It was a rough winter on many fronts. There were nights of below-zero temperatures and the two bee hives struggled to stay alive. Although one hive eventually lost the good fight, the second hive came through with a renewed energy as temperatures began to rise.
As you can see from the above picture, the scene was shockingly gruesome upon first look – all hive boxes were full of dead bees. It was unpleasant to sweep them out to start over.
Thankfully the second hive got strong quickly enough in late winter, with early pollen collection and brood development, that the hive was viable for splitting. In fact, it was probably just a week or two away from swarming. My mentor, John, came over just in time to help me perform my first hive split.
Mango is watching with intense curiosity! (At least he’s smart enough to stay far enough away.)
At the end of the split, there are two hives again! The queen was successfully placed in the new hive with sugar syrup to help the new colony grow. The old hive had already begun to develop a new queen, which hopefully put it further along in the process to re-queen the hive. On the hive that was split, a medium super was placed on top for honey collection and I suspect it will be a short time before it’s time to add another. I’m going to have my first honey harvest this summer!
The two hives are back in business again. The nectar flow is in full swing and it won’t be long before honey is ready to harvest.
Whenever I see friends and blog readers, the first question is almost always about the bees. I’ve learned that people are very curious about them and yet most people don’t know very much about bees. Admittedly, I didn’t either when I started. So, here’s an update on the bees.
I added my third box to each of their hives this week. They are both booming and taking over every available space within each hive. And they are still eating a lot! I keep their sugar syrup jars consistently available, hoping it will help them maintain comb and nectar production. I still don’t know if I will get honey this summer, but they sure are moving quickly.
This picture is of them cooling themselves on a really hot and humid day this week. The weather is finally changing to a consistent muggy temperature, and the bees do everything they can to stay cool during the hot parts of the day. I’ve seen this called, “bearding” when they form a beard-like screen, almost dripping off of the hive and each other.
The bees are currently mesmerized by the magnolia blooms that are just opening outside of the “girls” guest room. (It’s called the “girls” room because it features some interesting hand-painting of flowers and birds from the 1940s. Most of the ladies that visit claim it as “their” room.) This picture is a quick centerpiece from Friday – the huge size and amazing fragrance of the blooms needed no pairing!
The first colony of bees has arrived and they are feeling quite at home in their new hive. My mentor, John, came by and we transferred them from his wooden nuc box into my eight-frame super. After only three days, they had already begun drawing comb on the new foundation, had eaten quite a lot of the supplemental syrup that I had given them, and the Queen had already laid eggs in almost every available cell.
I gave them another jar of syrup and will check on them next weekend. Their pollen baskets were all full, some light yellow and some a very deep orange – they have been exploring the yard and found a lot of new flowering plants. The black locust, iris, holly, chickweed, and all of the wildflowers have been top of the menu.
And as if things weren’t rolling already, I got an email tonight that my second nuc is ready for pick-up. I guess I better get the second hive painted stat.
In other news, the King George Farmers’ Market is open and everyone is selling jam. I bought a muscadine and a blackberry – Sunday was about jam tasting. You know I love a good jam – any flavor (within reason) – bring it on!
King George Farmers’ Market
Well, that day is close at hand. I got the email that my bee nuc is ready to be picked up. I finally got the hives prepped and the hive stand will be built this weekend. I really think that they will like their new home at White Plains – everything is in bloom from the orange trees, the black locust, to the unknown fruit trees. They will have quite a feast. The cool thing about my first nuc is that I helped my mentor, John, with the final steps of his nuc splits – I will be getting one of his, likely one that I helped with. Below is a picture of us working on them last week.
When trying to decide whether to paint or stain/seal my hives, I read countless forums, talked to my bee mentor, and debated whether or not I was willing to touch them up each year, or more. In the end, I kept remembering my bee teacher’s guidance that bees are about trial and error. There are few absolutes. Try something, see if it works, and either replicate it the next time or find a new opportunity. So, I decided to stain the woodenware and seal it. I’m really happy with the results and hopefully the bees will be also.
And so goes life – we try things and hope that they work. Sometimes they do, and we celebrate. Other times, we learn how to do it differently next time. Either way, it’s about the experience.