Sunday, April 19, 2015

Bee Day 2015

We've definitely been feeling springtime around here.
**In Minnesota, it can take a while before you're positive that spring has arrived. It was 75 degrees on Saturday and we have snow in the forecast for this week.

Nevertheless, the trees are budding and our surviving hive has workers busy collecting loads of light, buttery yellow, pale green and golden pollen. The main source of pollen this time of year is trees and you may remember that pollen is a source of protein for honeybees. Nectar provides a carbohydrate. We have been feeding the hive sugar syrup and will continue to do so until nectar is fully available in "the wild".

You'll notice that the kids weren't with us for Bee Day this year. Although we would have brought them along, and I love for them to see everything, my mom was gracious enough to watch them.  I'll admit it was a little peace of mind to not have the kids AND 40,000+1 bees in the car at the same time. (This is an approximate number, of course. We had picked up our two, three-pound packages - 10 to 12 thousand bees each - two for a friend, and a queen bee for our beekeeping mentor, Mr. Martin, who needed a new one for one of his hives.

Mr. Martin came to say hello and get his new queen.

Here is what one of our just-opened, three-pound package of honeybees look like:

Mr. Bee was in charge of dumping the bees into the hives.  These are some of my favorite photos to review since you get a tiny hint of the amount of flying that's going on around us.  It's like being in a snow globe...of bees. I love it.

 I was in charge of getting the queen cage ready.  Below, you can see that it's already in position and ready for us to get the different covers and feeders on.

 Here's a view of our new hive:

This is what we're going to call a "modified" top bar hive.  It's a version of the Kenyan Top Bar Hive that we're able to use our frames in.  I'll tell you more about this hive as the season goes on, but you can also read about the Kenyan Top Bar Hive here (link) if you just can't wait.

Here are some of our girls, checking out their brand new hive:

This is the most busy time of the beekeeping year for us, so I'll have more updates soon.

Below, you can see Mr. Bee and Mr. T admiring the bees, already at work...

...and I'll share my favorite photos of the day.  Can you see the whitetail doe below?  Amazing camouflage!

...and one of our new honeybees.  I think she might be waving.

Friday, April 17, 2015

Countdown to Bee Day...

...which is tomorrow!

We've been setting out the hives, feeding sugar syrup to the bees who made it through winter, and getting our new top bar hive finalized.  I'm looking forward to sharing with you about our "Bee Day"!

Friday, March 27, 2015

Way to Go, Girls!

Welcome to another beekeeping season!

This photo may not look like much, but we're really excited about it. Our hive has made it through the winter! least so far. Will this cold weather ever go away?

See that happy beekeeper above? Mr. Bee was listening to their familiar hum. Once the weather warms a bit more, we'll start feeding these bees some sugar syrup until there is plenty of pollen and nectar available outside.

We have also placed an order for two more packages of Italian honeybees, to arrive (hopefully) in late April. That will make three hives total.  For one of those hives, we're going to try a different hive style, called a top bar hive.  I'm looking forward to sharing more about this we have everything ready and I can get some photos.

I'm looking forward to seeing if Little Miss Bee will try on her suit this year and join us aside the hive.  In the meantime, look how Little Mr. Bee is handling the cold weather:

I thought I'd also share this "outtake" with you: If you stick your finger right in the hive opening, I guess it works to make sure the bees are still protecting the hive. I wish I could have taken an action shot of Mr. Bee jumping away when the guard bee came out.

More updates will follow shortly.  Cross your fingers with us for warmer weather!

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Sweet Rewards

I'm (finally) getting you a photo of this year's harvest.  Introducing... our 2014 honey!

Here is a photo to compare this year to last year (on left). Although they look similar at first, this year's honey is much lighter and sweeter, more like store-bought or clover honey.  We do miss the slightly pungent hint of buckwheat in last year's batch, we're so thankful to have this sweet reward.

Please stay tuned for updates on our winter preparation for the hive.

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Final Preparations for the Cold

I'm sorry I've been a bit behind with my updates.  Since I've last posted, Mr. Bee has been busy getting the hives ready for winter and it's become rather chilly outside. We've had high temperatures in the forties lately. After a lot of thought and consideration, we did decide to only winter the strongest, middle hive.

We harvested our honey last the kitchen.  We'll be putting everything in jars this week, so I'll share photos of the result soon.  We got about six gallons this year!  That's in addition to the six gallons that we're estimating we've left for the bees. While I'm busy trying to remedy all the stickiness in our kitchen and get some photos of our harvest, I'll leave you with a list of what we've been doing lately.  These photos are by Mr. Bee, on his phone.  I hope they come through your screen clearly.

We replaced the screened bottom board with a solid-bottom winter board. There are only three small holes for the bees to enter and we're hoping this change will keep mice out.

We left one packed-full super of honey, a second partially-capped super full of honey and a third with uncapped honey.  We're guessing this is upwards of 80 pounds of honey for them to use during winter. We are hearing it may be a hard winter like last year.  (I, along with much of the state, am hoping that isn't true.)

We inspected to make sure the queen is still laying, which she is.  The bees are already beginning to cluster, getting ready for the cold. In a few weeks I'm looking forward to writing a post about what bees do during the winter.  It's one of the questions we get asked the most.

We built a quilt box, which is a super filled with sawdust-filled socks to act as insulation and absorb moisture.  Mr. Martin, our beekeeping mentor, thought it was a good idea. This box also includes a small entrance hole. 

We added a drop-in inner cover for further insulation. Bees can handle cold, for the most part, but wet and cold is a deadly combination.  Therefore, we're mostly concerned about the moisture absorption.

Stay tuned for photos of this year's honey harvest!

Sunday, September 14, 2014

The Beginning of the End...of the Season

 This may be my new favorite photo from this year:

Each bee is in action, one leaving, one coming in with pollen, one checking, one watching...

In preparation for the end of the season, Mr. Bee brought out a scale and weighed a super full of honey and some individual frames.  We're trying to make sure we have a more educated guess of how much honey we'll be leaving for the girls to try and make it through winter.

A frame of honey from our hives weighs approximately four pounds.  I think it's very possible that a frame could weigh five pounds or more, but our bees didn't draw the comb out far enough for that. We'll be leaving two boxes of brood on the bottom of each hive and up to three boxes or 90 pounds of honey. We would like to harvest more, but when a Minnesota beekeeper wants to keep bees alive through the winter, there are sacrifices to be made.

Soon I'll have some photos of our harvest and this year's honey.  We're waiting for some higher temperatures so the honey runs faster.

At the beginning of September, Mr. T brought out his handmade picnic table (beautiful, isn't it?) just in time for us to host a small group of children and parents, all who were eager to learn about honeybees and beekeeping.  I didn't ask permission to post any photos of the group, but you can see what Mr. Bee had set up before everyone arrived:

After the group left, we had a little picnic and enjoyed the gorgeous, sunny day.

There's a Fungus Among-Us

A couple weeks ago, after days of rain and grey skies, we found a bunch of mushrooms around Mr.T's yard. They looked so alive and colorful, each so different, but all so delicate.  Days later when we returned, many were already spoiled.  Here are some interesting fungi: