Posts Tagged ‘Bees’

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).


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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.

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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!

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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.

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Checked on the girls again this afternoon. The hive on the left is just buzzing with activity — and I mean buzzing! I’m seeing workers and drone but I don’t want to take the hive apart at the moment to start hunting down possible queen cells. It’s the middle of the nectar flow and they are going great guns. I’ve added another super with 10 new frames (wax foundation – not trying plastic yet and certainly not using Duragilt) to the hive on the left. The hive on the right seems to be sluggish – it’s starting to get more active but it’s behind the other hive in terms of the number of bees as well as activity. I’m leaving the Brood Builder patty in there (they’ve only eaten about 1/3 of it – the other hive has polished it off completely) and will check again in a week. Don’t know if it’s worth putting another super on until next Friday. We shall see.

In other news I’ve built two Salad Boxes using the University of Maryland’s instructions found here as well as started on a Salad Table. Some pictures of the Salad Boxes are here:

I still need to finish the Salad Table but I’m really stoked about these salad boxes. I’ve got a lot of other garden projects to complete including finishing digging the garden beds, finishing the rain barrels, and expanding the garden to add one or two more beds this year. Lots to do!

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Well, I’ve been caught somewhat unprepared for the nectar flow this year. For some reason I thought I still had time to get things moving — I thought the nectar flow was from May to mid-June. I was wrong. The nectar flow around here is mostly mid-April to end of May. I went to check on the bees yesterday as well as to refill their hive-top feeders and found this out the hard way. The hive top feeders are still pretty full — as well they should be if the bees have nectar to harvest. On top of that I should have had the new supers ready to go (which I don’t — I have the supers but not the frames) and I should have started feeding the bees back in February — never mind the fact that the temperatures in February were extremely cold and there was a whole boatload of snow on the ground making it hard to get to the hives. I’ve now realized my mistake.

I found some articles written by Master Beekeeper George Imirie (who lived here in Maryland until his passing away in 2007) on the Tennessee beekeepers website and learned alot from two articles about the timing of the nectar flow and about when I should start preparations for the nectar flow. Ok…there will still be a nectar flow this year…I just need to keep working and accept that I’ll just probably have a much smaller harvest. If anything I’m not upset…I’m not doing this for the harvest…I just love the bees as the wonderful creatures they are.

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Well, I finally got out to take care of the bee hives. I’ve put down paving stones and moved one hive onto them and I’ve got 4 more paving stones (16″ x 16″) and I’ll put them down as well and move the second hive onto them. This way the feet of the hive stands won’t sink into the ground anymore and the hives won’t be tilted (although I have to shim the hive that is currently on paving stones to completely level it).

I’ve put an insert between the hive bodies and the honey super I left on during the winter on both hives and I’ve put some MegaBee patties in there. I’ve also put the hive-top feeders back on the hives. I whipped up a 1:1 sugar syrup and added 4 tsp. of HoneyBee Healthy as a supplement. I also will mix up some VitaGold as well. The bees seem to be doing well, I changed the entrance reducer to the larger opening (from the one-bee sized opening) as well as removed the bottom board inserts that I had put in to provide more insulation. Overall things look good…although I did see signs of Varroa…so I’ve decided to treat with ApiGuard for a couple of weeks. I’ll need to remove the ApiGuard trays though when I put the honey supers on (I built and painted two more and need to order another two). If everything goes well I should have some honey this year!

With regards to the garden Diana spent a good part of the day double digging 3/4 of one bed (I did the final 1/4 after I finished taking care of the bees). I’ve forgotten how hard that is…and we still have three more garden beds to do (as well as move the Bee Balm plants and the Butterfly Bush so that we can expand the garden). Still it feels good to get out there again and to work with my girls and the earth. Looking forward to this year with a lot of enthusiasm.

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