It is not surprising to find bees at a farm where there is a garden. How else can you get maximum potential from your plants with out pollination?
It is somewhat ironic that most of the hives located at the Ranch are actually from the Ranch. In June 2011, a swarm came down out of the creek area by the wood shop. They made a stop in the cypress trees, and were caught by myself. I had been "waiting" for bees for about a month, so I was all ready with hives and frames and lots of sugar water. Because of the mild winter and the hot temperatures in Jan and Feb. of 2012, the bees thrived. Of course they tried to leave by swarming in April, but I was again ready and wrangled the new group into their own hive. That same day, my neighbor called and said she had my bees in her tree. I went over to her house and sure enough there was another swarm. They were not from my hive, but from the colony up the creek, where the first swarm came from last year. I captured them and set them up in a nice hive oftheir own.
Currently the Woolly Egg Ranch has 5 hives, all from local sources. They are raised in standard hives, and allowed to keep half their food over winter. This is important because a lot of commercial operations take all the honey and feed "sugar water" all winter. Think ofthe difference between honey and high Fructose com syrup. What would you rather eat when it's cold and rainy out?
We also do not treat our bees with any chemicals. This may make them more susceptible to "mites" and other hazards, but a good natural colony can deal with most problems on their own. We do ''trick and treat" them occasionally with powdered sugar. It causes them to clean house more often, but has the benefit of being yummy. It also stimulates lots of grooming, which is a natural way to get rid of mites.
We start "collecting" honey after the bees begin their annual population explosion. Usually at the end of March or early April. At this time we also monitor if there are any queen cells and if there are drones in the colony. We have to "check" each hive at least every 10 days, so they do not swarm. If a hive swarms, they lose about half their population and honey production really drops. If we fmd a lot of queen cells in a hive, we can make a spilt, or start a new hive. It is a controlled way to allow the bees to start another colony.
When we collect honey, we process the honey from one hive at a time, and one batch at a time. This allows us to see how the honey changes over the course of a year, as well as from hive to hive. It is a lot more labor, but many people tell us they can taste the difference. I personally like the Spring Tree Pollen Honey from the first harvest of the year; Very light and sweet.
We process all our own honey by hand. This takes a lot more time, but we can watch the whole process, and check everything. We cut slabs of comb right off the frames and into jars. This is the most natural form of honey available, some say it is cure for allergies; I just like chewing on the wax. Regular honey is strained through coarse (600 mesh) strainer right our bottling pail, then right into jars. Not heating or processing. Some little "floaters" may get into the jars, but the honey is all pure. Read more....
Naturally honey may granulate over time, but never goes bad. If you want your honey to flow better, place it in hot, but not boiling water until the honey is again translucent and flows easily. Remember to be patient and do all the honey, not just part, so it stays mixed and tastes the same way it went into the jar.