Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Flight of The Turquoise Bee Apiary is Expanding



It's official. The Flight of The Turquoise Bee Apiary is expanding. Our second location is about an hour west of St. Paul, in Hamburg, MN. It is a lovely 10 acre  Permaculture Farm. Our host, "Farmer Charlie" is my brother-in-law. Charlie purchased this beautiful historic farm complete with a granary, a silo and Elizabeth, a tractor he brought back to life.


I don't know much about permaculture other than knowing it is a way of designing systems and ways of interaction that support the natural rhythms and patterns of the elements of those systems. As such, "Bees are the embodiment of the permaculture principle of concentrating limited resources - foraging large territories, and extracting sweet essence from the impoverished ecosystems that surround most of us, regardless of climate of location. Bees essentially feed themselves and through pollination, feed us, other creatures and the soil." Their honey is delicious, anti-bacterial, full of enzymes, minerals and complex sugars and is the best burn ointment. Propolis can be used for infections, sore throats, care of gums and teeth and treatment of sulfurs. Bees wax is ideal for candles, salve, and lip balm. Bee venom can stimulate the auto-immune system and ease arthritis. Keeping bees inherently increases our connection with the land, the seasons, local economy and food production. So, we have been invited to keep bees at the farm and kick off the permaculture endeavor. 

When I first visited the farm I was struck by how much clover was on the property and of course bees love clover so I knew it would be an ideal spot for some bees. Additionally Charlie has always been interested in our beekeeping adventure, visiting The Flight of The Turquoise Bee Apiary with  fearless fascination, an essential ingredient to hosting hives.

Right now the farm is blanketed in snow. But come Spring time it will be a sunny, spacious place for some Italian girls and their Queen. I ordered two new packages for the farm today and after the first of the year I will get equipment ordered, painted and set up. We are contemplating dabbling in harvesting comb honey this year which is not something we have done officially. If it seems like the girls on the farm like their nutritional sources and have potential for good production then we might just invest in a Ross Comb Super.

In the meantime we are nurturing three colonies of bees in Northfield who just might have the gumption to make it through the winter. If so we will have two new hives in Northfeild, and three overwintered hives that might need splits. If that's the case we will be way over our heads in managing our little hobby apiaries. 

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Fall check up!



Oh my goodness! Paula and I went to check on the bees today and we have three really strong healthy colonies. Colleen's Royal Ruckus, The Turquoise Bee and Katrina's Drone Den, all packed with bees in all three boxes. We have had an amazing Indian summer, warm days even up until now. Lots of local beekeepers are reporting loads of pollen coming into their hives. I didn't see the bees bringing any pollen in today but there was lots of new pollen in the top boxes of all three hives. The finding is sort of a mixed bag for us as we have a major problem with the comb in our brood boxes, all of them.

You see in our over zealous effort to keep recycling our combed out brood box frames we seemed to have overdone it by at least a year. I didn't realize that while reusing comb is a good idea, it is only good for two, maybe three years. Our comb is four years old. You see if the bees are storing pollen collected from anything treated with pesticide then they are storing toxic waste in the hive which is what they feed the brood. Additionally the comb gets brittle and old. Frankly I think this may have been part of our problem this year with a poor honey harvest. Well that and the long cold wet spring and summer. In a perfect world our plan was to remove all those frames and start anew next year but I can't see my way to figuring out how to do this with hives that are busting at the seems with bees. Perhaps in a month or so the population will die down and we can do some of the replacement work. Otherwise we will have wait until spring and figure it all out then.

The sad news is that Patrick's Pollinator has died. When we reached the bee yard it was evident that something wasn't right. There was a flurry of activity outside every hive except for Patrick's Pollinator. On closer inspection we found a pile of dead bees outside the hive and evidence of Nosema, a disease that causes dysentery or bee diarrhea if you will. We saw streaks of bee waste outside on the top box of the hive which is sort of a dead give away. 


We have not had nosema before so it is sort of a bummer to find it now. It is contagious and it contaminates the comb so we took apart the hive today and will get rid of all the comb. Once we got to the bottom of the box we found a large pile of dead bees and what looks like dead larva but we are not sure.



This is  never ending adventure in which we learn something new with every visit to the bee yard. It continues to be full of astonishing surprises, utter disappointments but mostly giddy joy. We put all our mouse guards in place and don't plan to visit again until mid november. Hopefully by then we can remove the top brood boxes off Colleen's Royal Ruckus and Kattrina's Drone Den and make an effort to over winter these girls.

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Ouch


The end of the season is always risky. Often both Paula and I make it until the end of August without getting stung. Honey bees are generally very docile especially during a nectar flow and when they have brood to tend to. However, in late August they get protective and guard their nest with great enthusiasm. It isn't just humans who want to take their honey but other honey bees, wasps and hornets as well. Guard bees can be seen hovering close by to go after any avenger.

Three weeks ago when we were pulling some honey for ourselves the bees went after me. I got at least 8 stings, mostly on my arm and one on my belly. I was wearing my suite but they can sting right through that. I should have had a long sleeve shirt on and didn't. Last week we went to try and pull some empty frames that the bees had cleaned and Paula got a bee inside her veil that stung her on her temple and then a few more stings. You see once a bee stings it sends out a warning signal to other bees and they tend to swarm and sting with enthusiasm. Paula left the bee yard right way to try and temper the bees while I got everything back in order. We abandoned the task and came back yesterday to finish the job. I actually didn't get stung until we were finished with our work and were leaving the bee yard when a single bee got to my ankle and stung me.

I do have boots that I typically were in the bee yard but they are literally falling apart with gaping holes so I left them behind yesterday and went in with some flimsy shoes. My next mission is to replace those boots, they are 10 years old and have served five of those years in the bee yard. I just hate to buy new shoes and boots, it is such a chore for someone with size 5 feet.

Anyway, yesterdays sting is a dozier, right on my ankle joint and my foot blew up like a balloon and is bruised and so tender I can't flex the foot at all. I am struggling to get into a pair of shoes to work a little princess shift this morning!  If you didn't know better you'd think I had sprained my ankle. All for the love of honey bees.

Monday, September 9, 2013

Oh Dear! Another Pest!


That would be Wax Moth from Achroia gisella better known as lesser wax moth which hatch from Waxworms, the caterpillar larvae of wax moths.  They live as parasites in beehives, eating pollen and shed skins of bees and chew through beeswax. If allowed to get out of hand they will destroy brood comb in no short order. Unfortunately for us we have been outwitted by the pest and had to destroy an entire box of brood comb and then some.

And it was all my fault!

