It’s been a while since I refreshed this page but rest assured I’m still very actively beekeeping and selling honey at the Old Strathcona Farmer’s Market on Saturdays.
Similar to many farms in the area, the weather was a challenge for us here at Beanstalk Honey this year. April was very cold and then in May we went straight into a hot summer. Overall, it was an exceedingly hot and dry summer, with less than two inches of precipitation from May to September in my main beeyards and on our alfalfa fields. However, I’ve heard many areas received more moisture and in those areas the bees did quite well this season.
It is interesting having bees: they are a window into the effects of climate on plants. Hot, dry weather prompted the plants to all bloom earlier and intensively this year. Instead of groups of plant species blooming successively throughout the season, thereby providing bees with nectar and pollen all summer, many of the species bloomed together and earlier. This meant the build-up of the bee population coming out of winter was out of sync with the main nectar flow. This year, my bees reached peak population just at the end of the main nectar flow, which ended several weeks earlier than usual. This pattern has resulted in greatly reduced honey yields for the beekeeper (me, unfortunately).
The flip side of early, compressed nectar and pollen flows is we’ve experienced a nectar and pollen dearth for the bees in the last two Augusts, as have many other beekeepers right across Canada. We are learning to adapt our beekeeping management to address the shifting and compression of pollen and nectar flow dates; unfortunately a lot of the adaptation relies on supplementing the bee’s natural diet with human-made pollen and nectar replacements. I have a few ideas to try next year; I’ll let you know how they go!
Thanks for checking in!
I’ll have a stall at Edmonton’s Seedy Sunday on March 18th. I’ll be selling my usual varietal honey and I’ll also have some beeswax. I’m looking forward to getting some seed for my garden this spring! Go to http://www.edmontonseedysunday.org to get the details.
Apparently it’s not spring yet… we woke up this morning to another few inches of snow. This is in addition to last week, when we got around 7 inches. Yes, the date is April 24th! The bees are just waiting to get out there and snag the aspen and willow pollen. I thought I’d post a few rare photos!
April 19th! I’ve never skiied to a beeyard this late in the year before!
There’s a myth bees get disoriented in the snow, mistaking it for the sky and crashing and freezing. Despite the snow, there’s a pretty good pollen and nectar flow going on and on Thursday, April 20, these bees were working hard bringing it in. It’s not often we get warm weather with solid snow cover to test this myth but I hope these photos demonstrate it is a myth. Bees can navigate just fine with snow. They do flip upside down and crash when they’re within an inch of the surface, but then they flip back upright and fly away. If they stay above that height they’re fine.
Close up of a coupe hives flying hard in 8 or 10 degrees C with almost solid snow cover.
A nuc from June 2016 I experimentally “neglected” all summer 2016 and winter 2016-2017: they have a full open entrance on both the front and back bottom of the hive, a crack running along the back between the two brood chambers (seen in photo), and no top entrance. I didn’t take honey off them over the summer, didn’t feed them in the fall, and didn’t medicated them. I watched them pretty closely all winter and was ready to give them help if they needed it, but here they are, bringing in pollen with solid snow cover.
Heads up: Beanstalk Honey is in a new location this month at the Old Strathcona Farmer’s Market.
We’ll now be on the west wall between Happy Camel and Little Jack Horner Meat Pies. This weekend we’ll have fresh pollen, comb honey, and the last fresh honey of the season. We’ll be at the Downtown Market this weekend and next and then we’ll just be at the Old Strathcona Market. We decided not to go into City Hall this year, although it’s a great market in there.
Hi everyone, I just wanted to let you know I won’t be at the Downtown Market tomorrow. I’m taking a week off! I’ll be back for every week in December, though, so I’ll see you then.
I’ve got fresh Wildflower Honey now! It’s a darker honey, with a nice and mellow caramel taste. It’s completely raw and unprocessed, and may even come complete with the odd flake of wax.
I wanted to apologize about spreading misinformation! I said in a previous post I would be at the Old Strathcona Farmer’s Market every week until Thanksgiving. That’s not correct! I have an outdoor stall there, along the east wall of the building. That makes me really easy to find and access, once you know I’m there.
However, the Market is only having the outdoor stalls when there are not special events happening. This past Saturday was Artwalk so I wasn’t at the Market. Similarly, I won’t be there for the two weeks of the Fringe Festival, August 15 and 22. But I will be there every other week!
On occasion, I will be at the Salisbury Market in Sherwood Park this year. My main market is the City Market Downtown. I will always be there.
I’m sure we’ve all noticed how hot and dry it’s been this summer. I thought I’d update you on how this is affecting the bees and flowers.
My bees are looking great right now, with no signs of any significant diseases. They have huge populations and I made plenty of new baby hives, or nucs, a few weeks ago. I breed my own queens and this was the first year I feel like I really nailed it. My new queens are big and beautiful, and it didn’t rain during the week they were getting mated. I’m hoping the dry weather allowed them to mate with enough drones that they’ll have long and productive lives.
The flowers though… the heat and lack of rain has been taking it’s toll on the plants. I just took off and jarred the first wildflower honey of the season. It’s got the same taste as other years, but it’s more intense. I think the lack of moisture must have concentrated the flavour compounds in the nectar.
The dandelion and clover haven’t been producing much nectar. You can tell when a plant species isn’t producing because there are just a few bees quickly passing from blossom to blossom, checking things out but not stopping for long. During a nectar flow, there are usually lots of bees spending quite a bit of time sucking down the nectar from every blossom. So it’s been too dry for those two species it seems.
The alfalfa hasn’t produced anything either. This worries me a bit: we cut some of our hayfields a couple weeks ago and got very few bales. The fields are yellow they’re so dry and if we don’t get inches and inches of rain, I don’t know how well the alfalfa will come back. My late-season Fall Honey is mostly thistle and alfalfa so we’ll see what happens with that honey this year.
The native plants seem to be doing better. There’s fireweed blooming right now, which is way earlier than usual but my bees are all over it.
With the rain yesterday and forecasted for this week, the nectar flows might improve. I’m not too concerned because even with the meagre flows I have been seeing, the bees are so strong that they’re managing to bring in a fair amount of honey right now. If there’s nectar out there, they’ll find it!