In the busy heat and flurry this summer, my business manager (and wife) Yvonne seized an opportunity that placed T's Bees Honey at Mecklenburg County's oldest farmer's market. Mecklenburg County Market is located on Harding Place near Morehead in Charlotte's Elizabeth neighborhood. The store is packed full of regional and local produce, and now, Charlotte's finest raw wildflower honey.
Here I am at left with Dale McLaughlin just after our first delivery. Sure there are other honeys there, but T's Bees Honey is the only one from Mecklenburg County! Needless to say we were both thrilled. Dale's grandmother Pearl opened the store in 1937.
The quiet, wonderful little red brick store is an amazing place to visit. Beverly's Gourmet Foods are carried there, as Beverly is Dale's daughter. When you're there buying some of my honey, be sure to treat yourself and get some of Beverly's Gourmet Foods, too. They're amazing.
I also managed to finally make my first official honey label. I was inspired by a local field of flowering weeds near a shopping center in Charlotte. Each year I will make a new label. As every season tastes different, it will look different, too, at least on my jars of honey.
AND, I finally took and passed the North Carolina Beekeepers Association's journeyman exam and practical test at the association's summer conference in Hickory. Our historic organization was begun in 1917 with an initial meeting of 150 beekeepers representing over 6,000 colonies. Guest speaker was none other than Mr. E.R. Root of Medina, Ohio, who continued his father's work with the Root Candle Company and co-authored "The ABC's and XYZ's of Bee Culture". During this hot and exciting summer of 2016, I was delighted to learn I'd finally made it up a level from Certified Beekeeper to Journeyman Beekeeper. I only scored an 80 on the exam (but managed a 100 on the practical). Fittingly, I scored a "B"!
Mimosa trees are in full bloom in Carolina, signaling the arrival of summer along with strong, heady honey and temps in the 90s.
In the mountains wild blackberries can be found everywhere, ripening up from roadside brambles. This was taken in Boomer, NC.
The advent of summer also signals diminishing food sources. I take heart when I see empty fields on city lots allowed to flower with natural weeds. This was a lot near a Target and Lowe's shopping center.
Beautiful, ain't it, these city weeds and grasses?
I took a peek into this hive and noticed a bad beekeeper error that the bees had made right: I left two empty slots in the top chamber above. So the bees attached beautiful combs to the underside of the lid and began filling it with summer honey. Unfortunately, my 5-minute peek into this hive became a bit longer of an adventure.
This fresh comb was full of early summer honey, and a little drone brood. I removed the brood comb from the honey comb, and did a crush and strain on the two combs of honey and nectar. It wasn't fully ready to harvest, about 65% done between the two combs. But even though it's a little runny, I realized I had a few extra pounds of delicious runny honey I could gobble up in the next month or two, and share some with honey-loving friends as well. It's flavor is stronger and color darker than the honey I harvested this spring. I find that dark honey is great in coffee, not so great in tea, while spring honey is what I prefer in my tea but not in my coffee. I would never sell this but boy does it taste delicious. Nothing wrong with it, just won't keep for very long on the shelf like fully cured honey will, whose moisture content has been reduced to 18.6% or less.
Proof that I finally made right the situation I caused in the first place. I was out of foundation for the time being so I made a starter strip out of the wedge for this frame and put it in place. Now it'll be removable for future inspections. Live and learn.
They also propolized the stuffing out of the inner cover (and you can see where they attached the combs in line, cool huh?). For the life of me I can't figure out which side goes down on these plastic inner covers. This was the flat side. Prying them off the boxes are a MAJOR pain. Why am I using inner covers anyway?! I ditched this and simply put my homemade insulated cover made from political signs and polystyrene insulation on top. No more propolis messes to contend with when removing the lids.
I have a low tolerance for suspicious frames and I had a few from failed queen starts I needed to get out of commission. Anything that looks spotty and doesn't smell quite right gets pulled out of the mix and melted down ASAP.
The brood, cocoons and other debris are all strained out (yuck).
Wax and propolis is floating atop the water. I had an idea!
I added more boiling water in to raise the level of water + wax + propolis and then re-strained the liquid. My bees spend 2 to 3 weeks ignoring commercially waxed Plasticell frames. They smell WEIRD! But if you put their own bit of waxy goodness on top, the bees jump all over the foundation and waste no time drawing it out.
I only had a few combs I'd melted down. Instead of waiting to harvest the wax and then remelt it later, why not coat the foundations now? Propolis and some dirt mixes in with the wax while the water drips off the frame. Less wax is used to re-coat the frames. Knock off the excess, flip over and repeat on the other side. Would this work? Only one way to find out. I got an additional 6 or 7 deep frames coated.
When the wax was used up and nothing but water was left hardly anything extra coated the frames except some propolis and little bits of extra wax. Still the sheets smelled MUCH BETTER than when I got them originally, and the commercial wax was still afixed to the Plasticell.
I was delighted to find honey bees all over the sheets an hour after I left them out to dry. They loved it!! Success, and now I know I can save time in harvesting wax and coating more Plasticell at the same time.
I also harvested the Duragilt plastic sheet from those old comb foundations and they were automatically re-waxed as I melted the old wax off. I strained everything out then dunked them back in the wax water. Everyone says that you can't re-use the sheets. Well, I aim to find out. This could be more trouble than its worth, but I love to experiment.
Another sign of summer is honey bees bearding on their hive fronts. When you see this it means several things: you have a GREAT queen making lots of bees, they need more space and they need improved ventilation. I added a shallow super above for them to draw (it was un-extra-waxed Plasticell, so they ignored it for a few weeks but have begun to draw it out), along with an extra ventilation shim. Staying cool on the front porch and in the shade is the name of the game in summertime here in beautiful Carolina.
Tom Davidson is the owner and beekeeper at T's Bees.
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