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Two years ago I lost both of my bee hives to what appeared to be colony collapse disorder. Last year I did not get my act together early enough to be able to restart my hives. This year I made it a priority and ordered two nucleus hives from Jim Fraser over at Highland Honey and Apiaries in Gaithersburg, MD. I picked up both hives last Tuesday and got them installed in my backyard. I fed them on Wednesday using pail feeders rather than the hive-top feeders I had used in the past. It took a while for me to feel comfortable with the pail feeders but I finally got them installed.

What surprised me was when I went to feed the bees this afternoon I discovered that they had not finished all of the sugar/water mixture that I had put into the pail feeders. I wasn’t sure what to do to be honest…should I fill them up more or should I let the bees drain them completely before refilling? In the end I decided to allow the bees to keep working on the feed that I provided on Wednesday and to check again on Sunday. I suspect that the nectar flow in the area is still going and so the bees are preferring that to the sugar/water mixture in the pails. Depending on how low the mixture gets by Sunday I will clean the pails and refill them (which reminds me – I need to go to Costco and get more sugar).

R.I.P Salad Table

While yesterday was very busy it ended on a bit of a down note – our salad table which has been around for several years and which we grew some very delicious lettuces – finally died. Essentially one of the legs failed where it attaches to the table structure (it’s one of those things where I kept telling myself I needed to do something about it and reinforce it but never found the time) and *BOOM* – the whole thing took a dive. Sunday I’m going to clean it up and see what I can salvage in order to build Salad Table 2.0 🙂

On a different topic – the deer have once again claimed our day lilies…even though we have netting and fencing around the plant beds. I’m not sure just how they got in this time (I’m assuming one of them jumped over the netting – not that hard considering it’s only about 48″ tall) but they got in…I really hate the deer…they’re so destructive.

2013 Garden Update

After much effort we’ve managed to build a new fence for the garden. I’ve repaired the garden beds that were damaged in the 2010 storm that also destroyed the fence and I’ve even expanded the garden a bit more by adding a new area where I’m growing some sunflowers as a trap crop for the brown marmorated stink bug – hopefully that works. As part of the work I’ve managed to identify a PVC pipe under the ground (I’ve know it was there for years – it allows for water near the carport of the house to drain out to the street and which I’ve known was broken in one spot) that has become completely blocked up. I’ve known about this issue but it wasn’t that bad over the years. Well…looks like I need to dig up the pipe (which I have pretty much done today) and replace about 10 to 12 feet of it. This is a big job (relatively speaking) as I will need to dig under the fence of the garden and replace a 10 to 12 foot section of 4 to 5 inch pipe. Oh well – at least it’s on my radar now.

Other than that things are going well in the garden – harvested a bunch of sage, weeded the herb garden on the side of the house and weeded a bunch around the main garden out front. We’ve harvested a bunch of zucchini (which I will use to make zucchini bread today) and we’ve got a couple of cabbages that are about ready to be picked. The sunflowers are going very well (next year I will start earlier and provide a bigger space) and the scarlet runner beans have recovered from the damage caused by the deer earlier who did get through the fence (I never knew that deer would go under a fence (which I have now rectified).

Spring 2013 Update

We have lots going on this year…fixing the garden fence and putting in an herb garden.  The big downside is thno both hives didn’t make it through the winter – a very big disappointment.

Spring 2012 Update

I went and checked on both of my hives this afternoon. Not long ago – probably a few weeks ago when we had the last bout of “warm” weather – both hives appeared active and surviving the warm winter pretty well. This afternoon however the situation was not as rosy. One hive is doing quite well – the other hive – gone. It looks like the hive was abandoned. The brood frames are completely empty save for some brood that haven’t come out (and are dead due to the colder temperatures at night), but there are no bees at all in the hive. My suspicion is Colony Collapse – CCD. The interesting thing is that the top super is still quite full of capped honey.

My mission tomorrow is to get the super on top and to freeze it to protect the honey (and kill any bugs) before I extract the honey. The rest of the hive I will put into bags to protect the frames and wax until I can clean the frames completely. I also have other equipment to clean and sterilize to prevent any cross contamination of the other hive. I’m upset but not surprised. I had a feeling that a warm winter would cause me problems but I’ve been so busy that I was unable to more closely supervise my hives. Looks like this year I will order a nuc and re-establish the hive.

Spring!

Well…I’ve been very re-miss about blogging regarding my bees and I figure with Spring already here I’ll just get right back to it. The good news – I’ve still got two hives from last year. The “not-so-good” news – I suspect one of them is either swarm from the other or it’s a swarm from someone else’s hive that took over. I’ve got two hives – for simplicity sake let’s call them “A” and “B”; when you’re looking at the hives from the front “A” is on the left, “B” is on the right. During the early spring this year I noticed activity in “A” but no activity in “B”. I even went so far as to open up “B” and look inside (although not very deeply as I didn’t want to risk breaking up any cluster that might be in there). I couldn’t hear any buzzing and assumed that “B” had died – possibly starvation – possibly the cluster broke up during a warm spell and then didn’t reform fast enough or big enough when the next cold snap came.

However, over the past week and a half I’ve been seeing a fair amount of activity in that hive. Today I opened it up and confirmed that yes, there are bees in there and they seem to be living there (as they’re starting to store food) but the number of bees is very small relative to colony “A”. So, I can only surmise that either they got a late start on the year or that the original colony didn’t make it through the winter. If they got a late start that could explain the low numbers. Alternatively these are either bees from hive “A” who took over hive “B” when they found it empty (not very likely as it would indicate that hive “A” swarmed pretty early on) or a swarm from a nearby beekeeper’s colonies found the hive, found it empty and said “Hey…it’s in move-in condition!” Either way I’ve got two hives! And I’m ecstatic about that!

Fall Feeding

It’s been a while since I’ve blogged about the bees and the garden. A lot has happened since the last entry. On Thursday, August 12 we had a massive storm come through the Silver Spring/Montgomery County area. The winds were really bad (I daresay we may well have had a micro-cell hit the area. A tree across the street (about a 60 – 70 foot oak) came down across the street and landed square in our front yard. The western portion of our garden fence was destroyed as well as part of the southern side of the fence. Additionally one bed had the second level of the raised bed frame (about 6 inches high) destroyed and another bed lost the back end of the second level of the raised bed frame. Fortunately the bees came through unscathed. I’ve started feeding them 1:1 sugar syrup in preparation for the winter as well as treating them with ApiGuard for varroa. I’ve seen some small hive beetles in the top level of the hives but nothing I can’t imagine the girls can’t take care of. Still have brood in one of the hives (a good sign) – haven’t checked deep into the other yet. I have added brood builder to the hive that seems more “laid back” like I did last year — the other doesn’t seem to need it. I’ll continue treating for varroa for the rest of September and sometime after Yom Kippur I’ll start feeding them 2:1 sugar syrup. The look like they’ve got good stores of honey…I just want to make sure they’re storing it in a tight pattern as well as make sure they’ve got plenty of bees going into the winter. Hopefully this winter won’t be nearly as bad as the last one.