I know about Wax Moth and I know how to prevent it. I got lazy and violated a simple rule and didn't store a box of brood comb properly. I know perfectly well brood comb must be stored in air tight containers. Period end of story. Simple no brainer. I also have more large air tight containers than anyone you know! When this happened those containers were sitting right next to the box of brood comb, empty! Watching Tashi Losar stalking a moth for over 30 minutes the other night should have been a red flag rather than a source of amusement for me.


Damn it anyway! Lesson learned. Why do we have to learn lessons about things we already know for pete sake? It was beautiful dark comb, an entire box, ready to be made into candle wax. I am only glad it was Paula and I who discovered the mess and not someone else who might have been completely freaked out!

Paula and I spent the morning extracting honey. No extracting party this year, just the two of us. We used electric de-capping knife to un-cap about 9 super frames and a scraping tool to open up some patchy areas on about 9 brood frames. We had a fair amount of un-capped honey and couldn't avoid mixing the two. The good news is that we did get 5 gallons. The bad news is that it is very high moisture honey, 19-20 on the refractometer which means it could ferment quickly!
There is still  a great deal of work to be done, mostly physical in nature. Removing all but two brood boxes from the hives in the yard, cleaning all the equipment and getting a game plan in place for next year. All of that is hard to face after Wax Moth, minimal honey and bees that just don't seem well. We managed to collect one large tub of wax for candles despite the loss from Wax Moth and we will get more when we pull the rest of the equipment from the bee yard.



Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Better days


This photo is from the spring, a day when we were full of hope and enthusiasm, when anything seemed possible.

 It has been a sad summer for us, a summer of more questions than answers and more losses than gains. Our bees just have not thrived. July was a telling month. We lost Andrea's girls, and we struggled with long periods of not having brood or seeing our queens. None of the hives have produced much honey, and in most cases not enough for overwintering. I am not sure what we will do. Colleen's Royal Ruckus has one almost full super which will give us about 3 gallons and if we take anything from the other hives we might end up with 5 gallons. A far cry from the 20 gallons we got last year.

I am at a loss for the causes but I am well aware of the struggle bees are having. I worry that we don't have good nutritional sources, but how can that be after last year. I worry that the one farmer nearby who is using heavy chemicals is hurting our bees, but how can that be after last year. I worry that Varroa destructor is hurting our bees, but how can that be they were new packages. It was a long, cold and wet spring which didn't help the situation and we have not had great weather until recently which is just too late for the bees.

Maybe we just had bad bee juju this year, maybe we got hit hard by a combination of problems. I don't know. I just know how sad and painful it is and I can't imagine being a commercial beekeeper and dealing with losses of a greater magnitude. This is a hobby, an expensive one yes, but a still a hobby. We can recover and go at it again next year but it is a different story for commercial beekeepers who are loosing hundreds of hives and in some cases having to shut down.

I am sad I won't have honey for the Jewish New Year. I am sad I might not have enough honey for my wedding favors. I am sad my bees will die because they don't have enough stores for the winter. I am just sad about it all. I don't want to bemoan but it is hard to get my chin up. I love my bees and I love my time in the bee yard. The past 6 weeks have been a struggle and in the sprit of trying to keep my hopes up I kept all of this to myself. Now that the summer is coming to an end I just have to fess up and admit it has been a very bad year. So there you have it. If you have been fortunate enough to get honey from The Flight of The Turquoise Bee Apiary your share may be very small this year.

Trousdale Family Farm An "Iowa Century Farm"



I did not know until yesterday that my people on my father's side were from Grundy Center, Iowa. My father grew up in Mott, North Dakota. We were taught a little rhyme about his roots growing up "Mott Mott the little spot that God forgot".  I grew up spending time on the family farm in Iowa but I never bothered to learn the history of this place.

For sometime now I have wanted to go back and see the farm, mostly to remember the fun of my childhood, chasing chickens around the barn, pulling up fresh rhubarb out of the ground, salting it and eating it raw and to just see the land again. So yesterday Tina and I and two of my paternal cousins took my 82 year old father back to the farm.

Jim Trousdale, Cari and Elmer and Bob Trousdale

In 1875 my paternal great grandparents, Mary and Thomas Trousdale purchased three farms in Grundy Center, Iowa. Mary and Thomas had three children, Vira, Robert and my grandfather Elmer. Each of the children inherited a farm. Each of Elmer's children inherited a third of their father's inheritance. By virtue of my mother's trust my siblings and I now own 1/6 of a third of this 330 acre farm. So I am a forth generation farm owner. We share ownership with four cousins and a uncle who will eventually pass his 1/3 to his three children. The farm has now been in the same family for 138 years.

Of course we don't farm the land ourselves but my father does manage and oversee to the management of the farm. In my lifetime I have known four tenant farmers. We cash lease the land and house to a tenant farmer who takes all the risk around the yield. While I have always know this about the farm I gained a much greater understanding of it all yesterday.

Once we reached the Iowa boarder it was just one farm after another but we all noticed something different growing than the corn of our childhood.



Rows and rows of seed corn all meticulously planted, recently pollinated and cut. I didn't expect to see seed corn, especially not on our property. After all this is the stuff of Monsanto and other GMO producers. I had to listen carefully to realize that we don't get to decide what is grown on the property, the tenant farmer makes those decisions. As I was piecing this all together  I am sure Jason, our tenant farmer and his mother were thinking here come the radical lesbians from the big city to tell us to stop the seed crop production. When I made the leap from seed corn to GMO's and then to Monsanto Jason's mother Kathy looked at me and said  "Well think about it, GMO's are really no different than natural evolution which is bound to happen, this way it is just happening faster so just think of it as accelerated evolution." Huh. When we got home I said to Tina "So really, my family is participating in this whole GMO thing".  "Yep, you are." So that was the second big revelation of the day. I am not sure how I feel about it but felt better after a conversation with a brother who said eventually we can probably prohibit the planting of seed corn on the property through a lease agreement. It may mean loosing the current tenant farmer and it surely won't be done until my father passes. While we may technically own the farm he still manages everything.


It was great to see the property and visit with Jasen, his wife and his mother and reminisce about the barn, building the current house and learning more about my family history. After visiting the farm Elmer took us to the Grundy Center Grave Yard where many of my relatives are buried. My grandfather, my great grandparents and several great aunts and uncles. It was here that my father told stories about growing up in Mott but spending summers in at his grand parents in Grundy Center and playing on the farm all summer long with his brother.


I am not entirely sure why I feel so connected to this place but I do. I am sure my connection to the land and memories from childhood somehow impacted my connection to the world today, my interest in slow food, food from scratch, the bees, canning and so on. It was a good trip, fun to spend time with my cousins who I rarely see and to take my dad back to a place he cares about deeply.

