Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Bee Check and Unidentified Vine

Because it has been so hot and also because we have been slightly frustrated with the beekeeping, we recently adopted a new approach:  Let the bees be.  This is our 2nd season beekeeping, and our first season was a total disaster.  This year we've done better than last.  This time last year, we didn't have any bees.  One reason we've been frustrated is because up until recently the bees have been very aggressive, much more agressive than last year's bees.  So we've stayed away.  We know we had a swarm, and I believe I mentioned that the last time we were messing with the hive, the bees didn't seem aggressive.  I know we have a new queen, and she's much nicer than the last one.  So, checking the hive this evening was not stressful like it has been so far this year.  The bees were not buzzing us and gathering on our veils.  We were able to check both brood boxes and the honey super without fear.  I've always been told if you have an aggressive queen to replace her, but nature did that for us with the swarm. 

I'm learning to follow my instincts when it comes to beekeeping.  It's about looking at the facts and clues in front of you (and there as SO many little things to look for) and making a decision based on the given situation and your knowledge base.  No one will give you a definitive answer for any one problem.  Some beekeepers will say we made the wrong decisions, while others will say we made the right ones.  One thing I noticed this evening was the lack of stored honey the hive had, both in the brood boxes and in the honey super.  About a month or two back, a fellow beekeeper told me in times of draught, when no nectar is flowing, and the bees really have no source of food, they will eat their stored honey to survive.  We've definitely been experiencing a drought, so my instinct was to start feeding them sugar water again.  I called my friend to bounce the idea off her, and she said she went to extract honey from a super that was full a few weeks ago, and by the time she went to extract it, the super was practically empty.  The bees had eaten the honey to survive.  She said feeding them would be a proactive way to help them start storing for winter.  So, feeding them is what I'm doing. 

We appear to have a very productive queen evidenced by this beautiful capped brood:

I feel like we are back on target with the bees, and while we are definitely not going to harvest any honey this year, if we can keep them alive through the winter, I have confidence we'll have some next year.  Here's to hoping!

Now, I need help identifying this vine.  It's growing along the back fence that separates us from our back neighbor.  I suspect it's a muscadine vine, but I thought muscadines were larger.  The "grapes" are about the size of blueberries, and when I squeezed one, the inside texture was like a grape, and it had 4 "grape" seeds in it.  Also, the juice on my fingers tasted very grapey.  Since I haven't id'd it yet, I haven't eaten one, so I don't know if the skin is bitter.  The fact that I haven't keeled over from licking the juice is a good sign, I think.  What keeps me from determining it's a muscadine are the leaves.  The pictures I've seen online of muscadine leaves are different.  Any help is appreciated.

Happy homesteading,




  1. wow! i am jealous your bees. that was on the plan this year but then goats happened. good for you!

  2. Warm Dirt: I'm jealous of your goats! Don't be jealous of the bees. So far they've been a money pit. Nate calls them "money bees" instead of "honey bees." Ha!