Early Spring Beekeeping Jobs

Here in Ohio, the weather has been … well, let’s just call it varied. In the last two weeks, we’ve had a major snow preceded by an ice storm followed by another small snow and ice storm, then a few warm days (in the 50s) followed by some cold days (back into the 20s), and now we’re heading into a warmish trend.

At least, I think that’s the order it happened.

We’ve been waiting for it to be above freezing to treat our three hives with oxalic acid to kill any residual mites. (And there are always mites if you live in the U.S. Any beekeeper who says differently is either lying or ignorant.)

By treating them before brood rearing kicks off in a big way, we can at least try to give the hives a strong start to the season. Oxalic acid doesn’t kill mites in capped cells, which is where they flourish. This early in the season, the queen may be laying, but she’s generally just getting started, which makes OA perfect for the job.

Also, we wanted to assess the hives by peeking inside. Specifically, we wanted to know how many bees there were (both dead and alive), if they still have food, if they are eating the sugar patties we gave them in the fall, and if there is any evidence of diarrhea.

Here’s a photo of what they looked like in the big snow we had a few weeks ago, the remnants of which, we finally cleared from the deck today. I’ve renamed them (again!), mostly because I can no longer remember which was which. They are from left to right, Western Star, Middle Child, and Eastern Girls.

We began by cleaning out the dead bees from Eastern Girls. There were a lot! Here is a picture of just the ones from in the foam box without the ones The Engineer scraped out the hive entrance (which almost doubled the number).

Seeing so many, or indeed any, dead bees is always disheartening, but we are learning to accept bee loss as part of beekeeping. Bees die every day just as humans do. It’s part of the cycle of life.

With smoke at the ready and expecting some unhappy bees pinging our veils, we popped the inner cover. To our surprise, the bees (and they were still plentiful, despite the many corpses of their dead sisters) mostly ignored us as we went about our business.

Fresh food, a small piece of pollen patty, and some Super DFM was their reward for being so mellow.

The two remaining hives were equally calm and received the same treatment. In truth, even if they’d been cranky, they’d have received the same treatment. 🙂

The only differences were Middle Child had consumed more of their fall sugar patties and had almost no dead bees in sight. Western Star fell somewhere in the middle. They’d eaten more of the patties than Eastern Girls, but less than Middle Child, and had more dead bees than Middle Child, but fewer than Eastern Girls.

Tomorrow morning, we will treat all three hives so they’re ready to face spring brood rearing, and the pollen and nectar flow.

In conclusion, we are feeling cautiously optimistic about the health of our hives.

Still, March is the hardest month for bees in our area. Brood rearing will soon be in full flow, and if the nectar and pollen are behind schedule, the girls are left with more mouths than they can feed.

As usual, we’ll have to wait and see.

To end on a completely random note, I’ve been doing a lot of crocheting of scrap happy afghans because my friend Lynne gave me a bunch of yarn scraps. Here are two. I know the color combinations are a little odd, but I like them. I hope their eventual owners will too.

6 thoughts on “Early Spring Beekeeping Jobs

  1. Thanks for the almost-spring update! Hoping this nicer weather lasts!

    Love the afghans! I still have the one someone made for my mom when she was in assisted living. Thomas the cat is now enjoying cuddling with it!

    Liked by 1 person

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s