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Another visitor and a full report


I have the best brother-in-law ever! Some time ago Charlie made Paula and I this wonderful workbench for the bee yard. I am sure there was some kind of trade of services for his craftsmanship although I can remember what that might have been. Needless to say the bench totally rocks and saves a great deal of strain on our back. I've always known Charlie liked honey, especially comb honey but I didn't really appreciate how interested he was in the bees and the beekeeping.

Paula and went down to do a full inspection of the hives Sunday afternoon and Monday afternoon I took Charlie down for a show and tell visit. Both days were very hot and sunny and there is a great nectar flow on now so the bees remain very docile. They will stay this way until the middle end of August and then get defensive as they since a need to protect their food stores. Additionally in our healthy hives there is a great deal of brood so the bees are busy tending to the brood or out foraging. July is the perfect month for visitors.

It was a great deal of fun to show Charlie Royal Ruckus, our strongest hive to date. He got to see brood, nectar and capped honey and observe workers in all aspects of their work. When we went into Patrick's Pollinator we watched two drones trying to chew their way out of cells. It is always a treat  to see new emerging bees!

So here is the report. Andrea's girls are gone gone gone. I have no idea what happened to them but remain suspicious of some sort of brood disease. The Queen never laid much and what she did lay never hatched. The population dwindled to nothing, workers never started to lay and the bees seemed to disappear. Very perplexing.  Patrick's Pollinator continues to do well but I'd like to see more effort in packing nectar and capping honey. The bees have not moved up well into the supers. Royal Ruckus seems to be way ahead of the hives that went in nearly four weeks earlier than she did. She has three packed brood boxes and two supers, the first one has some capped honey. Katrina's Drone Den still worries me as there still isn't any brood and we can't find the marked queen. I still think these girls swarmed and might be in the process of re-queening but if we don't have any eggs by tomorrow morning we are going to combine them with  The Turquoise  Bee, another poorly populated but healthy hive.

In the mean time I am giving some thought to expanding The Flight of The Turquoise Bee Apiary with a "West" location. Charlie has purchased a farm about an hour outside of St. Paul and is interested in hosting some hives. He gets pollinating services and I get more hives. Seems like a win win if you ask me.

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Hot Day in The Bee Yard





It must have been 100 degrees in our bee suits in the bee yard yesterday afternoon! Paul and I were sweating miserably! I probably would have ditched the suite but I can't get over my paranoia of tics. With beads of sweat dripping down our faces and steam coming off the hives we did a complete inspection of each hive. I was a little surprised that there were not more bees hanging on the outside of the hives but it was hot and late afternoon so many of the bees were probably out foraging. You can a flurry of activity just outside of Patrick's Pollinate. I think we were both relieved after almost an hour of the beating sun and dripping sweat to get out of our gear and into an air conditioned car!



It was only a week ago that I went to the bee yard myself to inspect the hives. A week ago all was well in four of the hives. While I was gone Paula noted that something seemed off in Andrea's Girls, the brood was crusty and dry and the bees were not emerging. I noticed the same thing last week, poor if any brood and what was there was very dry and crusty. I suspected chalk brood disease but upon pulling out a dead bee from a cell chalk brood seemed unlikely. When I posted photos of the brood someone one mentioned "Entombed" bee or pollen which I had never heard of before. So of course I turn immediately to The Journal of Invertebrate Pathology and do some reading about this condition and I am suspicious. I will spare you the details of the problem but basically condition leads to the storage of pollen completely lacking in any nutritional value for the bees and they die. Today when we looked at Andrea's Girls the population is down to nothing. I took a frame from the hive to take to my hobby beekeepers meeting tonight to see if anyone has some insight or thoughts.

A week ago I found the Queen inside Katrina's Drone Den and hive was packed with brood. All seemed well. I didn't notice anything out of the ordinary. Today when we looked inside Drone Den, no queen, not a speck of brood, literally not a speck and the population seemed significantly down. We found a few queen cells which makes me wonder if the girls swarmed. If so lets hope they are in the process of re-queening themselves. The hive was strong and worthy and I'd hate to loose them. I plan on going back later this week and looking for some evidence of a queen.

Colleen's Royal Ruckus is doing great. We couldn't find her Queen but she is there, even laying up in the super box so we ended up throwing on a queen excluder.  I don't like queen excluders but I don't like brood in my honey supers either. The queen excluders prevent the Queen from going up while letting the workers pass. In my experience the workers don't like to pass the excluder either. Sometimes when you have fully drawn out comb above the excluder the workers are more likely to pass. So we are going to give it a try. The bees are packing nectar and capping off honey in the first super so we added a second box and are crossing our fingers.

The Turquoise Bee is thriving, albeit slowly! We ended up moving the second brood box from Andrea's Girls over to The Turquoise Bee so there are three brood boxes there now. I doubt these girls will produce much honey in the long run but we will probably add a super on early next week.

Patrick's Pollinator is doing great as well. The Queen has not moved up into the third brood box yet but it is a good healthy population and I am hoping for some honey out of these girls.

So overall a little sadness around Andrea's Girls and a little worry about Katrina's Drone Den.  Bee Keeping is emotional business no way around it. Giddy joy fades to utter disappointment in a matter of days.



Sunday, June 9, 2013

Adding Brood Boxes



Meet the newest additions to our apiary, Andrea's girls. My beekeeping partner's partner, Andrea has been helping us out in the bee yard and so we finally bestowed a hive in her honor. We installed these girls a few weeks ago when it was looking like the Turquoise Bee was on its way out. Last night we went to check on bees and add second brood boxes to the rest of the hives. We didn't find much brood in Andrea's Girls but it does look like the frames are packed with eggs and larva so hopefully in a few days the brood will be capped, the box will be full and the queen will move up to the second box we added. You can see larva in the clip below which is sort of interesting, well to a bee geek at least!



Knowing when to expand space in the hive is an essential bee keeping skill. If the brood nest gets too crowded and the Queen doesn't have anywhere to lay the girls will set up a swarm. Last week we expanded Royal Ruckus and Patrick's Pollinator. This week we added second boxes to Katrina's Drone Den and Andrea's girls. We put a second brood box on The Turquoise Bee but frankly, there isn't anything going on in that hive. I am completely perplexed and stymied about what to do next with her. If I were not leaving the country for the next three weeks I'd get my mentor to go down an inspect the hive with me, or hire the bee squad to come and help.

