To bee or not to bee, that is the question.
The alien looking subjects in this week’s adventure are Steve and Cathy Berger. They are seriously wrapped up in protective gear as residents of their hives react to some minor disruptions. It was time to administer a protective application which would help prevent bee sickness.
Steve worked the smoker which helps to divert bees away from the area where Cathy is placing a medicine soaked pad. The pad is located in an active area of the hive constantly traveled by bees who will then spread the medicine throughout the resident population helping to insure good health and generous productivity.
The Bergers are not veteran beekeepers, yet, but they are well on their way. This is serious business. Each hive, on average, contains 60,000 bees and Bergers have four hives. The bees do a lot of the work but they must be attended to, managed and protected. Bee neglect can be disastrous. Good productive bee populations are no accident.
Cathy and Steve started three years ago with bees from away, but are trying to advance the cause of more local strains, that is, bees coming from Maine. There is quite a substantial community of bee pros in Maine who are very well informed and anxious to promote good bee populations throughout the state and beyond.
Ironically, much of the honey produced in a hive stays in the hive for food. Especially this time of year when the hive population is preparing for winter. There are some big changes going on now — big housekeeping agendas that will enable the hive to survive. Most urgently, the queen must be kept warm and healthy. When outside temperatures hit the mid-50s, work is triggered to cluster around the queen to keep her warm, anywhere from about 60 degrees to 90 degrees. We can’t keep our house at 70 degrees, imagine the energy it takes for a bunch of these little buzzers to fend off the cold and have enough energy to start all over in the spring of the year.
The Berger honey is amazing but removing honey from the hives and comb is quite labor intensive. There is a special spinning device that helps to separate the honey from the comb. An ideal south facing location with lots of wind protection and plenty of good pollen producing vegetation nearby helps with productivity, but bees can actually travel up to two miles in search of their raw material.
A Berger bee is a happy bee.