It is truly amazing how far a bee will travel to find pollen, nectar, water and propolis. They will travel 3 to 5 miles in search of sustenance for their hive. When you have a bee hive you can’t think of what is blooming in your yard….rather you need to think what is in bloom in your part of the countryside. I live in Seabeck WA and as you can see my bees travel quite a bit of our zip code.
A 3 mile travel distance creates a 6 mile in diameter circle around your hives. A 3 mile radius covers 18,110 acres of ground. A farmer would be proud to be able to cover that many acres and as you know the honey bee is the fraction of the size of a human.
We are in the middle of winter and have been in a cold spell. Dry days and clear nights have lead to temperatures in the teens and 20’s. I’ve used a flash light to look in the windows of the two warre hives to check on the bees. Green roof hive is looking good but I’m afraid flowers hive might be dead. I can see the bees all clustered together but no movement at all. Also seeing quite a bit of furry mold on the comb. The nuc is still a mystery as I don’t want to open it up to check….I hate this part of beekeeping.
At our bee club meeting last night we had the discussion about overwintering our bees. One lady suggested that perhaps it would be a good idea to move the hives into a warmer, protected area like a carport or shed. While this sounds good it was pointed out that what is really better for the bees in general is to let the stronger ones survive the winter then try to graft some queens from this stock. In this way we are promoting bees that are stronger and that can deal with winter in the Northwest.
Three things affect our bees in this area
If each of these are kept in check the bees should make it.
My goals for this year:
Have at least 2 of my 3 hives survive.
If my nuc survives move it into an 8 frame western
Capture one swarm
Graft a queen from my healthiest hive
End the season with 3 or 4 full hives and 1 or 2 nucs
I do have quite a bit of work to do on equipment. I need to build the nuc boxes I bought from Brushy Mountain when they had their sale and I also need to build a lot of frames so that I’m ready to stock the western, and I hope to build a jig that will help me to glue and nail straight frames……Can’t wait for the next day that is in the 40’s so I can take a closer look at the hives….Til then all I can do is worry.
Here we are, late fall staring down the barrel of winter. The rains are driving and the winds are blowing. Our hives are all tucked in, tied down and sugared up. Other than doing a quick visual inspection on the next warmish sunny day and maybe replenish the sugar, we have done all we can do to get the bees through this winter.
We spent the early spring setting up the hives and feeding our bees, the late spring and summer building up our hives. We spent our weekends counting sticky boards, adding supers, estimating brood, cutting out drone comb and watching for signs of a swarm. We’ve tried to systemize our inspections, take copious notes and all the while staying observant. On the lookout for robbing, pests, varmints and disease. All our efforts for the bees. A singular focus to help them stay healthy and grow strong.
Now it is our season. The time for us to feed our brains with new information for the next bee season. Time to read the books we heard about but haven’t had time to open. Time for chores, record review and plans for the new season. Time to renew our subscriptions to American Bee Journal or Bee Culture magazines. This is a great opportunity to fix any of your boxes that are in need of repair and build your list of tools and equipment you will need for next year.
I know the internet is working overtime to eliminate everything printed…but there is nothing better than snuggling up on a cold winter day, a hot fire, drink of choice and a nice stack of bee magazines, product catalogs and bee books.
Here is to a nice long winter….the season of the beekeeper.
As I approach my first winter in beekeeping the biggest hurdle yet to overcome is keeping my bees alive throughout the winter. Even the most experienced beekeepers struggle with this. So I’ve set some milestones for myself and will go into this season on purpose…so that if I completely blow it I’ll at least know what not to do next year.
My goal: have all 3 hives alive on April 1, 2013.
Going into the winter it is important to have plenty of stores for the bees. Ideally I’d like to have about 50 pounds of honey in the comb so that the bees have plenty to eat. It is also important to have a low verroa mite load so that the bees have a good chance of making it.
I checked my hives a few weeks ago and as usual…good news and bad news. The good news is that I seem to have a low mite count. In one hive I have 25 mites that dropped in a 24 hour period and on the other only 14. My target was less than 24 mites per 24 hour period….I think I’m good on this issue.
On stores…..not so much. Very little honey in the comb. 2 to 3 frames in one and less than that in the other. The nuc has maybe one full frame of honey.
My plan of action based on my hive inspection:
1) no mite treatment
2) Feed sugar water through Oct then switch to sugar and pollen patties.
The reason you cannot feed sugar water all winter is because the ambiant moisture is so high the bees would not be able to store the sugar water in the comb and then get it down to below 18% humidity. Anything above 18% and it will spoil giving the bees dysentery.
Above is a video showing how I built the sugar boards. A nice 1 day project to improve the chances your bees will survive the winter.
FINALLY…..it seemed a long wait for the bees to arrive. I started reading, studying and researching everything about bees since October or so and now I’m finally a “beekeeper”. I can tell you first hand, despite all the research and discussion, nothing prepares you for the first time you unleash 10,000 bees into an open hive. Even with the bee suite on I kept thinking…..what if they turn on me????
Well, of course they didn’t. They are every bit as gentle as you treat them. I did get stung twice but both were my fault. One girl stung me because she got trapped under the wrist band of my watch (lesson..don’t wear that again) and the second bit me because I was not looking at what I was grabbing. I turned to pick up the top of the hive, grabbed it without looking and got stung for my carlessness.
This video is the installation of the first package into a new Warre hive. These are Italians. I also purchased a package of Carniolans which I installed the next day. I’ll post that video in the next week or so.
They have both settled nicely into their new homes and are drinking lots of sugar water as it is still pretty rainy.
Please feel free to comment below and link back if you have a website about bees that you have found interesting.