First we had a drone laying queen who we replaced. Then we had some mediocre brood. Now we have nothing, maybe some eggs, we can't really tell. Each time we visit and check The Turquoise Bee out I think we will find something telling, but nothing so far. We can't locate the queen, although we thought we may have spotted her last week. We had a spell of adequate brood and now nothing. I suppose the girls could have killed the new queen, I suppose the eggs we see are all going to pan out to drone and I am fixing myself to loose her which makes me very sad.

On a much brighter note today we found our Queens in all other hives had moved up to their second brood boxes and were laying well so that is very encouraging. In fact all of them are ready for supers to be thrown on which I plan to do tomorrow. Supers are boxes where the workers store honey for beekeepers. The rule of thumb is three brood boxes, any honey in a brood box belongs to the bees and anything in a super can be taken by a beekeeper.

The weather here continues to be a huge drag. We have had about 6 hours of sunlight in June alone and not much more in May. Not much is blooming and it continues to be wet, raining almost every single day. This has a huge impact on bee nutrition as the bees can't get out to collect pollen or nectar. We do have honey in all of our hives and frames packed with polled and we see pollen coming in, probably from the dandelion bloom but it is still dearth and grim around here.


Wednesday, May 29, 2013

The Ruckus in Royal Ruckus!





 Whoa!!! I have never seen brood packed frames like the ones in Royal Ruckus. That Queen, 18 days in has packed pristine brood, cell after cell, covering four frames. I am telling you if there were a brood frame category at the State Fair she would win. Hands down. It was breathtaking to see, seriously. Both Paula and I were in awe. We noticed that the girls have build comb at the bottom of each frame and the queen was laying in there too. Needless to say she needed a second brood box which we added today. Hopefully she will move up and pack that box as well and then the girls can get onto the business of making some honey!

We added a second box to Patrick's Pollinator a week or more ago but the Queen hasn't moved up yet. We found her, still in the bottom box with plenty of room. There must have been a recent hatch in that hive because my recollection was that she was getting a little full last week.

We also added a second box to Katrina's Drone Den which is in about the same shape as Patrick's Pollinator,  mediocre brood patterns with moderate populations that reflect recent hatch outs. Both could stand a little beefing up.

We spent our time in The Turquoise Bee trying to locate our queen and size up what is going on in that hive. We couldn't locate the Queen which was disappointing but she has laid a mediocre amount of brood and we could see some eggs and larva. We still see a fair amount of queen cups and I am not sure they are old or new. I wish our record keeping was better to help us track them. I am still optimistic about this hive but she seems sluggish. Another very concerning finding was a wingless bee. Now we only found one which isn't a big deal but in large numbers is a red flag! Initially I went to pesticides but it turns out that Varroa destructor, a mite that can infest bees can cause something called Deformed wing virus. We have been put on notice and need to watch this group closely! We also captured a few new bees emerging from their cells which is always fun to see.




Sunday, May 19, 2013

Another Visitor in The Bee Yard


My beekeeping partner's partner Andrea came down to the bee yard on Friday night. It was her first visit ever.

We actually don't get as many visitors as you might think so it is always special when someone joins us but this was extra special. None of us would have expected Andrea to make a visit on an evening when we had so much to do and there would be strictly seasonal activity going on that we don't do very often.

For example, we had a totally unexpected opportunity to get another package of bees. We had settled on four hives but when it was looking like The Turquoise Bee was going to parish we seized the opportunity when Nature's Nectar, a local beekeeping business ordered 100 additional packages and put them up for sale. So, Andrea got to see us hive a new package and release a queen which really only happens in the early spring.

She also got to see the Queen in Katrina's Drone Den. Now that only two out of five hives have marked Queens it is harder to find them but we did get a good look at one of the marked Queens which I still find exciting!

More importantly though Andrea took some photos of Paula and I working the hives and just being with each other. We don't have many, if any photos of the two of us together so it was really special to get these pictures.



I didn't even know Andrea was taking pictures of us. We had a wee bit of syrup left that we gave to the bees and checked all the other hives.



In this picture we just finished putting the second brood box on Patrick's Pollinator. You may not be able to appreciate the joy in our faces. We had just finished inspecting all of the hives and were really thrilled with our findings and now busting with enthusiasm and joy.


Saturday, May 18, 2013

Finally Good Inspections All Around



We had a stellar visit to the bee yard last night! Paula's partner Andrea joined us for her first ever visit to The Flight of The Turquoise Bee Apiary in four years. I think she brought some really good karma along because every single hive has made progress.

We didn't even look inside Patrick's Pollinator, we know those girls are doing well. We did add a second brood box onto the hive. Once the brood nest is 80% full it is important to give the Queen more room to lay by adding another box. The second box is full of frames that are combed out, packed with pollen and just a tiny bit of honey. That should draw the Queen and the bees up to the new box and hopefully in about 10 days we will find new capped brood up there.

Katraina's Drone Den is making progress and we found her marked Queen easily. I would still like to see more effort in this hive but I was darn happy to see more brood.

Colleen's Royal Ruckus is doing well, nice brood, not a tun but a nice patter and a good start.

Now for the really good news! The Turquoise Bee has a frame or two of really nice looking brood. A really good sign that the Queen we put in there two plus weeks ago is health and laying. We didn't see an abundance of drone brood which means more than likely we have tempered the laying workers and turned the hive around. I am guessing that the huge cells we saw last week that really looked like queen cups to me were in fact just really big drone brood. To that point, all those cells were hatched out without any torn ends, another sign that it was drone. I also saw some really huge drones. So I am feeling might good about that hive.

In my moment of panic about that hive I snatched a surreal opportunity to get a late season package and we put those girls in last night. Her name is in the works and we will unveil that hopefully next week.

So, I am flying high so to speak!

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Updates and Videos from The Bee Yard!




It has been a very arduous week for me! Between two days of really intensive chemo-bio therapy and a big exam and the final week of activities at the Capital culminating in the legalization of marriage equality I am spent.  In the midst of all this of course the bees were acting up as well!

Paula and I went to check on the girls last Saturday after work. It was really cold and windy, probably not the best day to check on them but given the week in front of me it was the only option. We opted not to use smoke because of the wind.  It was a little early to check on Colleen's Royal Ruckus. We put them in the hive a week prior and I like to wait about 10 days before checking for queen acceptance and brood. Sure enough, we really couldn't appreciate anything, nor could we find her unmarked queen. We also took a peek into Katrina's Drone Den, found the Queen and discovered very little progress and minimal brood. Frankly I would have like to have seen a better brood pattern and more brood. I am just stymied about these Queens. Patrick's Pollinator is laying up a storm of healthy brood with an excellent pattern. You can see this in the video above. Both these hives were installed on the same day so why such a difference in the brood. I am hoping we don't have an ill mated Queen on our hands in Katrina's Drone Den. She isn't a drone layer but she isn't laying much either. We also captured a beautiful photo of the Queen in Patrick's Pollinator.



