I must start with a confession. I have become a bit of a laissez-faire beekeeper. This has been the result of trying to juggle a busy toddler, a pregnancy and every day responsibilities. Let’s just say, I am not confortable bringing Little Famer T to the apiary with me quite yet (gentle movements… not so much) and my bee suit won’t zip over this enormous belly anyway. I am thankful for my sister, Amy, holding down the ins-and-outs of beekeeping for me during my preoccupation.
Last winter was long, rainy, snowy and downright bitter and we experienced a lot of loss. We came into the spring season with just two hives, one of which was very weak. During the summer, we kept our hive numbers low and plan on spring 2014 as a rebuilding year with us purchasing package bees.
All that considered, we were able to maintain a single strong hive through the summer and harvested a single shallow super that equated to a little less than 25 pounds of honey or about 2 gallons.
As the mild weather continued, Amy and I got a chance to peak into the hives. Our two hives from last summer made it through the winter; one is thriving, the other hanging in there. Of our two older hives, one did not survive; this hive was weak going into the winter having swarmed numerous times in late fall. The other of the two older hives is strong and frankly a little aggressive. Anytime anyone tries to work with them they come buzzing out intent on inflicting a few stings. A couple of the ladies even followed Amy and I around after we had closed the hive and begun putting the equipment away. I believe requeening is in order, but I will have to enlist the help of a more experience beekeeper to help me with this endeavor. Read more
This upcoming summer will be my fifth summer keeping bees. And this summer I am determined to get back to properly working the hives. Spending one summer pregnant and the other adjusting to life with a newborn meant that beekeeping was, to-say-the-least, back of my mind. Now, I am falling into a good rhythm with motherhood and have the energy to devote to tending to the apiary.
The mercury creep up to the fifties mid-day today and the sky was song bird blue, as the usually mild weather continued this winter (if you can even call this winter, a winter). As I drove by the hives today, I noticed the bees out and about enjoying the fresh air. It appears all four hives are alive. Read more
The last two weeks got away from me; by the time I got into the hives the ladies had managed to draw out about seven of the ten frames and build some burr comb where the missing frame was. They were extremely docile and seemed to be going strong.
While I was suited up, I also peeked into the other two older hives. Even with the early season swarming the hives were overrun with bees. They hadn’t began to pull on the frames in the supers, but I expect them to soon.
Here are some pics from the inspection: Read more
“A swarm in May is worth a load of hay,
A swarm in June is worth a silver spoon,
A swarm in July isn’t worth a fly.”
Late season swarming and a long, extremely cold winter resulted in the lost of five of our eight hives. Our two remaining hives have been going strong this winter and just recently swarmed.
“Swarming: the natural means of reproduction of honey bee colonies. A new honey bee colony is formed when the queen bee leaves the colony with a large group of worker bees, a process called swarming. In the prime swarm, about 60% of the worker bees leave the original hive location with the old queen. This swarm can contain thousands to tens of thousands of bees. Swarming is mainly a spring phenomenon, usually within a two- or three-week period depending on the locale, but occasional swarms can happen throughout the producing season.” (Source: Wikipedia) Read more
My recently captured swarm – which split from another one of my hives that had gotten overcrowded – seems to be settling into their new hive, which my father constructed from two supers and a couple pieces of spare plywood. As soon as I have some extra money I will purchase a spare hive to have on hand in case they ever decide to swarm again. I ordered another hive and some honey supers, which should arrive today (thanks to Rossman Apairies’s great service and willingness to ship the same day I ordered to help me out!). I plan to put the temporary hive on top of the new hive I ordered, in hopes that over the winter they will travel down into the deep body and I can clean and reuse the honey supers for there intended purpose.
Now that the crowding in the hives is undercontrol I am dealing with a hungry blackbear! He has already forced me to move the hives from my house down to my parents, but they cluster of homes (and dogs) don’t seem to phase him, as he has been spotted curiously checking out my neighbors chicken coop the last couple of nights. Looks like an electric fence will be necessary!
Today, while at work, my mother called me to let me know that the honey bees decided to swarm. I left work and when I arrived home, I found that one swarm had already flown away never to “bee” found. The other swarm was still in the apple tree… a buzzing mass the size of two basketballs. My older hives are only in their second summer, so I had never experienced swarming bees, and missed signs that would have probably alerted me that they intended to take flight. After rounding up some branch choppers, a ladder, and my bee suit, dad and I cut branches away until I was able to reach the swarm. The sound of buzzing bees was incredible as dad cut the final branch and thousands of bees dropped down into a cardboard box inches from my head. After letting them calm down, I was able to hive the bees in a makeshift hives constructed of some spare plywood and two honey supers. While hiving them I did see the queen with her red dot drop into the frames… hopefully she is still safely inside and will make her home in the new hive.
This evening I consulted my books to read more about swarming. Things you should do to prevent swarming… avoid congestion, provide adequate ventilation, make the bees comfortable during hot weather, and remove queen swarm cells. I believe that my bees swarmed because of overcrowding. About a week ago I looked in my hives and noticed they had about two more frames to fill in the honey super… I had planned to add the second super this weekend; however, this was obviously wrong, as I should have added one immediately. Lesson learned. I will be watching my hives closely over the next couple of days to see how they fare. Read more
The past few weeks of April have brought both snow storms and clear, sunny days in the 80s to Pocahontas County. I took advantage of the great weather to do a little spring inspection on my two hives… which successfully made it through their first season. Since I am new to beekeeping, I think my hives look pretty good, but I am not for sure, so if anyone has some pointers I would be more than appreciative. Below are some great photos of the hives earlier this week. Thanks to photographer Chad who took two bee stings to get up close to the action! Read more
Winter is in full swing… so not much to do with my bees except leave them alone. Soon however, I will be ordering two more packages of bees in hopes of avoiding the chaos of last spring… which was the result of ordering too late in the season and a bad first time experience with Draper’s (long story short, I won’t be ordering from them again. If you are ordering bees and want to know why, just ask and I will give you the long version).
This year, I am going to placed my order with Rossman Apiaries. The 2009 package bees with queen run about $62.00 per package. If I place my order now, I will get earlier delivery dates, allowing the bees to get established before the first nectar flow in the spring. Spring will be here before I know it!
This spring I decided to act on a interest in beekeeping and purchased two hives which are almost through their first spring and summer seasons and doing great. I would recommend this to everyone. There is a little start-up cost for hives, equipment, and bees, but little work and great rewards. Unfortunately, due to getting my bees hived so late in the season, no honey this year. However, next year I am looking forward to getting more hives and a lot of honey. Read more