a hefty supply of the huge rubber bands they use on the farm to bundle collards. :) We shook as many bees into the box of frames as possible, and even managed to find the queen bee and seal her into the bottom box!  It really went as well as it possibly could have.

Wheat Replaces the Home's Exterior Wood Siding | Oysters & Pearls Shaking Bees into the Hive Box | Oysters & Pearls Bees in the Hive Box | Oysters & Pearls Honey Bees Removed from a Home | Oysters & Pearls Honey Bees | Oysters & Pearls We ended up with a good bit of solid, clean honey comb, even after filling 20 frames with comb, so we decided that we would spend the afternoon harvesting it.

Natural Honey Comb | Oysters & PearlsWe transported the whole hive box back to Lee’s house, got them settled in, then got to squeezing comb.

Installing New Hive | Oysters & Pearls  Lee and Wheat with the Hive in its New Home | Oysters & PearlsThe honey comb was really beautiful, so we cut the prettiest pieces and put them in jars whole.  Then we simply squeezed comb with our (clean) hands over the jars until they were full.  Then we strained all that was left in the bucket (a good bit) through a clean cloth and into a bowl to finish it off.

Jarring Honey with Honey Comb | Oysters & Pearls Freshly Jarred Honey from a Wild Hive | Oysters & Pearls Honey with Honey Comb | Oysters & Pearls Fresh from the Hive Honey | Oysters & Pearls

It was a messy, sticky, not so pretty process, as evidenced by the tailgate pictures, but the honey was perfect and delicious and no one minded a bit.  It was a family affair. And the honey was finger-licking good.Finger-licking good!  | Oysters & PearlsWe got all the jars cleaned up and divvy’d up.  It was pretty unbelievable that even with stocking the hive with 20 frames of comb, we still got all this honey.  The honey itself was light in color with a lot of floral notes.

Honey with Comb from a Wild Hive | Oysters & Pearls Ball Jars Full of Honey | Oysters & Pearls Fresh Honey, Honey Comb, and a bit of Pollen | Oysters & Pearls

We got a couple bit of pollen in some of the comb, but we decided to leave it.  After all, it can’t do much but help even more with allergies!  I also fell in love with the dish towel Nikki serendipitously had out on her counter.  #beesonbeesBees on Bees | Oysters & Pearls As Fresh As It Gets! #hivetotable  | Oysters & Pearls

We had a blast helping them with this hive removal and were lucky enough to take a jar of the honey home.  It was a good day spent with friends, and I love that we have two more buddies who are as excited about bees as we are.

Until Next Time

You may also bee interested in:

Adventures in Beekeeping, Part 1

Adventures in Beekeeping, Part 2: Another New Hive

Adventures in Beekeeping Part 3: Processing Beeswax At Home

The Trials and Tribulations of Beekeeping