The last sentence of this article got my attention, I wonder if they could use my hives too? Cape Cod beekeeping
I like to call our space a farmette, but all I have are bees, chickens and a large (large for us) veggie/fruit garden. I think I need goats at least, or a milking cow to call it a farmette. Just some other farm animal other than chickens, I wonder what the code would allow?
I’ve been into the bees several times but have not had the camera with me to take pictures, suffice it to say Melissa has lots of workers, lots of drones, and built out 3 frames of foundationless frames in ONE WEEK!! I added a deep on top of the bottom deep to hopefully keep them in two deeps. They had most of a medium full of drone brood and I moved that into the deep (interspersed with deep frames) and moved frames into the top medium for them to use for honey storage.
Demeter is doing better and better, they finally finished a quart of syrup (took them almost a month! Tells you how few bees were in there). I plan to keep feeding them and will not be harvesting honey from them obviously.
I’ll be checking on them again this weekend and I’ll take pictures; cross my fingers there won’t be swarm prep in Melissa…
Onto the garden! Everything is growing so nicely right now, the temps have been perfect spring numbers which we rarely see in Maryland! The bloom times are OFF though! My blueberries are blooming now which is WAY early, my strawberries have flowers and we normally don’t have strawberries ready for picking until after Memorial Day (end of May). Some of those flowers are already pollinated and I can see tiny strawberries starting!!
Happy spring everyone!
I’ll update with bee news after my inspection this weekend.
I was at one of the local schools for a soccer game on Sunday and noticed some unknown bushes with white flowers that were in bloom. Yesterday I saw Redbuds and forsythia in bloom in Eldersburg and Bradford Pears (stinky!) in Baltimore. The maples are almost done, thankfully we have had weather here which has allowed the bees to take advantage of them.
I went into the hives on Sunday and was very glad to find more brood in Demeter, much more in fact. Last time there were 2 small areas on either side of a frame which were about 3″ across, now they’ve expanded onto the middle of the frame. I was VERY excited. I still gave them a deep frame of mixed brood with adhering nurse bees from Melissa. But I think that should be all I need to do…I’ll find out this weekend!
One problem I’ve had with the hives is their reluctance to go into two deeps, they seem to expand into the medium before I can get them onto the 2nd deep. And once they’re in that medium above, there’s no convincing them otherwise…they’ll walk through that empty deep I’ve set on top of the full deep just to get to the medium. So I was pondering this problem because I have 2 deeps in the shed that are NOT on their respective hives. And I really just want the mediums for honey supers and 2 deeps for a brood chamber. When BOOM! it hit me!
I don’t own a queen excluder for various reasons. BUT if I were to use a queen excluder only to get them into two deeps, THAT would solve the issue. I’ve been debating whether to do this now or wait until the nectar flow is over and I start to feed them. As of this writing I’ve decided to wait until the flow is over, but that may change…we know how that happens. But here’s the idea: after harvest, I’ll add a second deep with frames checkerboarded between the 2 deeps, place a queen excluder above the top deep and leave the mediums above the excluder. IF there is any brood in the mediums, they will still be cared for by the nurse bees and will emerge, but the queen will not have access up there to lay any more brood, she’ll be down in the bottom deeps, busily laying eggs, hopefully. And the deeps will eventually be filled with sugar syrup and brood, ready for winter. Once the queen is happily ensconced in the 2 deeps, I would take off the excluder. The other component to this is an upper entrance. To encourage the foragers to return to the honey supers rather than the front entrance, I may experiment with an upper entrance, the only thing I don;t like about those is the hornets…if they prove to be a problem then that may not be a very good option. I need to do more thinking. Happy Spring!
Saturday was a beautiful day to get into the hives. After reading a post from a Richmond beekeeper that showed swarm prep underway (!!!) I needed to get into that strong hive pronto! It’s handy when he posts regularly because we’re a few weeks behind him since he’s about 2 hours south of my area. When he posted about walking drones, I was able to check my hives 2 weeks later and I found the same thing in Melissa.
I’ve been into the hives a few times and the inspections have been fairly brief as the weather has not been perfect for hive inspections, but doable. Demeter, the purple hive, went into winter with a low population and only uncapped stores. I kept bee candy on them the entire winter to make sure they always had food. When I was able to do a more in-depth check on them, I found all of their stores gone in the frames and no brood. I have a feeling they were rearing some because otherwise there would have been NO bees. They likely ate through everything rearing the little brood they did and then probably stopped or kept the numbers really low.
