This brought tears to my eyes as I read the entire list to my husband. I also fit the beekeeper description far more than the “married to a beekeeper” section! That made me very happy on this dreary winter day.
The pollen powder and powdered-sugar mixture I’ve been putting out has been so popular with our bees, but it’s pointless to put that out on a windy day like today. It’s also too cold for the bees to fly, so we want something we can put in the hives. Of course, it’s too cold to put anything in the hives, and I agree with the bees that staying indoors is the best place to be right now. Even the dog agrees, and she usually loves the freedom she has to run around at the farm.
So I thought it would be a good day to try to make my own pollen patties. I really like all the information I found on honeyrunapiaries.com, so I figured that was a good place to start — on a much smaller scale. With that in mind, we brought my 20+ year old mixer with us this trip, even though I know the inner beater falls out when the mixer gets warm or the going gets tough. I haven’t used the mixer to make bread dough for as long as I can remember for that reason. You’d think I’d have realized that things probably weren’t going to go any better with a much thicker mixture! What can I say? It’s been a tough week. The only way I could get everything blended was to warm the mixture in the microwave.
Tim Arheit, owner of Honey Run Apiaries, writes that he makes bags out of freezer paper and then rolls the patties out in the sealed bag. That sounds great and so easy. He seals the edges of the bags using an impact sealer. I don’t even know what that is, never mind have one. Oh well — it’s a small batch — improvise. Improvising worked, but my beautiful new 2-foot long rolling pin and my 18 inch counter are clearly not a good match. (The 18 inch counter is the only counter space I have in the camper.) With a whole lot of twisting and turning, I managed to get some packets together, and now I just hope that the forecast for tomorrow is equally wrong as the forecast for today was — just in the opposite direction. If not, we’ll freeze the patties — or maybe just refrigerate them as we don’t have time for them to defrost on weekend trips and we really don’t need to drop ice cubes into the hives.
The bees in my personal hive prefer to live and work in the top box, regardless of whether it’s a deep or medium. They have to run completely out of room to ever use the bottom box — and all the splits we’ve made from that hive do the same thing. When we put candy board on that hive last trip, we were worried about squishing bees because so many were above the frames, so we ended up putting the candy board above the inner cover thinking that it would be better to ensure they have enough food with the cold snap than hope they had enough in boxes we couldn’t check. Because they have the layer of sugar and the inner cover between the lid and cluster and the hive is in direct sunlight for another two hours, I figured it was minimally risky to remove the lid long enough to toss a warm pollen patty in. I was happy to see bees chowing down around the hole they’ve made in the center and to see lots of sugar left to get them through what is predicted to be another cold week. The other hives are in shadier areas, so there’s no way we’re going to check them, but I assume they have enough to last them too.
Lessons learned — I need a new mixer and I need to make the next batch of pollen patties in the city in my full-sized kitchen! Another lesson learned — despite the difficulties today, doing something is better than doing nothing. We made the almost 300-mile trip to check on the bees and visit family. It was supposed to be 58 degrees today. Hubby is turning into a Popsicle using the excavator he rented to start prepping the new hive location. There are lots of reasons to feel frustrated, and I wasn’t feeling the normal falling away of stress that I normally experience as soon as we leave I-20 to make the final leg of our journey. I was feeling very sorry for myself this morning. Walking down to the shipping container to get the pollen was cold, but beautiful. Making the pollen patties cleared the cobwebs out of my head. Now it’s time to make some hot chocolate and take it down to hubby, to breathe in the fresh air, and to look around our beautiful land and appreciate all the things that are good in our lives!
This is less a blog, and more a quick post to share an interesting article about the bees that keep a hive warm in winter. As most of the country is in the middle of this long cold-spell, I’m sure that most of us who are beekeepers are concerned about our hives. We placed candy boards on every hive before we returned to the city, and I hope they add a layer of insulation as well as food. Still, I worry….. and we won’t know how well each hive pulled through until it’s warm enough for bees to fly again.
There are some new-to-me facts in this article, such as why it’s not a bad thing when a queen leaves some cells empty when laying eggs. Enjoy!