For the last week or so, we’ve been keeping an anxious watch on the weather forecast, hoping for a day when it would be warm enough and clear enough to peek into the hives.
We were in New York last week — the state, not the city — and it was too cold out to open the colonies before we left to make sure they had enough food for when we were gone. When we got home, the temperatures continued to hover in the upper 20s and 30s F.
The weather finally cleared yesterday, with temps climbing to the mid 40s, still a little cool to pop the top. Thus, we were quite relieved to see bees flying from all five hives.
Today, as predicted, we got sunshine and 50s and were finally able to peek in to check the food situation, add bits of pollen patties (to supplement the limited amount coming in), and treat the bees with DFM (honey bee probiotics).
Even better, we managed to find brood in all but one hive.
To remind you of our set-up, imagine the two pictures below side by side with the top photo on the right and the bottom one on the left. That’s what our apiary looks like — three hives on one hive stand, and two on the other. (Or you can go to this blog post for the full picture.) We refer to them by number, 1-5, with 1 being the far right one (pink lid with black wrap) and 5 being the one in the greenish-grey insulation box.
It’s quite easy to get into the hives inside the foam insulation boxes because the foam is basically a larger box around the hive, and can simply be lifted off. The hives in the black wraps are a little more complicated, especially the middle black-wrapped one.
That one is actually wrapped with a foam-backed plastic, held together with tape and tacks. The other two black ones are “Bee Cozies,” an improved version of the wrap. The cozies are basically a tube of foam-backed plastic that you scootch down over the hives. They are slightly easier to work with than the ones that truly require actual wrapping.
We were able to find brood in four of our five hives today, most in the medium box on top (often referred to as a honey super), although one had it in the top deep box.
The outlier was #2, the middle black hive — wrapped in the original style hive wrap. Still, the population seems to be increasing — which can’t happen without new bees — and when we looked into the top deep box, there were a lot of bees on the frames. So, most likely the brood is in that deep, which right now we can’t get into because of the way the hive is winterized.
The colony that most concerns us is #3. There are only about two frames of bees, with not much brood, though there is some. So, they’re still queen right. They’re also foraging, and have plenty of food supplies.
I think their problems started because the hive was too moist, and that’s my fault. Initially we were going to use home-made sugar patties as back-up winter food, and my second batch never dried properly. Our mistake was to use them anyway. (For most of the hives, we used the “mountain camp” feeding method.)
When will I learn my lesson?! Moisture kills bees!! I know better than to give them wet food, but we did it anyway, and that hive is paying the price.
And yet, I believe there’s still hope for a recovery. If they can hang in just a little longer until it’s warm enough to do full hive checks, I think we’ll be able to steal a frame of brood from one (or more) of the other hives to give #3 a little boost.
This would also help us to prevent an early swarm from one (or more) of the hives that are already thriving. A win all around.
I knew you’d all want pictures (admit it!), so I took a few just for you!
For the moment, we have a mostly happy apiary, but of course, that will change. It always does. 🙂
In other apiary news, we got a phone call with a horizontal hive estimate from Mr. Yoder this morning. He was ready to go ahead on our Long Langstroth hive and expects it to be completed either this week or next. So exciting!
And on the mother front, Mom has graduated to a “mechanical” soft food diet, which apparently means anything that can be mashed with a fork. She seems a bit happier, although I can’t say whether or not it’s due to the diet change. I’m just happy that she’s more content, at least for now.
Also, I wanted to share this picture. My friend and I saw this by the trailside when we walked this morning. It’s silly, but I love when people do things like this. It makes me smile, and I hope it does the same for you.
Thanks for reading.
8 thoughts on “Our (Mostly) Happy Apiary”
I always enjoy hearing about the bees! Glad most of them are doing well.
Also glad that your mom’s doing a little better and can eat more “real” food.
I’ve got a friend who paints rocks and disperses them in parks, etc.
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Oh, it’s always a relief to see the girls fly! Let’s hope they make it through our crazy spring weather!
It’s also a relief that Mom is doing well, at least for now.
I think it’s sweet that people do the rock thing. Just brightens my day. 🙂
Great to hear the kids are doing a fine job. 🐝🐝🐝🍯😎
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It’s always a relief to see them after the winter. Fingers continue to be crossed until the weather stays warm though. 🙂
Sorry it’s been so silent on my end. I’m happy the bees are happy! There is a lot of bee-panic going on here, as more varroa cases have been detected in NSW. I fear it has arrived and we are poorly equipped to deal with it, having been clean all this time. Our poor native bees…
Varroa mites are just nasty. Even for honey bee (although neither they, nor Varroa, are native to Oz o US) Varroa originated in Asia, and I believe the native bees there learned to tolerate them.
I think the main (and probably best) plan is to try to achieve the same here. Meanwhile, we treat the bees to try to keep them under control. The good news for beekeepers is we can do so. It’s just a pain to have to. We choose to stick to “soft” or organic treatments, and they seem to work. Also manipulating the hives — allowing them to requeen and splitting hives — builds in a break in brood rearing, which means a break in Varroa brood rearing as well.
But you probably know all that. Just sorry they made it to Australia, although I’m sure it was probably inevitable. Theres also another mite (Tropilaelaps) on the horizon, which promises to be even worse.
Oh goody, something else to look forward to…
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My thoughts exactly.
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