Wednesday, April 11, 2018

A Bit Bee-hind

Some people have been asking if the remaining hive has made it through winter.  Unfortunately, it did not, so we are awaiting a fresh start again this year.

It has been sort of a slow start to the season, though.  I read the other day that it felt like the 57th day of February here in the Midwest. It's sad, but true.

We are right in the middle of April, and still looking at another snowstorm in the forecast for the upcoming weekend.  On April 5th last year, I wrote that we had just picked up our bees.

We know a couple people who have received their bees here, including our mentor, Mr. Martin. Because of the cold, he has been keeping his bees in the basement and just installed them yesterday. Mr. Bee, Little Mr. Bee, and Scout were able to be there with Mr. Martin yesterday when he moved them back inside. He can keep them there for a couple of weeks now since he has provided them with honey and controlled temperatures.

Here is a photo of Mr. Martin and one od his biggest fans, Little Mr. Bee.

Notice the ice and snow in this photo. Also, notice how Scout is smelling the bee bus.  Bees and beekeeping have a lot of smells, and many dogs can't resist getting close to it all.  Scout had her first taste of some of the bees that didn't make it (which, I believe, is not uncommon for dogs of beekeepers). Yes, she ate some dead bees.  For the record, they didn't sit well with her.  I am very interested to see how she deals with the live bees in our hives through the summer.  She happens to be the color of most of the natural predators of bees, so I don't think she will sit well with them either.  At least she's happy to be outside and be an assistant!

Although a bunch of beekeepers have received their packages of bees, we have ordered our bees through a different source and haven't received them quite yet (which is all right). This year, we ordered two "nucs."

"Nuc" is short for nucleus.  A regular package of bees, which is what we have had in the past, means a mesh or plastic, vented box filled with a certain poundage of bees and a new queen that the bees need to acclimate to.  A nucleus means that the queen has already been introduced to the included bees and, included, are the frames where these bees have been living and functioning.  This also means that there is brood (eggs and larvae in various stages) already established.  In our case, potentially three weeks to a month behind our schedule last year, we are really happy that we ordered nucs and will  have a head start versus what we have had in the past with package bees.  Either way, beekeepers around here are anxious for the warmer temps and budding trees and plants to help the likelihood of survival.

We are using the bit of time remaining before our bees arrive to prepare our hive boxes.  Mr. Bee has been excited to make the change back to 10-frame boxes.  He assembled our deep supers for the brood along with the some honey supers. We are planning to use only 9 frames in each box to give the bees just a little bit more room to draw out the comb.  Since we are making the new boxes, we decided on new colors to paint them, and the kids were excited to help with painting.

(Sorry for the basement lighting.  I prefer sunlight, but when it's snowing outside, we paint inside.)

Even with the late, still-to-come arrival of spring, we are again looking towards this beekeeping season with excitement and anticipation.  I am especially looking forward to sharing with you soon about our new hives. Hopefully there will be a warm, sunny backdrop for my next photos! Until then, you can keep an eye on our "assistant."