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Posts Tagged ‘honey bees’

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!

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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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It’s gotten up to 52 degrees Fahrenheit (11.1 degrees Centigrade) today…sunny and beautiful. The girls have come out of the hives and they are enjoying it immensely! A great day for some cleansing flights as well as a chance to look around. Considering that it’s been pretty cold here for the past few weeks I’m sure they are very happy (ok…maybe I am anthropomorphizing a little but I’m very happy to see them out and about!). The temperature is going to drop tonight to the upper 30s but then it will be back to the mid to upper-40s tomorrow. I guess I need to start preparing things for the coming year so that the girls will have plenty of frames to put honey into!

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I have to say this has to be one of the most challenging times of the year for me as a beekeeper. I spent the spring, summer, and fall caring for my hives — feeding my bees, treating them for pests like Small Hive Beetles and Varroa — and now I just have to sit and wait to see if they over-winter well. I estimated that by the time things got really cold each hive had about 100 lbs of honey stored away in the hive bodies and the super.

My wife went back to the compost pile and then came in telling me that there were dead bees on the ground (actually in the snow — we got about 21″ of it this past weekend). I wasn’t sure what to think. I know the bees throw out the drones in the fall in preparation for winter but I wanted to see what she meant exactly. Well — yes there were dead bees in front of the hives in the snow. And I picked up one of them and it was a worker — not a drone. That made me worried. So I opened up one of the hives and took off the hive top feeder and listened carefully. Deep in the hive I could hear the buzzing. I was very relieved. Also, looking at the top super I could see that there was a ton of capped honey in the cells. And, two bees came flying out to see who was messing with the hive. I immediately closed everything up (and took the hive top feeder with me back inside to clean up) and walked away. The sun shines most of the day on the hives which, in my mind, is good as it keeps my little girls warm (hopefully). Tonight is going to be the coldest yet for the year — a low of 18 — and it doesn’t look like it’s going to warm up any for quite a while. So I have to sit inside and worry.

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I’ve been feeding my bees a 2:1 sugar syrup mixture to get their stores of honey up in preparation for the winter. At this point I believe that both hives have somewhere around 90 – 120 lbs of honey in the hives which should be more than sufficient for the coming winter. The last thing I want to have happen to my girls is for them to starve. I just saw a hive today that died because of starvation (and it’s not even winter yet!). We went out to Larriland Farms today to pick apples and to get some other things and they have an observation hive in their barn. The hive looked really good earlier this year but when I saw it today all of the bees were at the bottom — dead. I could see that there was no honey stored in any of the cells and there were bees with their heads down in the cells also dead. It was a very sad sight 😦 .

I asked the checkout person about it and she said that she was told that the bees died because of the cold this week. It didn’t make sense to me as bees in that kind of hive would be able to manage their temperature better than those in a Langstroth since they’re so compacted. But the lack of honey in any of the cells indicates that the most likely cause of the hive’s demise was starvation. It made me very worried about MY girls.

When I came home I whipped up a batch of 2:1 syrup, added a teaspoon of HoneyBHealthy, and went out to refill the hive top feeders as well as remove the 1/4 inch spacer between the hives that I had placed in order to treat them with ApiGuard. Unfortunately I was only able to get one hive done due to time constraints — the other one I’ll do tomorrow. When I opened the hive to remove the space (which is situated between the two deeps) the bees became VERY agitated and immediately stung me three times on my left hand. On top of that they flew at my veil continuously. Unfortunately I had to remove a bit of burr comb in order to put the hive back together. I also took out the queen excluder from between the deeps and the one shallow super that I’m leaving on top of the hives and I put in an entrance reducer.

Overall the weight of the hive components makes me think that I’m looking at about 90 – 120 lbs of honey in each hive total. I just hope that it remains completely accessible to them throughout the winter.

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