While our spring results are not perfect, we are very happy to have only lost two hives this winter. I thought we went into winter with over 20 hives, but when I updated the records yesterday morning, I found that we have 15 hives. However, that makes the percentage we lost this winter even better — and our best year yet. Even the two we lost probably would have made it through if we hadn’t had that incredibly long cold spell. In fall, we long debated combining them with each other or with other hives as they were not strong, but they also weren’t quite that weak and they had honey. We added candy boards in December and hoped for the best. Neither hive even went into the candy boards. There were actually some resources left in the frames, but the bees died clustered — about 3 cups of bees in each hive. Sixteen degrees is just too cold and we are counting our blessings that the other hives are doing as well as they are.
With temperatures in the mid seventies on Saturday, many bees were out gathering pollen and every hive still had a good number of bees in the hive. We even had to add a super to the English hive and the best other hives have 10 frames of bees. A couple of hives only have three frames, but there was a variety of ages so the queen must be ramping up production. Despite the sunshine and the warm temperature, the intermittent breeze had a chill to it so I didn’t pull any frames. I counted frames of bees and tested the weight of the boxes. It feels like some of the ladies have really been packing sugar into frames! Hubby helped out on the last two hives and pulled some frames without a large number of bees on them and saw lots of wonderful bee bread, pollen, and nectar.
I was impatient (and over confident) in the morning and did a quick check of candy boards before suiting up. Our generally worst tempered hive had no sugar left, so I decided to give them one of the candy boards from a dead-out. The unappreciative little critters stung me right above my top lip, so I spent the rest of the weekend looking like I was trying to do that stupid duck-face thing! Hopefully I’ll abide by “we live and we learn” in the future. I almost look normal again today, which is good because I have to get a new ID made tomorrow.
While I was checking hives, hubby installed some more hive stands in the new location and then he painted all the new wood ware with paint from the reject shelf at Lowe’s. I love the new colors! I know some beekeepers prefer an all-white apiary, but bees orient on color. That’s my excuse for our rainbow hives, and I’m sticking to it. I know for sure that hubby would not pick magenta if he was the only one working the bees, but he does like making me happy! It works out well for both of us as I’d rather have pretty bee hives than jewelry, and you can’t buy a diamond ring for $9.00!
It was so wonderful to spend a weekend at the farm, even with a mouse in the camper! (That was my motivation to get up at 6:00 a.m.) I love waking up to the quiet and a view of pine trees. While we’ll make frequent trips back before then, I’m counting down the days until spring break and a whole week in paradise!
The weather hasn’t been conducive to trips to the bee yard the past two weekends, but that doesn’t mean we’re not thinking of our bees. On days when the temperature in the garage has been above freezing, Hubby has been busy putting frames together in preparation for another year of growth in the apiary. I’ll help with the foundation just as soon as I get a break from grading, but as soon as I finish one batch of essays, students write the next batch. This will be the story of my life for the next couple of months, but I will go visit the bees next weekend!
Hubby has been reading a book about rearing better queens and one of the suggestions is to include frames with starter strips as comb that the bees draw “freeform” apparently leads to bigger queens. Old comb with all the cocoon remnants in cells can also negatively affect the size of queens — or the bees have to extend the queen cell out and float the egg into the larger area in a sea of royal jelly. All in all, we’re going to try some new things this spring. We’ve also been watching many videos on YouTube to get a variety of ideas. One guy we really like is Ian from Steppler Farms in Ontario. While he clearly has different weather conditions to us, his experiences are relevant most of the time. We missed this month’s Mid-State Beekeeper meeting this month because of a conflict with work, but we also really look forward to getting to the next one and learning more from people in our area. January’s presentation about fire-ants was enlightening and fascinating — and it will change the way we apply fire ant chemicals.
I’ve always noticed the first signs of spring, but now I notice them differently. That red haze around some maple-trees — that now means pollen and nectar! A dust of pollen on the car means bee food in addition to allergy flare-ups. Bee-keeping does indeed change us.
Before beekeeping, I would have seen the newly leveled area along our driveway as prime land for daylilies and maybe a rose bush or two. Now I have dreams of buckwheat and clover to provide early food for the bees. Instead of having a greenhouse full of tomato seedlings, I currently have basil, rosemary and lavender growing. These plants repel moths, mosquitoes, house-flies, and some beetles, so I plan to plant them around the new hive stands. Of course, they are also nectar and pollen sources and the rosemary and lavender repel snakes. That alone shows how much I’ve changed — protecting the hives has become more important than keeping snakes at bay. Of course, we haven’t seen a rattlesnake in a while, so my priorities might well change with the next sighting!
I don’t know which of us is more impatient to get out of the city, but I doubt the dog will need any more encouragement than the two of us next weekend. All the hives were active a couple of weeks ago, but we have no idea what’s going on inside them. My new pollen feeder was popular, so hopefully the queens have been ramping up production and all those frames in the garage will disappear into the new boxes that await paint. Spring is just about here and I can’t wait to get back to the bees!