Here’s the deadline we can’t put off at the Rogue Farms Hopyard.
In about three weeks, someone’s going to pull up in a big truck and unload 100 starter hives, also known as nucs. It’s a huge expansion of the Rogue Hopyard apiary.
That gives us three weeks to finish constructing 200 new hive boxes and 200 new super boxes. Otherwise the new honeybees won’t have a place to live.
When the first flowers of the season appeared in our neighbor’s cherry orchard, we knew the spring nectar flow had begun.
This is one of the prettiest times of the year on the Rogue Farms Hopyard. And for the Rogue Honeybees, one of the busiest.
Rogue Beekeeper Josh Cronin visits a hive in early spring.
Shortly after we wrote about the honey detective in Texas, comes this story about honey laundering.
Two of the country’s largest honey packers admit to taking part in a plan to mislabel honey from China and pretending that it came from other countries. The federal government says they did so to avoid paying $180 million in import duties that only apply to Chinese honey.
We wouldn’t know how to buy Chinese honey even if we wanted to do it. Instead, we’ll make more honey this year by growing it at the Rogue Farms Hopyard in Independence, Oregon. We’re adding another 100 hives to our Original 19 Colonies, which means adding roughly another 5,000,000 honeybees and producing another 4,200 pounds of Rogue Wildflower Honey.
If you want to know the origin of the honey we use in our 19 Original Colonies Mead, then please come out to the Rogue Farms Hopyard and see for yourself.
A Rogue Honeybee enjoys a decaf blackberry flower.
Here at Rogue Farms, we want to calm any jitters that our honeybees are addicted to caffeine.
In an article in the journal Science, researchers report that some plants give honeybees a tiny shot of caffeine when they visit the flowers to collect nectar. It’s not enough for the honeybees to taste, but they are more likely to remember the caffeinated nectar and are more likely to return to those flowers. The evolutionary advantages to the flowers are obvious.
Not so widely reported is that the plants they studied are coffee flowers and citrus flowers (grapefruit, oranges, pomelo and lemons). None of which grow anywhere near the Rogue Farms Hopyard in Independence, Oregon. The Rogue Honeybees get their nectar from the wildflowers, daffodils, roses, hazelnuts, non-citrus fruit trees, pumpkin flowers, raspberries and wild blackberries that grow in abundance in the Wigrich Appellation. As far as we know, they’re all decaf.
Our bees come by their buzz naturally. You might find yourself experiencing a similar natural high if you visit the Hopyard this spring.
There’s no going back now. Just a few days of sunshine is all it took to turn winter into spring. In addition to the first bines of the season, here’s a look at the other signs of spring at the Rogue Farms Hopyard.
Left: A Rogue Honeybee in a maple tree. Right: Visiting a daffodil.
As the days get warmer, the Rogue Honeybees can leave the hives more often. They’re finding nectar in some of our maple trees, daffodils, early blooming wildflowers and the hazelnuts next door.
A Free Range Chick enjoying a walk in the sunshine.
Sunny days mean better hygiene for the Free Range Chicks and Royal Palm Turkeys. The extra light makes it easier for them to remove bugs and dirt from their feathers. The sun also kills germs, in effect sterilizing the feathers and keeping the poultry healthy.
Not a sled, but a real rosebud.
What you’re looking at here is one of the first buds on our roses. We’ve been using Oregon grown rose petals in our Mom Hefeweizen and in the custom beer we created for the Portland Rose Festival. So why not grow our own? These rose bushes were planted a year ago and we’ll get our first harvest of petals in 2013.
The Rogue Honeybees are like tiny CSI investigators. Buzzing around the Hopyard they gather evidence – better known as pollen and nectar – from thousands of blooms.
Depending on the season, they forage at our Big Leaf Maples, apple and walnut trees, pumpkin flowers, wild blackberries, raspberries, hazelnuts, cherries or one of the gazillions of wildflowers that pop up from spring through fall.
The honey produced by the Rogue Honeybees is like a fingerprint filled with clues about where the bees were during the season and what they were eating. And like a lot of other fingerprints, investigators are using them to solve crimes.
Some people use the calendar to know when spring arrives. Others look for robins.
At Rogue Farms in Independence, Oregon we pay attention to our honeybees.
Honeybees won’t leave the hive unless it’s 50°F or warmer. During winter they spend most of their days huddled inside their hives. But when they start coming out on a regular schedule, that’s when we know spring is almost here.
In the past week, we’ve seen the bees out and about foraging for food on most days. They return loaded with pollen from the Kirk Family Filberts hazelnut orchard. Other than that, there’s not much for them to find.
Sensitive to cold, honeybees rarely leave the hive during winter months in Oregon.
Looking ahead, daytime highs will hover about 50°F. Maybe the bees will fly out part of the day, maybe they won’t. But soon the Big Leaf Maple Trees will blossom and our honeybees won’t be able to resist the high quality nectar and pollen. Spring is closer than you think.
We’re always looking at the latest research on honeybee health.
Colony Collapse Disorder isn’t quite the headline grabbing crisis that it was a few years ago, but it’s still a serious problem that shows no signs of going away. No one is really sure what causes CCD, it’s probably several factors. And no one knows how to cure it.
So CCD is something we have to learn to manage. With another 7 million Rogue Honeybees arriving at Rogue Farms this spring and summer, we better learn quickly.
Here’s some of the highlights from a recent honeybee health conference.
When honeybees want to spread the news about a good source of nectar, they communicate the location to others in the hive by dancing.
It’s called the waggle dance. And to the untrained eye the bee just appears to be vibrating intensely.
Rogue Honeybees gather between the frames to view the waggle dances.
But for honeybees, the dance moves contain a ton of information. The harder the bee vibrates, the further the source of the food. The angle is important, too. If the dancing bee points up, the food is located in the direction of the sun. If the bee points down, it’s telling the other foragers to fly away from the sun. The angle of the dance depends on the location of the food source.
Sometimes there can be dozens of returning bees in the hive, each with their own waggle dance, each with their own audience. A bee that has yet to forage for the day will choose to follow one dancing bee, but ignore the others. An unreliable dancer may be ignored by all the bees in the hive.
It’s not a perfect system. The angle a bee chooses to dance may be off by a bit. So the dance is repeated several times and the other bees learn to “average” the angles and intensity of the dance before heading out for the day.
Learn more about the Rogue Honeybees on the Bee Buzz page at Rogue.com.
Rogue Farms knows bees and will soon be building more nucs to add more colonies to increase honey production.
Nuc is beekeeping slang for nucleus, a small group of workers, drones, a new queen and a mini-hive with enough food and brood to get them started on becoming their own colony.
Beekeepers buy nucs to add more colonies and increase honey production. Or they may build a nuc from one of their current colonies. This splits the hive and prevents swarming.
Either way, the key to a successful nuc is making sure the new queen gets along with the workers before she’s introduced. A special device, called a queen excluder, separates the queen from the rest of the hive until it’s clear that everyone is getting along.
- The workers are feeding the new queen through the excluder.
- The workers are trying to kill the new queen – also known as balling the queen.
- The workers are producing emergency queen cells, which means they’ve rejected the new queen and want to produce one of their own.
Whether a nuc is a success or a failure should be obvious in about eight days. After that it’s okay to remove the excluder. And then after about a month, the new colony can be moved out of the mini-hive and into a regular one and begin foraging and producing honey.