Monday, March 17, 2014

Spring Cleaning

Mr. Bee got the last hive out of the snow today, to clean up the frames so we can start arranging our supplies for this year's season, and I was able to get some photos to share.  It was sad to see they didn't make it, but as we have from the beginning, we learned a lot from this inspection.

In the photo below, you can see how the bees stay in a cluster during the winter. It's about the size of a football, and they don't stray far from the group, even within the hive.

Here, you can see some brood comb from the bottom-most box. See the beautiful, dark burgundy brown color?

This is how we can tell the girls starved: bee behinds... "bee-hinds"... sticking out of the comb.

Honey that was still in the frames.  Since the bees don't stray from the cluster in extreme cold, they can starve even with honey in the comb.  This is called "cold starvation".  We will save this for our new bees, for food.

We're going to continue to clean things up and prepare for spring. I'm really looking forward to sharing more soon!

Monday, March 10, 2014

Hope for Spring

We finally have some warmth around here.  Puddles have never looked so nice after so much freezing weather.
I'm sorry to share that we lost both of our hives.  The North Hive, which we knew was weaker, was no longer alive shortly after the first polar vortex.  We had hope for the South Hive after they made it through at the beginning, but I'm sorry to say that it didn't last.

Though we were disappointed that we couldn't get the girls through the tough winter, we have been encouraged to know that we're not alone: a lot of beekeepers we know in the area have lost their bees, too.  In fact, most people I know have had a hard time even staying positive this winter.  It's just been so cold.

Looking toward the new year (of beekeeping)...

We have ordered three packages of bees for three hives! They should arrive at the end of April, so we have some work to do to get the hives ready.  I'm really looking forward to sharing the little changes we're making for this year.  We're pretty excited to get our new bee girls!

I'll be writing more frequently as the season gets going, so please check in again soon!

Saturday, January 18, 2014

Better than We Thought

Earlier in this cold season, we left a whole layer of sugary bee fondant for our girls to eat on during the winter. We knew they were probably hunkered down over the last months, taking it easy and munching on honey and sugar inside the hive...

...then we had the "polar vortex".  You know - that time a couple weeks ago when the weather here was 50 below with windchill for a couple of days?  That time when the temperature outside was a HUNDRED degrees from our temperature inside?  I have to admit, I didn't think the bees made it.

I'm so glad I was wrong!!!

We ventured out to the hives once the week of ultra-freezing temps was over, and Mr. Bee cleaned up the entrances and area around the front of the hives. Little Miss Bee clomped out bravely through the deep snow, learning how to try and reach Mr. Bee's footprints to make her trek a little easier.  Since the bees are hibernating, she could finally get close to the hives and see what her Daddy was doing.

Baby Bee, who is now a toddler, stayed in the van for a little while with me while they cleaned up around the hives.  As you can imagine, he doesn't like being belted in a non-moving vehicle for very long, so once the crackers were gone we also ventured outside.

I got to look under the lids of both our hives along with Mr. Bee and that familiar hum was such a beautiful sound! The bees were clustered near the tops of the hives and had eaten nearly all of the fondant.  It was a good thing we went out so that we knew it was time to supply them with some more food.

There is still a lot of winter left and the risk of starvation is definitely still a factor for our hives, but after seeing the girls survive such a cold spell, we have a renewed hope that they might make it.  It was fun for the kids, too.  Little Miss Bee is insisting on a beekeeping suit and veil for her upcoming fourth birthday.

This time of year, many beekeepers are making plans for the next season and putting in orders for bees. We're talking about adding another hive this year and trying some new hive box sizing and methods, which is all exciting.

Hope you're staying warm, wherever you are, and that you can have a moment of renewed hope for something out of the ordinary.

Friday, December 27, 2013

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year

Ring out the old, ring in the new,
Ring, happy bells, across the snow...

Our Hives
Photo Courtesy Mr. T

Sunday, November 17, 2013

Preparing for Winter

This time of year, everyone seems to be asking us, "What do you do with the bees for winter?"
First, don't forget that the bees were getting for winter with their work over the summer!  We left approximately 60 pounds of honey in each hive for them to eat during the long Minnesota winter.  They have also been hard at work sealing every miniscule crack in the hive with propolis - it's very sticky stuff.
Unlike the dwellings of some other stinging insects, the honeybee hive is year-round.  The bees themselves cut down in number, carting the deceased or lazy outside and dumping them outside the entrance.  The remaining bees huddle with the queen and do a sort of hibernation.  Bees become quite inactive, but they are able to survive by clustering together and doing their normal work of regulating the temperature of the hive. It can be hard to winter bees in Minnesota, but we are going for it!

"Discarded" Honeybees
To help the bees along, Mr. Bee wrapped the hives with tar paper.  What we've heard is, the bees can handle the cold, but they can't handle being wet and cold. The paper should help with that (crossing our fingers!).

We have been so grateful for all the time outside this year while we assembled, inspected, checked, maintained, and observed the hives.  I made sure to take a fall photo of the area in front of the hives, so you could compare it with earlier in the year.

I also tried to capture these fall scenes for you...

Friday, October 18, 2013

For Fun

Thought I'd do a search for some bee comics to share with you...
From The Far Side
From Tundra

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Preparing for Winter

We love it here in Minnesota when the wind changes and things begin to look and smell like Autumn, but we also are reminded that winter is on it's way.

This year Mr. Bee and I are not only bracing ourselves for the coming winter, but we're mindful of how to help our bees get ready, too. Mr. Bee made new bottom boards to keep the hives closer to the ground (for warmth), and we stopped to replace the sugar syrup for the bees (for food).

New Bottom Boards

Not the best choice in shoes for hive inspection.

Busy Girls.  On inspection, we did see larvae and eggs.

Those tiny little faces can be pretty intimidating, no?

Right now won't do much more for the bees now other than feed them sugar syrup and pollen "patties".

Photo: Courtesy Mr. T. 
The bees have been thirsty and like visiting his bird bath. 
Looks like a good place to get a drink!

You can see in the photo above that the leaves are changing color all around, to beautiful yellows, browns, oranges, and reds.  I'll share some more Autumn photos with you soon - we love this time of year!