June 29, 2017

Wolgast Tree Farm & Apiary Has Some Buzz At The State Honey Show

Earlier this month Wolgast Tree Farm & Apiary participated in the New Jersey Beekeepers’ Association (NJBA) State Honey Show which was held in the State House Annex in Trenton.

Cathy was fortunate to accumulate enough points to get "Best Exhibitor" at the 2015 NJBA State Honey Show which was held in the State House Annex earlier this month.

Cathy was fortunate to accumulate enough points to get “Best Exhibitor” at the 2015 NJBA State Honey Show which was held in the State House Annex earlier this month.

This annual event features 23 different classes that evaluated different kinds of extracted honey, comb honey, creamed honey, mead (honey wine), honey and beeswax-based cosmetics, beeswax products like candles, and beekeeping-related photography entries from beekeepers all around the state.

People who encountered the Honey Show display were amazed by all the things that could be made with products from beehives, and they thought it was cool that these products were being locally produced right here in the Garden State.

Last year Cathy entered a few classes and even won some ribbons!  Her Extracted Light Amber Honey took 1st place as did her Creamed Honey, which not only won 1st place but won “Best of Division” as well.

This year Cathy decided to enter a few more classes and was able to accumulate enough points to earn the title of “Best Exhibitor.”  This was quite an accomplishment given that there were 125 entries and so many beautiful items.  It was an honor to be an exhibitor alongside such truly stunning competition.

Winning Best Exhibitor was a great feeling, but entering more classes than last year provided a great learning opportunity to further explore “the craft of beekeeping.”  It’s hard to understand just how much effort goes into

Cathy's Block of Beeswax not only got 1st place, but won Best of Division at the 2015 NJBA State Honey Show.  It seems simple enough to make a block of beeswax (just melt beeswax and pour it in a mold, right?), but its much harder than it looks if one is trying to achieve specific results.  Avoiding cracks, discolored wax and other features that aren't desired takes a lot of care.

Cathy’s Block of Beeswax not only got 1st place, but won Best of Division at the 2015 NJBA State Honey Show.

making a beeswax candle, a block of beeswax, or preparing three jars of the same honey to exactly match each other for a particular class until one actually tries to do it.   It’s a lot of work!  In the case of extracted honey, one of the things that is evaluated is that the three jars each have to be filled to the exact same level and up to the proper location in the jars.  It’s pretty easy to mess that up, especially if your eyesight isn’t as good as it used to be!  Even when she didn’t win a particular class, Cathy enjoyed gaining further insight into the properties of honey or beeswax and the proper handling that is needed to produce high-quality products from the hive.  And just being able to participate in the show to help showcase to the general public all the beautiful things that can be made from what honey bees produce in New Jersey was a big reward in itself.

Cathy plans on entering the State Honey Show next year, but she isn’t expecting to win Best Exhibitor again.  Lightening rarely strikes twice, and the competition is simply too stiff.  And even with all the hard work that goes into it, there’s still some luck involved.

Mostly, it’s a point of pride to be part of the beekeeping community and to display all the beautiful things that can be made because of the work of the wonderful, industrious honey bee, and especially when the honey bees are from Wolgast Tree Farm & Apiary.

The were all the items that Cathy entered in the State honey Show this year, except for the photo on the right which was entered by her Mother.

The were all the items that Cathy entered in the State honey Show this year, except for the photo on the right which was entered by her Mother, Gloria.

Hurricane Irene’s Aftermath At Wolgast Tree Farm

It’s been over a week since Hurricane Irene hit New Jersey and although many areas are still dealing with serious problems caused by the storm, and now even more rain, Wolgast Tree Farm was very fortunate to come through virtually unscathed. 

Honeybees bringing nectar & pollen back to the hive after Hurricane Irene.

Our bee hives stayed upright and “the girls” (worker honeybees are all female) were out and about looking for pollen and nectar by 10:30 am Sunday the day after the storm.  

To our amazement, none of the trees that line our driveway blew over.  

Cutting a blown over tree for firewood

Some of our maple trees that we’ve tapped in the past to make maple syrup lost many branches, and one had the top broken off completely, so syrup production will likely be lower in 2012.  

