Routine inspections check on numbers of bees, honey formation and queen health
Two of ThunderCroft's Hives
Frame almost completely filled with honey
Honey extraction in kitchen
A single season's final product...ready to share with family and friends
The Buzz On Bees
Although your average human classifies all bees into a single category often referred to as "those things that sting,", scientists classify bees predominantly upon their feeding and foraging behaviors. Some are classified as "generalist feeders" because they are not terribly picky about the flower sources they visit and therefore, on warm spring and summer days, visitors to ThunderCroft's meadows will have an opportunity to see a wide variety of native and non-native bees foraging about for nectar and pollen. Visitors may see robust sized Carpenter Bees and Bumblebees as well as tiny Mason Bees and Honeybees. ThunderCroft is also home to several species of "specialist bees" who tend to be rather selective when choosing nectar and pollen sources. According to the Virginia Native Plant Society, the state of Virginia ranks in the top three states most inhabited by specialist bees. So, with a little luck and a field-guide in hand, a short walk to our summer vegetable garden is the ideal spot for seeing some of the more selective species such as Squash Bees and Gourd Bees, both of which feed exclusively on the blossoms of squash and melons. The preservation of bees is of paramount importance at ThunderCroft. With roughly 400 species of bees native to Virginia, ThunderCroft's acreage offers numerous opportunities for preserving established populations as well as for enhancing opportunities for more threatened species to flourish
Our Most Special "Specialist Bees"--Apis mellifera, The Honeybee
Despite the differences in to two types of bees, one thing is certain--they are all seeking nectar and pollen and in doing so, unknowingly play a vital role in the transfer of pollen from plant to plant. This "relationship" between each bee and plant is considered a "symbiotic relationship" because both bee and flower benefit from the interaction. Humans have evolved to have a rather specific symbiotic relationship with one particular kind of bee, Apis mellifera, otherwise known as the Honeybee. Over thousands of years, humans have worked to domesticate wild bees in order to reap the rewards of their pollen, wax and honey. In doing so, they have fine tuned the ability to corral bees into hive like structures where they can protect the integrity of the hive and the health of the individual bees.
Apis mellifera, a worker Honeybee collecting nectar and pollen
ThunderCroft is home to honeybee hives. Buck tends to take on the bulk of the outdoor tending at the hive entrance and Janet's job begins inside during the honey collecting season. The added layers of fabric and mesh netting can make the job cumbersome but necessary to keep from getting the occasional sting. Honeybees are typically pretty docile but can get a bit testy when overly disturbed. However, most of the time spent in contact with bees is very relaxing. When the hive frames have adequately filled with enough honey to sustain the hive through the coming winter months, beekeepers set about the process of "robbing" the hives, taking a small portion for sale or personal enjoyment.
Tending the hive
Honey laden frames are removed from the hive and brought into the kitchen where honey is extracted. The frames of honey are placed in a mechanical extractor to separate the honey from the wax.
Worker bee foraging for rainwater