Stepping back, re-tooling, re-thinking, back in beesinus

Hey there, long time no hear.

Bee_DeadIt’s been a tough year for us. We went into winter with 11 hives and came out with none. Yep, we lost everything. We feel every loss like a death in the family, but the one that upsets us the most was our last colony on Simcoe Island. Our survivor bees didn’t make it. That hive had been continuously going since August 1, 2008 and we had planned to base a queen-rearing project around them.

The winter was a hard one for bees around here. Not so much the cold, they have no trouble with that, but how late it started. It was 12C on Christmas morning at my house. Instead of clustering up to keep warm, the hives were actively flying almost until January. The problem is that the more active a hive is, the more honey they eat on a daily basis and they weren’t bringing in any more nectar to replace it. I don’t know about where you live, but there are precious few nectar sources around here in November and December.

Once winter finally hit in January, none of the hives had the resources that they needed to survive.

So, instead of poking around in hives this summer, we’ve taken a step back and taken the opportunity to take a hard look at what we do and how we do it. We also needed to decide if we want to continue to do it and figure out what to change if we did. We’ve both been doing a lot of reading too.

There wasn’t really any question about continuing: Greg and I both have honeybee venom in our blood and I full intend to do this until I die. A very long time from now.  😆

Then, sometime in the last two weeks of July, something fortuitous happened: a swarm came to visit. They liked what they saw and moved themselves right into one of the empty Langstroth hives sitting in my side yard. I noticed them last Sunday when I was mowing the lawn and almost fell off the mower. Giddy would be a great description of my state of mind.

Swarms are funny beasts. I know beekeepers who are convinced that swarms terrible and do nothing but spread disease. Greg and I areexactly the opposite and love them. Only healthy hives with a booming population throw swarms. A swarm is a natural hive split from a colony that’s loaded with resources and is able to spare the bees.

They’re also incredible workers. In the two or three weeks since they moved in, they’ve cleaned out the hive AND packed it full of honey. Swarms are very motivated to build comb and get set in a new home, so they go like gangbusters.

The hive was so packed that I needed to add a box of empty frames so they could build some comb for the queen to lay. Otherwise, they could get honeybound and abscond. After the heartbreak of losing all those hives last winter, I do not want to go through that again.

Friends don’t let friends lift deeps
— Jim Fischer

That top box was literally all I could lift. They’re very awkward and full of honey a deep can easily be 80 pounds or more!

Part of my reading was about the Rose Hive method and while I don’t intend to adopt all it, I’m going to experiment a bit with using one size of box for everything. So, the new frames, with a small strip of foundation (ecch) to promote straight comb, are in a medium. I stuck it between the two deeps too.

We’ll see how it goes. It’s so very nice to have bees again.

Leave a Reply