Finally we checked on our most troubled hive The Turquoise Bee. You may remember a week earlier we took out a drone laying Queen and replaced her with a new unmarked Queen. So sort of like Colleen's Royal Ruckus it was a little early to check on Queen acceptance or brood but it was worth checking to see if there was more drone brood or any queen cells coming from the open brood we moved over from Patrick's Pollinator to try and temper the workers from starting to lay. I must admit I could use a little help from the Bee Squad but they won't come out as far as we are to assist us. We have some crazy stuff going on inside the Turquoise Bee. I posted another video below showing what we found and having watched it a few times and in reviewing our records I remain completely stumped!


So to review the activity in The Turquoise Bee. We installed the package and within three weeks it was clear we had a drone laying Queen on our hands. All the capped brood was drone brood clear as day! We took the Queen out, put in a a frame of capped and open brood from Patrick's Pollinator and two days later we put in a new Queen. A week after putting in the new Queen we found the following: The frame from Patrick's Pollinator seems unchanged in that none of the brood was hatched. Typically worker cells are capped by day 9 and bees emerge somewhere between 18 and 22 days. On other frames we found capped cells that look too big, long and narrow to be drone brood in a very spotty pattern, on at least two frames, both sides. It is possible that our workers started laying but usually they will lay in a very sloppy pattern and will often lay more than one egg in a cell so that the drone brood is found in clusters close together. Here we have lots of isolated cells! At first blush I thought the cells were maybe queen cups which really perplexed me because we didn't have any fertilized eggs in that hive other than what may have come from Patrick's Pollinator but we didn't find these cells on that frame. Without fertilized cells the workers can't raise their own Queen. Again at first blush they look like the start of queen cups, peanut shell like with a rough texture and elongated. However they differ from typical queen cells in that they are not hanging vertically off the frame. Perhaps they are not finished. In all seriousness I am over my head with this hive and I am guessing, what ever is going on the outcome is not going to be good. Marla always says "When you don't know what is going on in the hive just leave the bees alone and they will sort things out".  Well, work it out girls, work it out. In the mean time I scored another package of bees which is most unusual at this point in the season. Yep, I am a honey whore at heart and the idea of loosing a hive and maybe having a hive that isn't going to produce is more than I can take. They will arrive Friday. Hopefully by then we can size up The Turquoise Bee, get some reassurance about Colleen's Royal Ruckus and Katrina's Drone Den and set up a new hive.


Sunday, May 5, 2013

Welcome Colleen's Royal Ruckus



We had a brief window of good weather last night and were able to get Colleen's Royal Ruckus installed. These girls hale from California and arrived yesterday. We prefer to get our bees from Walter T. Kelley in Kentucky, mostly because the sell marked queens. However in order to get in on an early arrival date the bees have to be ordered in December and frankly we just don't know what our needs are going to be that early so we always error on the conservative side. This year of course we shorted ourselves on that order but as luck would have it we were able to get in on the California load just in the nick of time for one more package.

Paula's daughter, Kristen, an aspiring beekeeper joined us which was a blast. It is always fun to have new people come to the bee yard to check out the bees. I'd love to retire my nursing job and just take folks down to the bee yard all summer!

So we picked up the bees in Stillwater and headed to Northfield just as it was warming up a bit and the sun was poking through the clouds. It is a sad commentary when warming up in May is 45 degrees!

Paula and Kristen did most of the work, setting up the hive and Paula did a stellar job shaking the bees into the hive. I wish I had video because this was by far the best install we have ever done. Paula got darn near every bee in the hive. Usually we loose a few hundred but not last night! We released an unmarked queen without a hitch and then with a stoke of brilliance plugged up the hive with snow. The hive needs to be plugged for about 12-24 hours for the colony to get settled in their new digs. Today it is going to be 65 degrees so the snow will melt and I won't have to go back down to unplug the hive.

After we got Colleen's Royal Ruckus situated we turned our attention to The Turquoise Bee only to find the bees had not eaten through the candy cork. I am not exactly sure how long it usually takes them to do this, perhaps two days was not enough time but I am slightly eager to get that queen in there and make sure we don't turn the hive to drone with laying workers. So we released her ourselves after two days. Hopefully that was enough time for them to start accepting her, if not they may kill her. So keep your fingers crossed. The queen cage was covered with mild mannered bees and there were bees eating away at the cork so it seemed reasonable to just go ahead and release her. You can tell in the video that I am sort of on the fence about keeping the cage in another day to make sure she got out. It was so hard to see with so many bees attached to the cage. In the end we took it out.


You can also see I am not wearing my protective gear.  I am hoping for a more relaxed wardrobe this year. It went just fine except for the plethora of bees flying up the sleeves of my jacket. I will keep you posted on the merits of this endeavor. More than likely I will be right back in it as soon as I see a tic. I have horrific tic phobia!

We also took a peek into Katrina's Drone Den to locate her queen. I was sort of disappointed in the lack of brood in there. This weather seems to be hampering the queens from laying. Next week looks to be warmer and hopefully dry.

Thursday, May 2, 2013

Beekeeping in the Snow



It is May 2nd, 2013 and last night we got another foot of snow. I simply can't tell you how weather weary I am. I am hearty stock, Minnesota born and raised. I learned to drive in the snow. I like the cold. I like snow. But people, I am sick and tired of it! In April alone we had at least four large snow storms. There isn't a single thing blooming, you can hardly detect green in the horizon. The snow has been relentless. I can count on one hand how many sunny days we have had since the first of February. I wasn't worried about the bees until recently. When we put them in on April 8th we filled the hive with combed out frames full pollen and some with honey into the hive. We put on pollen patties and syrup. Last Saturday I saw the bees bringing in large sacs of pollen despite the complete dearth. I was hopeful.

 Now, I am getting worried and I have to remind myself what brought me to this endeavor. It isn't about the honey. It isn't about the honey. It isn't about the honey. My latest mantra, it isn't about the honey.  I came here, to his hobby to temper my hyperactive spirit. To quite and center myself. I wanted a practice of mindfulness. I wanted to become more contemplative and deliberate. I didn't want honey.

After last years 20 gallon crop it is hard not to consider the honey. Here I am today festering in a sort of pathological manner about our honey yield. Will the absence of spring damper the bees activity. Will the Queens get confused and think its winter and stop laying? Will the workers kick out the drones as they do every fall? Will we even get a nectar flow? I am a worry wart. I am grateful for the few things going in our favor, completely drawn out comb so the bees can get right down to it if and when there is a nectar flow. Otherwise I am working hard not to ruminate about the honey and trying to focus on the other merits of beekeeping. After all we have no control over the weather or the outcome.

