Winter weather and beekeeper’s thoughts change often

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Making sugar cakes on December 3. © Erik Brown

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

Beehive House

160118a New HivesAn update on my recent activities, from my trip to Ithaca, New York through our current snow storm.  The trip to my parent’s was a great success. My lovely wife and daughter stayed behind so it was just me and the ‘rents – it’s been awhile since that has happened! Building the top bar hives was a bit of a challenge, so I really appreciated having dear old dad to assist. We built two hives based on the plans from my prior post, and had a nice time in and around Ithaca. We even visited local beekeeper Duane Waid and toured his honey processing facility. More on that another time, perhaps.

This week we prepared for the big snow storm currently hitting our area, so I have a short update on this as well. Continue reading

Hey-bee it’s cold outside

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Placing a BroodMinder sensor on top of Mars on December 6.

I received my BroodMinder “Health Telemetry Sensor” devices this past week. It was a good week to have temperature and humidity sensors, as it’s been colder here with some hard frosts overnight multiple days in a row. Mind you, this is Virginia, so it’s been warm with the bees flying in the afternoons. This weekend we’re expecting temperatures near 70 (21 C), so don’t feel too bad for me or the bees.

I thought I would share some initial experience with the device and some changes I’ve already made to the hives as a result of the readings. Continue reading

Happy is the bee that the sun shines on

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This bee landed on my hat (while I was wearing it) and hung out long enough for a picture. © Erik Brown

The cold is slowly coming to Virginia. Most of our days have been warm enough for the bees to fly, with only a handful of fall days colder than 50 degrees (10 Celcius). A couple frosty nights here and there but again most nights well above freezing. Tuesday I finished some winter preparations on the hives, and it was in the mid-50’s. The top bar hive was especially buzzing for a good 15 or 20 minutes, with dozens of bees checking out the bee yard.

According to Jürgen Tautz in his book The Buzz about Bees, so-called orientation flights generally occur only when a queen is present. So I’ll take this activity as a good sign. Continue reading