Today I harvested my first honey of the season. It turns out that maple honey is a rarity here in western Washington. There are plenty of trees—bigleaf maples, vine maples, Douglas maples—but they bloom early in the spring while the rainy season is still in full swing. So in a normal year I have these huge trees just dripping with flowers while my bees are holed up trying to stay warm and dry. But this year I had a hunch I might get a taste of maple.
Luckily we had a stretch of warmish dry weather last month and I have one hive in particular that was just chomping at the bit to go out and forage. There is always a cloud of bees around this hive, even while all the others have bees that are barely peeking through the entrance. Carniolans are good in the wet and cold and this colony is a case in point. Their hive is perched on a steep hillside—all they have to do is leave the hive and they’re already near the top of a giant moss-laden maple.
In late February I gave them a couple of new frames and hoped for the best. Throughout the last several weeks I could hear those trees buzzing every time I walked beneath them. Today I pulled out a nearly full frame of freshly cured honey and it tastes just right. Maple honey has a very distinct flavor that is one of my all-time favorites. I replaced the one frame with an empty and left the rest of the maple for the bees. We still have many weeks of rainy weather ahead and they may need the honey to keep them going. The victory is in tasting a flavor that evaded me for years . . . but I’m happy to share it with those who did the work.