To that end, the other merits of beekeeping,  we are trying desperately to rescue The Turquoise Bee from an ill fated demise. Today we headed into the bee yard blanketed in another foot or so of snow with a new Queen in hand to attempt a slow release. Bees are particular and they must adjust to and accept a new Queen. When our packages come a caged Queen has been traveling with them for 2 to 7 days. The workers have accepted her pheromone and she is ready to be released in the hive immediately. In our current situation we have to do what is called a slow release of a new Queen, placing the new Queen in her cage in the hive for a few days for the workers to accept her before she is released. If we just let her loose the workers would probably kill her.

We put on our shit kicker boots, lit the smoker and made our way to the hives though deep snow. You can see in the picture above just how much snow we had, now covering the hive covers and entrances. It was probably a good thing we went down to clear the entrances of snow so the bees can get out.

If it had been warmer I would have studied the bees in The Turquoise Bee before placing the Queen cage in the hive, reexamining to see if I could see workers laying. I am completely obsessed with this possibility as I am certain I saw workers laying on Tuesday. If that is the case our efforts may go to waste.

 We opened the hive and honestly there seems to be a good population of bees even though they have not reproduced at all. The bees were in the center of the hive as I would expect. The bees cluster in a ball in the middle of the hive when it is cold, covering any brood to keep it warm. If brood freezes the hive will parish. I had completely forgotten we had moved a frame of brood from Patrick's Pollinator over to the Turquoise Bee. When I went to pull out a frame to make room for the caged Queen I had a moment of panic when I saw a frame full of brood, thinking we had made a huge mistake in removing a healthy Queen. It was a fleeting moment of panic and swearing but I quickly remembered the borrowed brood. Paula pried the cork out of the Queen cage with a nail exposing the candy cork and I put a little water on top of the candy to start softening it for the bees. We placed the  Queen cage snugly between two frames in the middle of the hive, positioning her just below the top of the frame, actually pushing her into the comb candy cork up with the screen facing out so the bees can attend to and feed the Queen until they release her. It will take a few days for the bees to eat through the candy cork and release the Queen. We are getting another package of bees on Saturday so when we go down to put them into Royal Ruckus we will check to see how the release is going. Hopefully by then they will have released her, if not we will probably open the screen ourselves and release her.

We have never been in a snow covered bee yard so we took some time to just take in the sight, clear the hives of snow and peek in the other two just to see a little activity. It was too cold for the bees to be out. Once we finished Paula emptied the smoker into the snow and we enjoyed a little "campfire".




Paula shot a video of the caged Queen placement but be warned, when I first see all the brood in The Turquoise Bee I unleash a loud "fuck". I like to think I have a better vocabulary but fell short in this situation. So, if you are offended by swearing skip the video. The narrative is lacking in this particular video and we could have done a better job describing exactly what we were doing. We are still getting our juju on with these little snippets so bear with us. 




Tuesday, April 30, 2013

And So It Begins: Queen Drama



I was hoping for a season free of Queen drama. Lord knows we had our share of it last year. I will admit, part of my love for this hobby is the seemingly endless amount of learning to be had! I thought we had mastered Queen issues last year,  seen it all, solved it all. Heck we even had two Queens in one hive for about a month. Go smoke on that one! And then along comes a drone laying Queen. So here we are with a complete dud in The Turquoise Bee.

She was a brand new queen but she acted like a old knackered thing, remaining rooted to the outside frames, wandering around aimlessly, like a frail aunt in her white dressing gown. Being a novice beekeeper is a lot like being a novice parent. There are manuals, but most of what you learn comes from actually interacting with the little darlings. So for as much as I have read, and I have read a lot, until you see it you don't really understand or appreciate it.  Hindsight is a wonderful thing too, all the signs were there, I noticed them, even said them out loud but failed to take action until today and now I am hoping it isn't too late.

Not only was she frail and slender, without that plump protruding abdomen of a mated queen but she was a drone layer at that. She didn't lay much of anything and what she did lay was spotty spoiled drone brood. Now, I can't be sure it wasn't workers laying and in fact as I studied the bees today I am sure I saw a few workers stick their ass into cells and lay. However, having capped drone brood in a matter of 10 days after hiving the girls seems too soon for workers to start laying. My worry of course is that we let the situation go on too long and now the workers are in fact laying.

Workers depend on the pheromone of a queen and the pheromone of brood to know or think they are queen-right. If they they don't have brood or a queen or a healthy queen, in the hive eventually the lack of pheromone will stimulate their ovaries to lay unfertilized eggs. When this happens of course the hive goes to drone and without any reproductive capability the hive dies off. Catching and remediating laying workers is a huge challenge.

Our mission today was to get her out, assess the damage and make a plan. We have new Queen arriving tomorrow so we removed her today, creating the illusion of a queenless hive in preparation for the new Queen. We found her easily, on one of the outer frames, an odd place for a healthy Queen. Usually she will stay in the middle of the brood nest. Of course she has no brood nest. There was less spotty drone brood than a week ago so I suspect her condition was deteriorating. My eyes are 55 years old and I have zero ability to see eggs, much less appreciate the sloppy laying of workers who will deposit more than one egg in a cell, hit the wall instead of the center of the cell and so on. However as i studied the workers I did see what looked to me like laying activity. Hopefully if they are laying it has just started and we can turn the situation around.

We are hoping to trick the girls into thinking they have good brood pheromone. We took a nice frame of capped and uncapped brood from Patrick's Pollinator, our strongest hive to help The Turquoise Bee out. Hopefully they will get busy tending to the brood and notice their Queen is gone just in time for a new Queen which we will introduce on Thursday.

Keep your fingers crossed this beekeeping 305 and I am not sure we have it all right. Worse case we loose The Turquoise Bee which would make me very sad for any number of reasons. In the mean time I am sorting out the ethics of doing what needs to be done for the greater good at the expense of one. I was able to extract the Queen into a jar and took her home. She passed about an hour ago and I am going to keep her for show and tell. I am often asked to give little talks to school age kids about bees and beekeeping and she will make a great show and tell item. So for those of you struggling with the loss of life here just think of her as being reincarnated to academia.

Sunday, April 28, 2013

Katriana's Drone Den Gets a Visitor





This weekend my friend Katriana was here to visit. Katrina won our hive naming contest two years ago. Little did she know when she came up with the name Drone Den she would be getting her very own colony of honey bees and a plethora of honey they produced at the end of the season.

