Cardwell Hill: Poison-Oak
Our Cardwell Hill apiary is located at our old home property in Wren, OR, and Henry keeps his potential breeder queen colonies there. He evaluates the hives’ mite levels and mite resistance throughout the spring. After harvesting a honey crop, the colonies with the lowest mite levels are integrated into his queen-rearing program.
The site is located at about 1,000 feet elevation in the foothills of the Oregon Coast Range. In the spring, there are ample nectar and pollen resources from a diverse understory, but lack of soil moisture limits summer nectar flow, so Henry moves bees farther west as the site dries up.
Poison-oak (Toxicodendron diversilobum) is one of the dominant understory species in the area and grows unsupported up to 12 feet tall or will vine up trees to at least 50 feet. Poison-oak has white, star-shaped flowers that hang in grape-like clusters. The species is so dense in this area that our hives generally produce surplus honey while the poison-oak is blooming in May if the weather permits foraging. The oils in the leaves and stems of the plant can cause dermatitis, but the bees are unaffected.
This honey has a malty, rootbeer flavor. It includes small amounts of poison-oak pollen.
Summit : Wild Blackberry & Tansy
Our Summit apiary is located at Cross Eyed Cricket Farm on the Upper Marys River near Summit, OR. Dave Barron and Melissa Bourgeois have a diversified homestead including a variety of livestock, orchards, and a vegetable garden. Our kids all go to school together at rural Blodgett Elementary established in 1850. The valley surrounding the apiary includes marshy areas in old beaver ponds and passively managed pasture including weeds that provide a lot of late summer forage for the bees.
Himalayan blackberry (Rubus bifrons) is a non-native, naturalized species that is widespread in the area. It fruits prolifically in the summer.
Tansy ragwort (Senecio jacobaea) is a non-native, broadleaf pasture weed. It is toxic to most livestock, but bees thrive on its nectar and pollen. Various entities and individuals have attempted to manage the reproduction of this invasive species for many decades. Biocontrol insects including the cinnabar moth generally keep tansy in check, but populations fluctuate year to year depending on weather conditions and seed production.
This honey has a clean, spicy flavor with a hint of sweetgrass.
Smith Island : Pumpkin & Alfalfa
Smith Island, an island in the Willamette River just south of Corvallis, is still farmed by relatives of its namesake Green Berry Smith. The nearby community of Greenberry was also named after the same pioneer who arrived in the area in 1846. Loren Smith and his son Dan Smith grow a variety of seed and forage crops on the island including hairy vetch, red clover, orchard grass, arrowleaf clover, alfalfa, and pumpkins.
Loren has always been very conscientious about maintaining native pollinator habitat in the riparian areas, gravel bars, and periphery of farm fields. The staggered bloom times of the various crops he grows support impressive pollinator species diversity. We brought these bees in to pollinate later-blooming pumpkins.
The pumpkin (Cucurbita maxima) field was planted with an heirloom, hubbard-type “Golden Delicious” pumpkin grown for its edible seeds that are used for the snack market. The vines bloom through August, and the resulting pumpkin honey was one of the last batches we harvested in the 2016 season. Pumpkin flowers yield dark nectar, resulting in very dark honey.
The Smiths grow alfalfa (Medicago sativa) as a broadleaf rotation crop and to replenish soil nitrogen. They harvest multiple cuttings of alfalfa hay per year. Last summer had a stretch of cooler weather after the first cutting, so the plants bloomed for a longer period than they normally would allow. Leaf cutter bees are more effective than honeybees for pollinating alfalfa, but honeybees are able to gather significant nectar from the flowers. Alfalfa usually has “water white” (clear) nectar, resulting in a very light-color honey.
This honey came from bees that had access to alfalfa as well as the later pumpkin bloom. The result is a milder flavor with some of the funky tartness of varietal pumpkin honey.
This honey is somewhat thicker and lower moisture than your average honey. Normally, Henry harvest frames of honey in the field and then stashes them in our “hot room” (basically the opposite of a cooler kept at about 105°) until Camille is ready to extract within a few days. The honey is liquid and flows more readily out of the comb if it is nice and warm at extraction time. As our lives got really busy late last summer, a couple batches of honey stayed in the hot room before extraction longer than they probably should have, dehydrating to a degree and producing a thicker, more concentrated honey that many people really love.