The Sweetest All Natural Wildflower Honey To Be Found!
“The keeping of bees is like the direction of sunbeams.”― Henry David Thoreau
Santa Rosa plantation dates to the 17th century, though the plantation house in its current form dates to only 1840. Santa Rosa has been home to bees and excellent honey since before the American Revolution. For example, the will of Captain James Gee (1694-1760) filed at Prince George County Courthouse on February 16, 1760 lists among the Captain’s possessions “7 bees and hives.” During the Civil War Santa Rosa plantation was very close to the siege line surrounding Petersburg but the house itself was not burnt down because the Federals used the house as a headquarters and a field hospital…the heart pine floorboards on the 3d floor are covered with many large blood stains from the wounded soldiers. In 1864 the Union headquarters and hospital at Santa Rosa were overrun by Confederate cavalry on their way to rustle 5,000 Federal cattle that were corralled at Coggins point, cattle that were meant to feed the Union Army but instead were driven back to Petersburg by the rebels and ended up feeding the Confederate Army, prolonging the siege of Petersburg until 1865.
Santa Rosa Plantaion BeeFarm: Home to the OLDEST Living Pecan Tree in Virginai
The Ancient Pecan of Santa Rosa
Towering above Santa Rosa and visible for miles around, being
twice the height of the surrounding trees and other vegetation, is the mighty Ancient
Pecan. Pecan trees are native to Prince George
County and were cultivated by the Indians long before the English settlers arrived,
but are still rather rare, since the abundant squirrels love to eat not only
the Pecan nuts, but also devour the Pecan seedlings greedily. The trunk of the Ancient
Pecan of Santa Rosa measures 24 feet in circumference. The Ancient Pecan of Santa Rosa is at least
350 years old, arguably the oldest living Pecan tree in Virginia. The long vertical scar on the east facing
side of the tree, a scar possibly caused by a past lightning strike, has been
the home of a colony of wild honey bees…could Pooh get his paw in there to
scoop out the honey?
“Well," said Pooh, "what I like best," and then he had to stop and think. Because although Eating Honey was a very good thing to do, there was a moment just before you began to eat it which was better than when you were, but he didn't know what it was called.” ― A.A. Milne, Winnie-the-Pooh
On Saturday afternoon while walking downhill to the main bee yard I saw a swarm of honey bees in the grass under a pin oak which was surprising to me since it is late in the season. I quickly grabbed a nuc and a broom and a dustpan and went to work on capturing the swarm. The broom and dustpan were ineffective so starting on the edge of the swarm, I scooped up bees with my gloved hands, dropping them into the nuc. After scooping up several hands full of bees, I noticed out of the corner of my eye the queen bee, who was black in color, on the top of the nuc hive body, so I knocked her back into the nuc and quickly put the top cover on, sealing her inside. Afterward, I figured I got her because the rest of the bees started to swarm on the outside of the nuc. I carried the nuc to our other bee yard, about 300 yards away from where I captured the swarm, located between the horse pastures, in the dappled sunlight of a tree line made up of cedars. I planned on opening it up in the early morning on Sunday and walked back down to the main bee yard where I spied a second swarm about 60 feet off the ground in the top of an ailanthus tree in the tree line between the main bee yard and the cow pasture…because of the location of this second swarm I was at a loss as how to capture it so I left it alone. On Sunday morning the second swarm was still at the top of the ailanthus tree so I opened up the nuc that contained the first swarm. The honey bees were docile and went in and out of the nuc which is a good sign…
...when I got back to the main bee yard I noticed the second swarm had left the tree top and was now trying to invade one of my hives through the slot in the back of the screened bottom board, between the hive stand and screened bottom board, where you slide in the board to seal the hive to keep it warm in winter. Fortunately, the second swarm was separated from our honey bees by the wire mesh screen and could not invade our hive. After unsuccessfully trying to lure the second swarm out using a bait hive, I simply moved our hive onto a new bottom board and hive stand and shook the invading honey bee swarm off the screened bottom board and into a second nuc, which I had standing by for this purpose, and then rapidly put the cover on top. The rest of the honey bee swarm started swarming all over the outside of this nuc as well, indicating to me that I had captured their queen bee inside.
Like the nuc containing the first swarm, I moved this second swarm to the other bee yard and will open up the nuc early tomorrow morning. Because it is so late in the season, I hope both these swarms have enough time to prepare their new hives so as to make it through winter.
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