2016, May

Farm update – 5/30/2016

The Whole Farm basket this week is a colorful summer salad medley, which includes a bag of loose leaf lettuce, a zucchini, two yellow squash, two cucumbers, a small bunch of carrots, and a couple of the first tomatoes of the season (Roma, cherry, and/or sun gold), all for $5. Tomatoes, okra, and green beans are starting to trickle in and will be available in full force soon. This will likely be the last week for lettuce and kale, as we need to make way for more beans as well as winter squash and pumpkins. Still available, however, are potatoes, cabbage, beets, carrots, snow peas, and more! Check it all out on the Currently Available page. Also check out a new Farm Fresh Recipe for Beet Walnut Salad.

This week we added a new hive of bees to the farm, and even though we’ve had bees for over a year, there’s always something new to learn about bees and beekeeping. We put a lot of thought into where to situate the new hive. Important considerations included a place with full morning sun (to get the bees going in the morning) but afternoon shade in summer, far enough away from the old hive to discourage robbing of the new hive by lazy members of the old hive but close enough to the house for easy access to check on them, especially in these early days following installation when they require daily feedings. We’re starting this hive about two months later in the year than last year’s hive, which, unfortunately, means that the new hive has already missed the majority of the spring nectar flow, and so it will take them longer to build honeycomb and start storing honey. In order to help them out, we took three frames out of the old hive, which were full of brood (bee larvae in various stages of development), pollen, and honey. Once the new queen starts laying eggs, it will take about 21 days for fully developed bees to emerge, but by supplying brood from the old hive, the new hive’s population will start increasing much sooner, and more bees equals more work accomplished. 

Here’s what 12,000 bees look like before and after being moved into their new home:

 

Somewhat by accident, I’ve been reading a lot about bees recently. I picked up the book The Beekeepers’s Lament: How One Man and Half a Billion Honey Bees Help Feed America by Hannah Nordhaus a couple of weeks ago and learned a lot about the industrialization of beekeeping. Honeybees have been harnessed for over 100 years to provide pollination services to society. Other pollinators are actually more efficient at pollinating flowers than honeybees, but honeybees are relatively portable (I spent two hours in the car with our new bees this week, and I can promise you they will not be taking any other road trips), which allows them to be loaded up on trains (100 years ago) or semis (today) and moved around the country to perform their pollination services. Almonds in the Central Valley of California are the most notable example of a crop that we would not have today if honeybees were not trucked to them annually, as it takes fully two-thirds of the nation’s honeybees to pollinate the almond groves of the Central Valley. The book is a fascinating read, especially if you’ve never given much thought to how important honeybees are for many of the foods we consume on a daily basis.

Some other interesting facts about honeybees:

  • Honeybees are not native to the U.S.
  • Male honeybees do no productive work in the hive, and are incapable of stinging. Their only apparent role is to be on hand to mate with newly emerged queens.
  • The average honeybee produces just 1/12 of a teaspoon of honey in her life.
  • The average lifespan of a honeybee is only six weeks.
  • A queen’s daily production of eggs may equal her body weight when she is most actively laying eggs.
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