In late 1992 at St. Andrew’s Episcopal Church, Yaphank, NY, our priest Richard Chapin brought in an observation beehive to explain how honeybees work to produce honey to the Sunday school children. I was instantly captivated by what Father Chapin was showing to us all, and vowed someday to have my own beehives. I only wished I had taken the time to visit his home and ask a million questions!
Fast forward to spring 2019, and with the help of a young mentor, Reed Lucas, I was on my way to becoming a beekeeper. With the help of Reed and extravagant start up costs for the equipment, the first hive was installed, and began thriving. After several weeks, the hive was doing so well that we added another box to the top, and then another. Because the first hive was so successful and because there was an off chance the bees would swarm, we started another hive. Both hives flourished in the summer months and into autumn.
When the weather began to turn into frosty nights and mornings, it was time to prepare the hives for winter. The large hive was wrapped in a Bee Cozy with additional plastic wrap to ensure the bees stayed warm. A moisture box was placed on the top with pine shavings; food patties and mite protection were the last additions for winterization. The second hive, being so much smaller was not wrapped up as securely, but with the addition of hay bales placed nearby to protect the hives, all was ready.
As is the case of our fickle Central New York weather, we can have minus temperatures for a week and then temperatures will soar into the 30’s and 40’s before it plummets again. It is impossible to gauge the comfort in a hive, but unfortunately during a routine inspection, the largest hive had died. This was most likely due to the heat and small passages for the bees to leave and re-enter the hive. Cleaning out the hive was heartbreaking as I realized all the honeybees had died because they were too well taken care of by us humans. We were too proactive. Lessons learned, and care will be minimal next year.
The sweet result was that I harvested 11-quart jars of honey in February. My heart hurt every time I slid a frame into the extractor, and while turning the crank, I must admit, there were tears. It was a melancholy time for our first harvest, and because of that I called it “Mourning Honey”. Sharing with family and friends has been a healing balm, and I am happy to report that they love the results. Flavorful and dark from the pollen collected from our Fernwood Farm wild flowers, it is a taste sensation!
The lessons learned have been invaluable and have taught us how amazing God’s creation is in all of this. For thousands of years, honeybees took care of themselves so I have determined that less is more during the next season. We’ll start a brand new nuc hive in April, and hope that my next harvest results will become “Happy Honey”!