In early March, I had given them a partial frame of brood from Melissa and partially filled honey frames I was storing in the house over winter. The honey seems to have done the trick because the next time I went in, there were two small areas of brood (literally 2-3″ across along the side of a frame). The brood I had given them unfortunately froze during a cold-snap because the population was too low to spare any bees for extra brood protection. As you can see below:
Saturday, I found a frame of mostly capped brood in Melissa and gave it to Demeter with the adhering nurse bees. Thankfully, stranger nurse bees and brood are easily accepted by hives without fighting so this will be my swarm prevention strategy as the spring progresses. I was all ready to use my handy-dandy double screen bottom board as instructed by our bee inspector, Bill Troup, during our short-course (which is going on right now), but no swarm prep was noted, it looks like the hive is just ramping up brood production now. It’s a delicate balance though this brood removal: you don’t want to remove all of their replacement bees or you’ll kill the hive.
If brood will be available, I’ll remove a capped frame every week until the purple hive has built up at least to a full deep. Then I plan to feed it.
It looks like I’ll still only be able to harvest from one hive this year. I plan to feed, feed, feed after harvest because last summer they ate through EVERYTHING they had! Late summer is tough around here, even if you leave lots of honey for them, they’ll need to eat it just to stay alive. And then you’ll need to feed them anyway. I wish we had a better late nectar flow.
One of the apiaries in PA that I know about has sold out of his nucs within a couple of weeks of offering them because local beekeepers have lost ALL of their hives and needed to restock them. In our club I’ve heard of folks losing ALL or MOST of their hives, this has been a bad winter for hive loses it seems.
New York Times article
Article from the NPR blog “The Salt”.
I was told by an unnamed individual that I needed to post pictures of my hens. I have to say they’re really pretty. As usual, click on the picture to enlarge it.
I’ve been thinking about putting up a mason bee house and various structures to help native pollinators. Then I found this: Biodiversity is needed for increased pollination of almonds.
Sunday was an unusually warm day (hit high 40′s!) and it was warmer in the sun on the hives. I could see the bees flying from my kitchen window so I decided this was a great day to do a quick check. I had been worried because the cold stretched on for so long, I didn’t think the bees had a chance to break cluster and move to new areas of honey stores. As they exhaust the food supply in an area, they require a warmish day to regroup and move over to frames that have stores. Thankfully, today was their day!
I checked the orange hive first (Melissa) and found lots of bees—on the right side of the bottom deep, last time I think they were on the left. I planned to check the left frames and see if they had eaten their stores but as I set down the medium, I squished some bees (DAMN! You don’t want to kill off these bees when the queen isn’t laying yet!) and they just went after me. I wasn’t wearing my veil and as I high-tailed it out of there (what was I thinking???) one pissed-off bee got stuck in my hair and as I could hear her…then feel her…I tried to brush her out of my hair ever-so-gently and WHAM she nailed me right at the top of my head. Oh my Lord I could feel the pain spreading. I got into the house after getting rid of the suicide bee and had my husband try to find the stinger. The pain wasn’t as sharp as it was at first so I suspected I had removed the stinger (with my hive tool thank you very much) and yes, I had. While combing my hair to make sure any assassin buddies were gone, I saw the stinger fall out of my hair. So tiny and yet to powerful thanks to a venom sac.
After taking Ibuprofen and using an ice pack, I went to look at Demeter. They were also obviously flying although the numbers weren’t as high. I got to the bottom deep and saw the majority of bees 2 frames over from where I had last seen them. Curious, I removed the edge frames (where the cluster was several weeks ago) and looked at how the stores were consumed. The frames were almost completely empty except for a small pocket of uncapped stores. They were eating the bee candy I had made (I really dislike the recipe since it was super sticky and not super hard). I suspect I need to use corn syrup after all. I also looked for any possible brood and found nada though the bees were working on the itty-bitty pollen patty that was in there…
I got adventurous and pulled some frames the bees were hanging onto and found several frames with ~5″ diameter worth of bees. They were on both sides of the frames spread over 3 frames. I saw the QUEEN!! My 2011 queen, still kicking. Oh my, what a day. Despite the sting, I love going into the hives. I don’t want to disturb them too much by going in there frequently, but I really enjoy hive inspections. I hope they make it until the spring.
I assume my bees will try to replace Queen Penelope this season, if I see any queen cells, I may take her out into a nuc and let the main hive raise their own queen.