One cherry tree by our house had blown over, but missed power lines and other structures so it wasn’t a big deal.  We cut it up for firewood.

White pine seedling with "donut hole" around its base.

So far, the only storm-related problem with our Christmas trees involves the seedlings we planted this past spring.  The heavy rains saturated the soil and that combined with the severe winds to whip the seedlings around which created “donut holes” around the base.  These openings are a problem because the roots are more likely to lose moisture when its dry, and during the colder months the roots can be exposed to freezing.  Both can stress the seedlings and hamper growth.  We’ll need to walk the rows and check each seedling for any gaps and close the ones we find. 

Rains from Hurricane Irene caused our Shiitake mushroom logs to fruit.

One tiny positive that came from Irene was that the rain she brought caused many of the logs we inoculated last year with shiitake mushroom spawn to fruit.  Sautéed in butter and garlic, or prepared a zillion other ways, shiitake mushrooms

Headed for the frying pan!

are a tasty treat. Having produced them ourselves brings a sense of satisfaction, and puts a little twist on the adage of making lemonade when life hands you lemons.   

Wolgast Tree Farm feels very lucky to have made it through Hurricane Irene with so little damage, and we keep in our thoughts the many others who had, and in many cases continue to have, great difficulties as a result of the storm.  We hope everyone is safe and that life gets back to normal as soon as possible.

Bee Cool At Wolgast Tree Farm

Like the rest of New Jersey, the weather has been extra hot and muggy the last few days at Wolgast Tree Farm.  The searing heat and humidity has not only altered our behavior (we’ve been getting up at 4:45 am to work on our Christmas trees until 8:30 am), but also the behavior of our honeybees.

The temperature and humidity within a honeybee hive influences the development of bee brood (baby bees still in the comb) and the making of honey.  Beehives aren’t outfitted with electric fans or air conditioners, but they have other ways of controlling the temperature and humidity within their home.

When it’s hot and humid, bees can be seen outside the hive facing the entrance and fanning their wings.   Positioned in this way honeybees are able to use their wings to draw warm air out of the hive.  Usually there are bees on the inside of the hive on the bottom board that are also fanning, but they are out of sight unless you were able to kneel down in front of the entrance and used a flashlight to look inside.

Circulating the air inside the hive by fanning keeps the level of carbon dioxide and other harmful gases from building up, and keeps the hive’s humidity at 50%.  It also helps prevent beeswax from melting and removes excess water from nectar that was collected by the bees to help make honey.

Fanning also causes water that honeybees have gathered and placed in  empty cells within the comb to evaporate which will cool and ventilate the hive.  When it gets extremely hot honeybees collect more water than they do pollen or nectar from flowers.  This is to prevent temperatures in the hive from getting so high that it would kill bee brood.  The average lifespan of a worker honeybee during the summer is six weeks.  Dead brood means no adult bees are coming along to replace those that die after six weeks.  This would eventually lead to the death of the entire colony, so the bees do whatever it takes to keep the brood alive.  This is a picture of a frame from one of our hives that contains different stages of brood development.   There is capped brood (the tan covering over the round cells that is mostly to the right of the picture), bee larva (white “C” shaped, grub-like brood in the uncovered cells mostly in the center of the picture) and to the left of the larva are honeybee eggs, which look like very tiny white grains of rice at the bottom of the cells (click on the photo to enlarge it).  Having different ages of brood and eggs means an ongoing supply of adult bees for the future.

Another way that honeybees try to control the temperature inside the hive is by “bearding”.  This is when bees gather on the outside of the hive in order to reduce the hive’s temperature and congestion.  This activity is usually seen during late afternoon.

We are constantly amazed at how the 30,000 honeybees that live in a hive are able to work together and do what needs to be done, when it needs to be done, in order for the hive to survive.  Whether they are foraging among numerous flower sources in search of different types of nectar and pollen, or gathering water and fanning their wings to control the temperature within their hive, honeybees are wonders of nature and a special part of Wolgast Tree Farm.