Friday, March 9, 2012

March Bee News

On a sunny day in January, I was delighted to discover that all three of my beehives were alive and buzzing. I didn't open them up to look inside because it was still very cold. A couple weeks later,  when I knocked on the Langstroth hive it hummed and  a few curious bees came to the door, but when I rapped on the two Warre hives, I got no response.  Heart sinking.

This week, my bee mentor Tom came over and we opened up the Warre hives to see what had happened.  There was no honey left in the combs - the bees had devoured it all and starved.  If you look closely at the  bottom cells in this photo of the comb you can see little bee butts  - many of the bees had gone into the cells headfirst, probably trying to keep warm.

I felt so, so terrible.  Last fall when we harvested the honey, we thought we had left ample honey to get them through the winter, but it has been a strange winter, unusually warm the entire season. Warm winters are harder on bees than cold years because the bees never really go into hibernating mode and being somewhat active,  have to consume more food to keep warm.
Fortunately, my Langstroth bees are still alive and look pretty good.  It is almost the time beekeepers begin feeding bees to encourage them to start raising brood and increase their population for spring, but right now I am mostly concerned that my bees have enough food to get through the last bit of winter.  I diluted some honey with water and filled two pint canning jars. Tiny holes are drilled in the lids and the jars are inverted into wooden supports that allow the bees access to slurp up the honey.
I wore my bee suit for this job.  (I made the mistake last year of  thinking the bees would be sluggish in the cold, but  no, they are just very crabby.)
I also used the smoker to calm the bees. For some reason,  getting the smoker to smoke seems to be one of the biggest challenges of beekeeping for me.
When I removed the lid,  the inner cover was full of bees, most of whom retreated into the hive when I waved the smoke over it. I quickly placed an empty super (box) on top of the hive to create space for the feeders, set the two feeders inside, and replaced the lid before the hive could lose  much heat.

It's supposed to be a warm weekend coming up, so tomorrow I will check to see whether they have  been consuming the honey.

I am very sad to have lost the  two Warre hives, but on the positive side, it will give me a chance to shore up the hive.  The  fellow who built the Warre hives for me used nails to construct the hives and should have used screws. Some of the corners sides have already begun to pull apart. Now I can glue the edges and reinforce the corners with screws. Maybe I will even repaint the  hives in a whimsical design -if I have time.  Two new packages of bees are on order and will arrive in one month!

9 comments:

gz said...

a mixture of good news and experience to learn by. At least you can replace the nails with no fuss and the hives wont pull apart with bees in them!!

Fiona said...

I'm sorry to hear of the loss of your bees -- and congrats on the strength of your Langstroth hives. I recently saw my bees for the first time for their cleansing flight -- I only hope they have enough stores to make it through the rest of the spring. I'm considering supplemental feeding -- we made bee fondant last fall just in case -- but I'm reluctant to unwrap open the hives just yet. It's our first season overwintering bees, and there is so much to learn! I really enjoy reading from others' first-hand experiences... thanks for sharing.

Gardeningbren said...

It was sad to read you lost the ware bees.. Good news on the other hive though and yes, he should have used screws. Enjoyed the photos very much.

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Clint Baker said...

My first time here on your blog. Thanks for sharing, my dad was a bee keeper and my brother and I have been tossing around the idea of steeping back into it! Come visit my blog sometime!

katiegirl said...

I'm sorry you lost the Ware bees. It was definitely a warm winter, and it's hard to predict how long or cold winter will be! I hope the others start eating the honey you left for them!

Jocelyn said...

I am sorry about your loss. I lost my hive this winter too. I think it was my fault, though, as I only had the one. Now I know.

I'm glad you got some good experience from it and I wish you better luck next time!

dinnerfeed said...

Is it possible to make honey from squash blossom nectar? What would squash blossom honey taste like - I've never seen it around. I love squash blossoms and am curious. (Love your posts and life!) Thanks!

Joanne said...

Just discovered your blog and the sad news about your warre hives. I'm getting a bit nervous about the survival of my bees this winter too. I have a topbar hive and a Langstroth hive waiting to be populated this spring. I found your note about mild winters being harder on bees to be so interesting. Since mild winters seem to be the trend ...what will you do to deal with the situation next winter ?