Hive Weight & Honey Production

Hive Weight & Honey Production

I have written before regarding the use of technology in the apiary. A little over a year ago, was the first honey producer in North Carolina to incorporate Patrick O’Keefe’s WiFiHiveScale. This combined with thermal imaging, gave me greater insight into the workings of one particular hive during the winter and early spring. The hive is ruled by Queen Regina Margherita (We call her Marge, but not to her face).

Queen Marge and her subjects survived a mild winter on our mountaintop. By March 20 and midway into a red maple bloom, the hive weighed 45.82 lbs. Its weight steadily rose throughout April as the spring wildflowers began to bloom. Then there was an explosive bloom of a specific floral source nearby. I thought the dramatic increase in hive weight was due to tulip poplar, but the bees were coming in with a greenish yellow and raisin brown pollen. I had never seen this pollen before. Furthermore, the open cells of nectar were very light colored. Tulip poplar is a dark, mineral-rich honey. Nonetheless, the bees were rocking a particular pollen/nectar source in the Pisgah Forest.

By mid-July, Marge’s hive weighed 127.3 lbs. let me do the math for you – that’s an increase of 81.5 lbs. A bee lives only six weeks in the summer. The last two weeks of her life is dedicated to foraging. She only produces ½ of a teaspoon of honey during this short period. Queen Marge’s subjects produced eight gallons of honey in four months. The scientific expression for the number of honey making insects to accomplish this feat is called, “A Shitload of Bees.”

I, along with a visiting Albanian beekeeper (a future blog) harvested three supers of spring honey off of Marge’s hive. It was July 15, the peak of the sourwood flow. I placed an empty medium super on her hive July 1st. It was ⅔ full with pure sourwood by mid-July. Its weight after the harvest was 95.8 lbs. By the end of July, they had filled it with 21 more pounds of sourwood. I did not immediately harvest the honey. I wanted to see how many pounds of honey the bees would consume during the dearth of summer. Within 20 days they had consumed ten pounds of honey. Yesterday, on August 17, I lifted the last, 40 lb. honey super off the hive.

The WiFiHive Scale has been a tremendous learning tool. Last fall I was able to equate the health of the hive by watching its daytime vs. nighttime weight (1.5 lbs. of bees). During the summer, I could quantify the two honey flows.

The pressing question now is, what was the floral source of the spring honey flow?