Eternally Green: The Autumn Apiary
As the shadows of autumn have grown longer, the honeybees have gathered their last drops of nectar from the goldenrods and asters and are preparing for a long winter. The days are getting shorter and the cool weather is now upon us. This last year, the bees gave us approximately fifty pounds of honey to enjoy for our teas, breads, and marinades.
Inside each hive is yet another sixty to seventy pounds that the bees will use to keep the colony alive through winter.
The phrase “Busy as a bee” describes our apiary very well. I have seen honey bees in every part of the cemetery this year foraging nectar from the smallest dandelions to the large Evodia trees. They work from sun up to sun set following the “honey flow” as plants come into and out of flower over the growing season. It’s estimated that for one pound of honey, two million flowers need to be visited. Our bees have pollinated 340 million flowers and logged nearly 165 thousand flight miles in order to accomplish this feat!
Soon the queen will slow egg production as the temperatures grow colder and the worker bees fly the drones away from the hive to conserve winter food stores. Eventually the workers will seal up as many air gaps as they can with propolis, a resin gathered from trees. Although the outside temperature is cold, the honeybees are alive in a cluster that will generate temperatures near 93F. The cluster will remain active until spring warmth returns. Unfortunately, 30 -40 thousand workers bees will die during this time leaving only a small colony (around 20 thousand) to tend the brood next spring.
T o protect honeybees in winter, beekeepers sometimes wrap the hives with black roofing paper. The paper acts as a wind break and absorbs the sun’s heat, slightly warming the hive box. Entrance reducers are narrowed to keep wind out and mouse guards are placed in front of the entrance to keep rodents from using the hive as a safe winter home.
This year, my family and I entered two frames of honey comb and three jars of Sweet Auburn Honey into the Topsfield Fair. Dave Gallagher, Steve Brown, and Greg Ghazil found time and resources to build the display cases for the combs. In the end we took home the follwing awards:
Audrey Mendenhall – Honey comb (Youth Division) 1st Place
with a special award…
The Alice & Carlton Brown Award presented for the best youth entry in division
Audrey Mendenhall – Jar Honey (Youth Division) 2nd Place
Jerry Mendenhall – Honey Comb (Adult Division) 3rd Place