Thursday, July 23, 2009

Waiting to Harvest Honey

Normally I'd be harvesting honey at this time but a lingering storm and clover coverage are preventing me from that. It isn't raining, the bees are actively flying in and out of the hive, but the simple fact there's cloud coverage over head prevents me from opening the hive. Mind you I could easily open the hive and take honey from them but bees tend to be way more aggressive on cloudy days. Older bees have a better idea of how things should work and are the aggressive factor, they're also the foraging bees. On a cloudy day there are way more of them in the hive. Where as on a bright and sunny day most of these would be out getting nectar or busy stocking the cells with it.

The older bees of the hive also stand in the way of beekeepers re-queening a hive. Some beekeepers like to control the genetics of their bees which can be a smart move if you're in the ideal environment for that bee. Something the South Jersey Beekeepers Association is trying to do is create their own stock of queen bees. This is ideal for club members because rather than importing a honey bee bread from the south, they're getting something that's adept to local conditions. Weather and climate are just two factors to consider. Bees bread down south expect a more mild winter.

Though the weather is currently preventing me from harvesting honey, it allows the bees to work some major crops coming into bloom right now. Behind where I work I saw the Winged Sumac, Rhus compallinum, had just started blooming. Even with only a dozen tiny flowers open of several hundred they were already mobbed with bees. I hope to photograph them if Friday is clear enough.

Joe Pye Weed is another great nectar source but I don't see it around enough. I have a Hollow Stem Joe Pye Weed, Eupatorium fistulosum, planted in the yard and it is one of the better focal points. When the afternoon shade hit it I notice a light medicinal fragrance emanating around it. A very nice plant to have. An odd thing to note though is that some wildlife will dig it up, I'm not sure why though.

Summersweet, Clethra alnifolia, has also started blooming. Recently I found a "nursery" selling this plant. It was more like the side of someone's house they decided to turn into a garden store. I was walking on planks of wood and looking at plants laid out on skiffs. He had a huge selection of plants. The owner had clearly been doing this for the better half of what had to be a 90 year life. I picture him doing cuttings and rooting hormone all of them over winter. The cash register looked like it belonged in a museum. He had a better selection of plants than most garden centers I've been to ten times the size. I also bought a Rudbeckia with flowers the size of my hand.

I already own several Clethra alnifolia but they only had a ploom or two of flowers buds. He was actually selling the cultivor 16 Candles which has a lot more flowers and doesn't get as big. They produce a heavenly fragrance randomly, I think when wet and in the shade but I'm not sure. It's potent, and can be smelled from far away when all the flowers are blooming. I find it intoxicating and so do the bees.

Considering all three of these plants are such rich sources of nectar I might simply not bother harvesting until they're all past their peak. I've always said someone should bottle the fragrance Clethra alnifolia hopefully botteling the nectar will work just as well.