Honey Bees Hard at Work

Gaining Ground currently has three colonies of Russian honey bees that collect pollen and nectar for their own needs and pollinate our crops in the process. David Salomón Saléh, experienced beekeeper from Columbia, SA, monitors each colony and makes adjustments to support their health and production.

For the first time in years, Gaining Ground collected over 50 pounds of honey from our colonies this summer. Do you know how amazing that is?! The production of honey requires complex processes, and now bees face the additional challenges of highly toxic pesticides and extreme weather. Rarely have our hives been strong enough to produce any excess honey.

During August, colorful flowers stimulate the bees to collect the late flow of nectar from the blooms. This year our three colonies, each with at least 50,000 bees, were well populated to collect the flow. Forager bees from the colonies delivered nectar to the hive that was converted by hive bees into honey. Go to this link to read more details about this miraculous process.

Since most honey bees only live about two weeks, bee colonies need to replace their population constantly by filling brood cells with eggs that grow into larvae, pupae and then bees. This explosion of brood in August attracts destructive mites that feed on the larvae. When in large numbers, mites can kill a colony. Most of the colonies were strong enough to control the mites. Only one colony became infested, but regular monitoring and rapid actions helped the hive bees regain control over the mites. 

During this same time, the strongest Russian honey bee colony started making cells to raise a new queen, a sign that the bees felt their “home” was too crowded and some would swarm away to start a new hive. We didn’t expect to see queen cells, but because of the frequent inspections, we were able to split off some of the bees with the queen cell to make a “nuc,” a smaller starter hive in addition to the three original colonies. 

By September, the colonies had produced enough honey so we could remove 60 frames (about 50 pounds) without disturbing their resources for winter. Volunteers joined the harvest process and also helped to put the extracted honey into jars for later distribution to our recipients. 

As long as there is foliage and warm weather, the bees will continue to collect pollen to store fat in their bodies and prepare for winter. In the meantime we will begin preparing the hives for winter to help them have enough food and warmth to survive through the cold.

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