Autumn is one of the busiest times of year for the beekeeper at Rogue Farms.
There’s no more wild sources of nectar and pollen for our honeybees to forage and soon it will be too cold for them to leave the hive. So in the next few weeks our beekeeper has 7,140,289 mouths to feed, medicate and shelter before winter arrives.
The bees took care of us this spring and summer by pollinating our crops and making the honey we used in our kolsch, mead, braggot and sodas. Now it’s our turn to take care of them.
A scene from this year’s honey harvest at Rogue Farms.
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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.
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.
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.
Get a sneak preview of the 2013 line-up of Rogue Farms ales, pilsner, mead and spirits at the Northwest Agriculture Show in Portland. We’ll be offering tasters of beer and whiskey for our fellow farmers during the three day event. But you don’t have to be a farmer to attend.
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.
The first winter flood of the season came and went, leaving behind some water in the fields and some muddy hops rows. Not that we expected anything more. But just in case we had stocked up on extra food for the Potbellied Pigs, Free Range Chicks and Royal Palm Turkeys. Josh, Rogue resident Beekeeper, moved a few of the beehives to higher ground. The honey made in these hives is a key ingredient for Rogue Farms 19 Original Colonies of Mead.
The worst of it was a 24-hour period when there was too much water covering the road into the Hopyard. That gave us some time to catch up on paperwork. Perspective is important at times like this. The terroir of the Wigrich Appellation is almost perfect for growing aroma hops. But it also means putting up with floods every winter. As someone said on our Facebook page, “When God gives you water, make beer.”
One of the byproducts of the Rogue Farms Honey harvest is beeswax – lots of beeswax.
The Rogue Farms Honeybees produce beeswax for a variety of reasons. One of them is to cap off full honeycombs and preserve the honey as it mellows and ages.
Slicing the beeswax off the honeycombs.
When our Rogue Beekeeper, Josh, harvests the honey, he first slices off beeswax caps from the honeycombs. That’s what allows him to extract the honey in the spinner. But that’s not the end of it for the beeswax. This week, he melted it, strained it to remove impurities and then let it cool into solid blocks.
Beeswax has another life beyond harvest. It’s used in soap and candles. It’s also used to build what’s called honeycomb foundations. These are honeycomb designs that are stamped into beeswax, framed and put into the hive. They become the foundation for the new honeycombs the bees will build the following spring and summer. A place to keep their brood and store honey that we’ll harvest again next fall.
Rogue Farms 19 Original Colonies Mead is brewed using 5 ingredients: Rogue Hopyard Honey, Wild Flower Honey, Jasmine Silver Tip Green Tea Leaves, Champagne Yeast & Free Range Coastal Water. No Chemicals, additives or preservatives were used.
Click here to watch the Rogue Farms Honey Harvest YouTube Video