Lazer Creek Apiary · Supplemental Feeding

2019 Pollen and Nectar Dearth

20190720 Pollen
Pollen substitute

The Sourwood trees (nectar source) and Devil’s Walking Stick (pollen and nectar source) are on the cusp of flowering, and last week bees were not interested in pollen substitute or sugar syrup, but now they are ravenous waiting for late summer blooms to start.    We’ve noticed a recent decline in resources stored in hives and queens have slowed down laying brood, so they and we knew the dearth was coming.

We’ve had a lot of success with Bee Pro pollen the last two years.  I have four pollen feeders out around the farm and each needs to be refilled at least once a day.   Two feeders are covered, and I only use the uncovered trays in times of high demand as the bees don’t like it as much once it turns to mud during our afternoon thunderstorms!    As you can see from the above picture,  I need to refill feeders before foragers are out and about and estimate how much they’ll consume before the rains come.   There’s no way I’m getting between them and what’s on the tray without a bee suit, and there would have to be a better reason than that to suit up in 100 degree heat!  However, despite the recent weather forecasts,  the rain hasn’t even moved the rain gauge even though thunder has sent us indoors the last few days, so little pollen substitute has gone to waste.

20190720 Syrup Tank
Water tank for sugar syrup storage.

We’ve moving away from open feeding syrup as we only want to feed our bees and not every nectar-sipping insect in a 5-mile radius.    Hubby is setting up the tank for first time use: as it is set up in the picture, the pump will cycle syrup to keep the sugar and water well mixed , and it will also pump syrup through the red hose into a smaller tank that sits on the ATV or golf cart.  The smaller tank has its own pump, so we’ll be able to easily refill internal feeders or feeder pails.   That will be a big improvement over loading up gallon milk jugs and liter soda bottles with syrup in the kitchen and driving them around to hives we are already feeding.   For one thing, it will keep me from spilling sugar all over the kitchen floor!

We’ve had some robbing problems when internal feeding late summer in the past, so we’ll have to keep hives strong enough to fend off invaders when using division board feeders.   We have some entrance feeders to use with weaker hives, but we don’t want to block entrances completely in this heat.   As with everything else, supplemental feeding is a balancing act and I’m glad that I’m home during much of summer to keep an eye on things.   We merged a couple of weak, queenless NUCs into other hives this week rather than risk them dying while trying to defend a feeder.

Hubby has also been researching beneficial sunflowers as another July pollen and nectar source.   We placed some hives on a neighbor’s sunflower field a couple of years ago, and the hives came back with no resources and sick bees.   Apparently it’s good to know what kind of sunflowers you’re looking at.  Bee Culture reports that sunflower pollen is beneficial for bee health, but other sources report that some sunflowers produce a sticky substance in which bees can become stuck which reduces the number of field bees.  As the aforementioned hives had surprisingly few foragers, we’re guessing our neighbor plants sticky sunflowers!   We’re going to plant some Lemon Queen sunflowers as articles consistently recommend them for bees.   We may even try to plant some this year…..   or maybe not as another thunderstorm just moved through without leaving a drop of rain.

As always, natural food sources are the best and supplemental feeding means we won’t pull any honey even if we think it was stored while nectar was still flowing.

All this thinking about feeding bees has made me hungry, so I guess it’s time to head into the kitchen and prepare something for us.   We were both so tired after planting 30+ shrubs and trees yesterday that we didn’t eat a real supper, but more about that another day.

 

Bees · Hive equipment · Honey · Lazer Creek Apiary · Natural Food Sources · Pests - Bees

50 Hives and Counting….

2019-07 New Hive Stands
New Hive Stands – July 2019

According to Hubby’s spreadsheet, 50 hives going into the spring nectar flow is the magic number at which the apiary will become financially viable, based on honey sales alone.    We weren’t there at the start of spring this year, and probably won’t harvest any more honey this year as we’re letting our hives keep their nectar to build reserves for the dearth, but with the three splits I made yesterday, we do now have 50 strong hives.

Hubby has been working on new hive stands in a sunnier location than our first site, and the above three splits are the first occupants.  We want to move all of the hives from the first site because small hive beetles thrive in the shade there and the hives are too close to the planned house site.  Contractors may not be as thrilled as we are to watch bees head to the creek or fly around making orientation flights!   Before the big migration, we want to get carpet remnants under each stand to make life difficult for small hive beetles.  We already have quality landscape fabric along the whole run because it’s more fun checking hives when you don’t have to fight blackberry vines while doing so!

2019-07 Painting
Painting for fun and function.

Talking of checking hives, I only have four left to check for this round, and I’m pretty sure we’ll be able to make some more splits.   But my back hurt this morning, and it was hot and humid, and I just couldn’t face suiting up!   What’s the best (productive) thing to do on a hot humid day?   Well, pressure wash hive components and paint!   I repainted some wood ware last week, and most of what was left just needed a touch up on the hive numbers, so today was a low pressure day.   When we have a bunch of hive components that are all the same color, you can be pretty sure Hubby used the paint sprayer.   When we have a mixture, I hand painted.   We need the balance between efficiency and variety otherwise we’d run out of hive bodies.  Well, I need the variety — I love to look out at a colorful bee yard.

I can also rationalize a multi-colored bee yard because it reduces drifting.  Even when we have a number of similar hives, I try to paint the hive numbers in a variety of colors and add designs that help the bees find their ways home.   I have to admit that what drives me most is the joy of making things pretty.   Hubby and the bees don’t seem to care that I only ever took one art class in high school or that my flowers rarely look like anything found in nature.   Hubby likes to see me happy, and sometimes that means painting pink flowers, and sometimes it means designing a database!

My other summer project has been an Access database.  Our Excel spreadsheet for tracking hive inspections was becoming too cumbersome, so I gave Access another shot.   That I got nowhere with Access the past two summers says a lot about my stress levels back then as almost everything is falling into place now that I am relaxed and rested.  That brings me a different kind of joy than the colorful hives, especially as it’s proving useful.  Hubby asked me how many active NUCs we have last night, and I was able to tell him with just a few mouse clicks, so he kept throwing questions at me!  I was able to answer almost all of them with minimal effort.   There are still a number of reports that I want to develop, but they won’t be a chore as I love exercising that side of my brain sometimes.

Life has been especially good this week as Hubby didn’t have to work at his day-job.   We are so blessed to be surrounded by so much beauty.   We have a constant supply of fresh tomatoes, cucumbers, and melons, and the garden will be even bigger next year.  Life really doesn’t get any better than this!

2019-07 Lily Pond