In honor of International Talk Like a Pirate Day we consider the beekeeper as a marauder of the hive bees, plundering their golden treasure. Aye, harvesting their honey.

The Michigan Beekeepers Association suggests the common September practice of taking honey from the hives. Surplus honey, that is, for the bees must have enough to survive in order to be robbed again. Local experience of past seasons generally suggests a weight of honey to leave a colony, 60 pounds in this case. But who can predict the winter? If a winter is unusually severe then beekeepers must supplementally feed the bees either by returning some of their honey (Jack Sparrow weeps) or providing cheap sugar, either dry or as fondant.

The newer trend, at least among non-commercial beekeepers, is to let the bees keep all their honey over winter until a strong nectar flow in the next spring. The honey is presumably better for them than mere sugar and there is no bother to return what was not taken. Once they have made it through winter and are visibly increasing their stores it is easier to determine how much honey they can spare. That may be none after a bad winter but then the bees will have needed it.

As for Annabelle and Beatrix, they are entirely safe from our depradations (if not our well-intentioned intereference) this year since they were just started from packages this season. Next year, when the dandelions bloom, we may briefly hoist the Jolly Roger.

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