Managing five hives is difficult, especially tracking all the activity in each colony. It became so much easier when we decided to give each hive a name to associate with their identity and activity. Finally, this weekend, after knowing each other via cyber space for some time now, we met and Katrina got to visit her bees.

It was a beautiful, sunny day. There was some activity outside the hives but not much. We got our protective clothing on, lit the smoker and headed into the bee yard. I love showing off the bees, especially to someone who really understands how important bees are to our agricultural system and food supply. Katrina is a expert in natural health foods and keenly interested in the link between bees and food sources. Plus she had total beekeeper zen!  Calm, deliberate and thoughtful, perfect qualities for bee keeping!



We inspected her colony first, a good group of girls who's queen is just getting started in her laying. There wasn't a lot of brood but enough to make me happy. We easily spotted the queen, nice capped brood and we saw a few bees with pollen on their hind legs. That sight right now perplexes me. I don't know where the heck the girls are getting anything but I saw it plane as day, bright yellow and some dull brown sacs packed on the back legs of a few bees. Perhaps they have found some sawdust or some ground animal or bird feed, who knows.  There is a dearth of pollen at the moment, not a single bud or bloom so likely they have found something to substitute. You can tell just by looking at the pictures how dearth it is! We have pollen substitute in the hives which the bees don't seem to be taking. It doesn't really matter though, the frames we are using from last year are packed with pollen so I know they are getting their protein. Anyway, it was fun to point out the sacs of pollen on the bees hind legs and to see the queen and some capped brood. We were even able to see some eggs.

We checked The Turquoise Bee next and while we found the queen my concern about her remains. I couldn't appreciate anything other than some spotty drone brood. A poorly mated queen will do this, lay drone brood which eventually will lead to the total demise of the colony. Sorry men, this is a  world in which the girls rule!  A drone laying queen is simply a reproductive mess and if she doesn't turn it around in the next few days she will have to go. I have never seen this problem before. We had a hive go to drone during our first year but that was because it went queenless and the workers started laying. I was hoping to get by without any queen drama this spring!



Finally Katrina smoked Patrick's Pollinator, probably the most active colony right now and we inspected her, found the queen and found a nice brood pattern underway. These are going to be some stellar girls, I can tell! I am really pleased with these girls and their queen, so far they are the best of the bunch!

I simply love taking people to the bee yard and finally getting met Katrina and introduce her to the bees was loads of fun!

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Two Weeks Out


I have been hopeful and optimistic about our bees through the past two weeks which doled out two plus snow storms, a lot of rain, freezing cold nights and not a speck of sun shine. Today, I am a little worried, still hopeful but a little guarded.

Paula and I went to check on the girls today. We spotted all three queens which is always renders pure joy and a little relief. Four years ago I would have been satisfied by simply seeing her but now, well now I want evidence that she is healthy and laying well.

Patrick's Pollinator seems to be doing well although we didn't see the queen our first time through the box. We saw eggs and we saw spotty capped brood but we couldn't find her. And then, I dropped a framed, frame from the brood nest packed with bees. It was likely a frame she would be on. I was trying to manuver the frame while holding my hive tool. I know better! Slightly worried I looked around the hive carefully trying to spot her and when I was satisfied she wasn't on the ground we closed up the hive.

We moved on to Katrina's Drone Den. You can follow along with our hive inspection in the video. We located the queen, eggs and spotty capped brood.  I would have liked to see a better stronger brood pattern but the population seemed healthy and the queen looked good.

The Turquoise Bee has us worried. While we found our queen she seemed a little, well, off. She wasn't on a frame with many other bees and the only brood we saw was drone brood. I have never seen a drone laying queen but I am worried we might have one on our hands. We need to keep our eye on this  queen and group of girls closely and if things don't turn around in the next week we will need to re-queen these girls.

Once we were done I decided  to go back into Patrick's Pollinator. I didn't feel good leaving without seeing her Queen. As soon as we opened up the hive Paula found her on the inside of the top cover. Not a place I like to see a queen but at least she was there.

 The girls are not taking any syrup which is just fine, they have honey to eat, and they are taking very little of the pollen patties. We do have some pollen stores in all three of the hives but I'd like to see them taking a little more protein.  I did look back at our record keeping from last year and as it turns out it was between the second and third week that we reported good brood patterns in the hives. So, I am keeping my fingers crossed.  Warmer weather is on the way which I am hoping is going to kick start the queens. Hopefully the next time we visit all three hive will have beautiful, consistent brood patters and all will be well. Our fourth package comes next Wednesday which is when we will get Colleen's Royal Ruckus up and running.

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

First Hive Inspections of the Season


The weather here has been grim, rain, sleet and snow every day. So many folks were worried about our bees who no more than got into their new digs when a winter storm hit. The girls weathered the week without a problem. We were really grateful today for a few hours of sunshine and 50 degrees so we could take a peek inside each hive and see how the girls were doing.

Mostly we just wanted to spot our Queens. It would have been nice to see eggs or larva but it was too cold to keep the hives open too long, we had to work quickly.

You might remember the only hive we were not 100% confident about the Queen was Katrina's Drone Den. Well, she is there, alive and well. We couldn't appreciate anything other than she is there. Same story in The Turquoise Bee.

  We took a little more time with Patrick's Pollinator, mostly because her highness was elusive and it took us awhile to find her. You can watch the inspection of Patrick's Pollinator in the video above, we didn't locate her until the end of the video after going through the frames a second time. I got a little worried after going through the frames once and I started hearing this sort of high pitched hissing, a tone we heard four years ago when a hive went queenless. However as we inspected we did see larva so I felt sure that she was there, even if we couldn't find her. Finally we did spotter her which always makes me feel better. Her white marking seems to be rubbing off a little, this has happened in the past but usually not so early in the season. Nothing we can do about it as we don't mark Queens ourselves.

It was an exceptionally beautiful afternoon, sunny, a crisp 50 degrees in the sun,t he smell of the smoker filling the bee yard. For a fleeting moment I thought it was spring. Another week of rain, sleet and snow begins tomorrow.  Today the bees were out and about, I am not sure exactly what they may have been foraging, nothing is in bloom and we didn't see them bringing anything into the hive but they sure were active. We can leave the girls be for a week or two, no reason to bother them other than we simply love working the hives and being in the bee yard.

Our last package should arrive in about two weeks when we will put in Colleen's Royal Ruckus. Since this weather isn't giving up no loss in time there. The fruit trees have not bloomed yet so hopefully all four hives will get on the pollination of the apricot and apple blossoms.

Monday, April 8, 2013

Oh What a Day



It is one of my favorite days of the years, a day I wait for with unbridled enthusiasm. It is to me the mark of spring. The day our new bees arrive.

