Last week I attended the NCSBA (NC Beekeepers) summer conference. The theme was
healthy bees – something I definitely need. I left the multi-day meeting energized with ideas. My favorite workshop was on queen castles. Queen castles are basically little townhouses for queen honeybees. There are 2-4 frames of wax for them to lay, rather than a full hive. This gives the beekeeper a chance to raise their own queens from select (quality) hives or to bank the ladies for future need. All in high density housing. You can add & withdraw frames as needed to support bigger hives. It’s like a queen savings account!
A queen bee’s temperament & genetics drive the health, vigor, & attitude of a hive. A weak queen will lay fewer eggs & can lead to depressed bees (ornery too). A vigorous queen can create a worker population that means the difference between 0 and 250lbs of honey in a season. So using young, local
Queen surrounded by attendants
queens in hives is a huge advantage. I believe much of our spring troubles was due to poorly mated queens in the packages we ordered. A queen castle will be a place to experiment with raising our own leaders from our most productive hives. I’ve been tinkering with this already this summer (2 highnesses to bank already!). But now I’m in high gear to raise some serious royalty.
The conference also gave me the opportunity to take my next level of certification testing.
Not part of the testing
NCSBA certifies beekeepers at 3 levels: Certified (Padawan), Journeyman (Jedi), & Master Beekeeper (Yoda). Each level requires extensive written testing, field testing & volunteer hours. I’m working on my Jedi robe. I passed the field testing & have the volunteer hours in the bag, now I’m waiting on my written test score. “We’ll get back to you in 30 days”. Nail biter!
The conference also fired me up to plant some late summer forage; buckwheat. No, not the Little Rascals guy, the amazing summer cover crop.
Buckwheat isn’t a true cereal grain but is related to rhubarb. And it is pretty much the perfect plant – quick growing, bees love it, soil builder, phosphorous remover, drought tolerant, & produces 2 edibles (seed & nectar). Think buckwheat pancakes & honey…
Buckwheat in bloom
It’s my new best friend. Paul likes it because deer & turkey love it. Apparently who doesn’t? We’re finding all sorts of places to tuck it in at the farm. My goal is at least 2 acres. Who knows, a strong wind may blow some along the roadside too. Could happen. Fall nectar sources around here are unpredictable. A strong buckwheat bloom will give them a nutritional boost before hunkering down for winter. It will be the perfect welcome mat for the girls returning home from the mountains & our new queen castle residents. Rooms with a view!