Bees that digest a particular crop make honey with that flavor, from sumac to dill. “Goldenrod produces a honey that has a buttery scent. The hives smell like stinky feet in the fall!”
Sometimes beekeepers are called by area residents who want to get rid of a massive amount of humming bees. “We do a lot of swarm catches,” three to 30 annually. “We stop whatever we’re doing” to capture the bees. “The swarms have a tendency to be fairly healthy … and they’re free!”
Beekeepers spend time mulling over how to keep their insects well. Now Stewart’s bees are in the middle of a “yard experiment.” With a harsh winter predicted, he left twice as much honey as normal in the hives in the hopes that bees will survive. “So far they are doing fairly well.”
Queens don’t play well together. Each wants to dominate and will sting the other. An observant beekeeper will split a queen cell containing battling ones into new bee boxes.
Bees, who have diets of mostly sugar, live about 40 days. “They literally work themselves to death.” Their wings become tattered, so they can’t fly. “When a bee knows it’s distressed or diseased, it flies away to preserve the colony.”
Pests can be hazardous to their health, too. He points out, “Some hives succumb to mites .... Last year we lost 50 percent of our hives,” most in February and March. “Fortunately, you can split bees. You’re able to replace your losses fairly quickly.”
At Carriage House Farm, an integrated pest management program is used. He warns, “Neem oil will kill beneficial insects if not applied properly.” Instead, workers plant microradishes for flea beetle control. The beetles are attracted to the small shoots, which are killed by burning with propane torches. “We go from 100 percent infestation to 10 percent.” Sometimes, nature works in the farmer’s favor. He was hopeful low winter temperatures have killed small hive beetles, which are predators.