Our first year of beekeeping we ordered bees from a local beekeeper who ships thousands of packages in from California every year. I love Jim and I love supporting his business, Natures Nectar. He is generous beyond measure. However his bees always come in late April and three years ago we wanted to get a jump start and package our bees early in April. Waiting until the end of April meant missing the apricot and apple tree bloom. Catching these blooms is good for the bees and good for our landowners fruit crop. So We started ordering bees from Walter T. Kelley in Kentucky. I must admit we get more fun out of going to the US Post Office to pickup the bees than I ever imagined possible. This year didn't disappoint.

The call comes early, usually before the Post Office is even open, you can hear the plea in the callers voice, "Your bees are here, please come pick them up". Usually I wait by the phone, anxiously anticipating the call but today I stuck with my LAF routine and the call came while I finishing up my workout.

When we arrive at the Post Office it took longer than usual for the bees to appear. As we were waiting Paula and I reminisced about our previous Post Office pickups. There was the first year when the postal worker was actually too frightened to get the bees and bring them to the front desk. He led us through a labyrinth of assembly lines and work stations to a large cage with a long chain lock securing the bees. The cage wasn't fit for anything smaller than a dog, with holes so large a small dog could get loose. He unlocked the chain and let us collect the packages. Last year we were mightily impressed by a female who simply brought the packages right up to the front desk without missing a beat. This year a crew of workers rolled the cage holding the bees right up to the front door all the while calling out warnings, "live bees, live bees" they shouted. Paula and I had to laugh, once again the cage couldn't contain a dog let alone loose bees if there were any.


 Paula grabbed the packages which were secured together with long pieces of plywood on the top and bottom of each package and we headed to the car where Paula's grandchildren were reluctantly waiting for the arrival of the bees. The girls were eager and yet concerned about the potential of loose bees flying about in the car but were easily convinced the bees were indeed secured.



Once we reached the bee yard we took time to get everything set up and in place before we split apart the packages. Each hive was set up with a feeder, two frames of honey on the outside of each side of each box with four frames of comb in the center of the boxes for the brood nest, the inner lid, pollen patty and telescoping outer lid in place. We filled the feeders with syrup and then started to pry the packages apart.




You can see the long strips of plywood holding the packages together on the top and bottom of all three packages. It was a good thing we were totally ready because what ensued was a near calamity. While prying off one of the top strips the corner of one package tore apart and we had a large gaping hole in the box with bees escaping by the handful. I quickly put the soft and thick pollen patty over the hole to contain the bees. We had to move quickly. We still had three strips of wood to release which was cumbersome to do with the hole. We worked quickly, releasing the boxes and then focused on the package with the hole. We quickly removed the Queen cage and can of syrup hanging in the box, spayed the bees down with syrup, and shook them into the hive. Whew, that was some quick thinking and working and a good save. As my friend Patty said "Such a perilous wonderful time, hiving bees."  All three packages went in without a problem, Queens included although we didn't actually see the Queen in Katrina's Drone Den once we released her  but were are confident she got in. The hives will say sealed up over night and tomorrow we will open up the entrance reducer so they can come and go as they please. In the mean time they are hunkered down getting cozy with their Queen and getting used to their new digs.

The weather here continues to suck, seriously suck. It isn't going to be warmer than the high 30's all week long which means the bees won't do any foraging this week at all. That's o.k. with us, we have ample honey in each hive, pollen patty's for protein and frames of comb for the Queen to start laying. We expect these first boxes to fill quickly and be ready for second brood boxes before the 1st of May, mostly because everything is combed out. We expect another new package to arrive early in May when we will hive Colleen's Royal Ruckus. In the mean time The Turquoise Bee, Patrick's Pollinators and Katrina's Drone Den and off to a good start.





Sunday, April 7, 2013

Ready for the girls!



Paula and I set up the bee yard last night for three new packages of bees arriving Monday. We faced pouring rain and some wind. You can see how dry the land is, nothing blooming yet. This is the earliest we have ever packaged bees before by about two full weeks. Ordinarily I would be worried but we have frames with honey to put right in the brood nest and all of our frames are completely combed out. The girls will have plenty to work with for the first two weeks without ever leaving if this god awful weather continues. Tonight I am going to mix us some syrup, just for good measure but the bees will surely take the honey before they need to resort to the syrup. I pulled some pollen patties out of the freezer and we have everything else set to go for our Monday arrivals.

We did have one disappointment during our bee year visit last night. Our favorite Indian haunt is closed. We have a tradition of having a few Indian dinners after our bee yard visits throughout the summer. Lucky for us that in Northfield there is another Indian spot so we can just relocate.

Keep your fingers crossed for some nice spring weather on Monday. I know that is asking a lot these days but we sure could use a 50 degree day without wind and a little sunshine. Just for an hour, please!

Thursday, March 21, 2013

Ready, Set Go



Yesterday was the first day of spring and it was minus 12 degrees when I woke up. I am fed up with this winter, fed up I tell you. March has been colder than January and we keeping getting more snow. Ordinarily I might not care so much but our bees are getting delivered three weeks earlier than usual this year. A deliberate decision no less.

You see every single year we have missed the apricot tree blooms and the apple blossoms. Between that and having so much comb we decided to get a serious jump start and hopefully hit the fruit trees blooming. Our land owner is so very generous, the least we can do is maximize the pollinating services! However I am a little worried about this cold spell we can't seem to shake. The bees really really really like it above 40. At least they will be going into hives with completely combed out frames with lots of pollen and even some honey so they don't have to forage right away if it is too cold.

We have been working our butts off getting everything in order. The back room in our condo has been a make shift work room for over a month now. Every single box has been scrapped, repaired and painted. Today we assembled all four hives, stacking the hive stands, screened bottom boards, brood boxes, inner covers and telescoping covers. This might seem like an easy job but trust me, it isn't. Our equipment is a mix match of different sizes and configurations. It took about three hours to get it all right, hall some excess equipment down to the basement and organize our bee yard tool boxes.

Can I just say I love to organize! So very satisfying in the end. I just love looking at those four newly painted and neatly staked hives, just waiting!

Sometime over the first weekend of April we will organize the frames for the first boxes, another daunting task. We will transport all the equipment to the bee yard,  get it all set up and in place, ready for the bees. If all works out as planned the post office will call bright and early on Monday April 8th, long before they actually open and beg us to come pick up three packages of bees, each containing 3 pounds of bees. Don't ask me how they weigh 3 pounds of bees, I have no idea. Our forth package won't come until the end of April. It will be interesting to track the growth and production of the late arrival.

In the mean time we are ready for another season, set to go!