Ah well, I’ve been saying for weeks that Mars is very weak. It turns out I’ve been mixing up my hives and it was Jupiter all along. I found no debris on the bottom board before work yesterday, and at the end of the rather warm day the hive was already being robbed out. A cluster of dead bees on the comb and a few others on the bottom. Continue reading
Aside from a single white morning this winter, we have had very little snow in Virginia. The weather is unusually warm and the bees seem to get a flying day once a week or so. I suspect the insect population will be robust this year, from small hive beetles to other assorted insects, due to our lack of cold weather. Soon the bees will start ramping up for spring, and I have been keeping an eye on the mite populations in Mars and Jupiter.
My friend Gordon used to say that it takes three years to become a good teacher. We were teaching secondary school in Botswana, Africa at the time, preparing students for their O-level and A-level exams. Gordon said that you spend the first year figuring out the material, the second year figuring out how to teach, and the third year really teaching. Of course, I only taught for two years, so it never quite happened for me.
This may apply to how beekeepers overwinter bees as well. I read and learned much and stumbled through my first winter. As we enter my second winter I have stronger opinions about what I should have or could have done better. Next year I will be perfect. Continue reading
My two original Langstroth hives, Mars and Jupiter, have had their ups and downs this year. Mars did well, but then had queen issues. Jupiter survived a split, a swarm that I caught, and likely another swarm that I missed. Both hives are going into winter and I have been checking mite drops on the bottom board of both hives lately.
This is their story.
In Virginia, we have six to eight weeks of summer dearth followed by an unreliable fall, so the best nectar the bees see is in spring and early summer. Last year, in my first year of beekeeping, another beekeeper told me to feed my hives in August and September. Otherwise they will eat much of their stores and not have enough for winter. Well, it turns out he was correct. Continue reading
I am in the sky at 34,002 feet as I write this, on my way to California and thinking about my rain-sodden bees in Virginia. Northern Virginia had five days of solid rain, well over 5 inches (12 cm) of water at our house. The bees (and the people) have been huddled away waiting for it to end. As I left the house the sun peered out to see what was left of the land.
With fall firmly in place, I naturally wonder whether the bees have enough food for the winter. Last year I was able to bring my three hives through to the spring. I hope my five hives will do the same for my second winter with bees. Yesterday I provided some additional food for some of the hives to help pull them through. Continue reading
In my second year, I have become a lazy beekeeper. Last year, oh so long ago, I inspected each hive every week or two. I visited the apiary nearly every day to visually check the hives. I kept close tabs on their progress, and worried about the many things that could go wrong.
This year the bees have been fine, doing their bee stuff, and I’ve been working, travelling, and otherwise not looking in on them.
For much of July this bothered me, and I felt guilty that I left the bees to their own designs. It was hot, many days over 100 F (38 C), and I was on the road one way or another for three out of the last four weeks. I just didn’t feel up to checking the hives, so I didn’t. I finally got into my five hives this weekend, and for the most part the bees are fine. Given my lack of blogging lately as well, I figured it was time for an update. Continue reading
Jupiter has had an eventful season; our hive, not the planet. I did a rushed split on April 11 to create the hive now called Ganymede. When Jupiter swarmed anyways on April 25, I caught the swarm to create what has become our new top bar hive Saturn. Ganymede did so well I split her again to share a nuc with a friend. After all this, I was worried that Jupiter might not have a queen, only to find larva and brood about four weeks later (meaning a queen was present).
So it seems a report on the progress of Jupiter and her satellites, so to speak, is in order.
As well, apparently, with a small bee yard. Although perhaps the possibilities are not quite so dire, you still worry. Is the queen well? Will the hive swarm? Do they have enough food? In recent weeks I have worried that four of my now five hives might not have a viable queen. The bees, to their credit, are teaching me patience. Continue reading